Thrive or Die – #ChoosePowerfully

The retail market is tough! We’ve all seen the much-publicized closures over the past few years and recently even more major retailers have begun to pull the plug.

In the past six weeks alone, Target, Mexx and Sony have announced that they will close all of their Canadian stores. Wow. That’s a total of 317 brick and mortar stores that will all leave the landscape shortly.

What is an intrepid retailer to do in such drastic times? You could try to be cheaper than everyone else but that will fade the moment someone else finds a cheaper supplier. You can be open more than your competition but that still doesn’t ensure that anyone will want to walk through your doors. The only solution that comes anywhere close to guaranteeing success is perfecting the Customer Experience. Let’s take a close look at how a computer company came out of nowhere to show us all how it’s done.

I recently visited Apple’s largest North American retail store located within Yorkdale mall on a Saturday. I was expecting a ridiculously busy parking lot and an equally jammed mall. What I wasn’t expecting was one of the best retail experiences I’ve ever had.

Like many, prior to arriving, I did a lot of research into what I wanted. Apple’s site is so intuitive and easy-to-use that I was 95% sure I would purchase the new MacBook Air. I did my part by being an informed consumer, the second I walked into the Apple store, they took care of the rest.

The store was predictably busy but within a moment of entering, a friendly Apple employee approached me and said, “Hello! How are you doing today?” I replied, great! Can I speak to someone about information on the MacBook Air? He subsequently asked, “May I please have your name and I’ll get the right team member for you?”

They inputted my name into a device that manages their queue. I felt much more confident in this process rather than simply taking a number or standing in a long line. While I was waiting, the greeter asked me if I was registered in their system and if not, would I like to sign up for their newsletter? This person was so pleasant, I simply couldn’t say no and gladly supplied them with my email address.

It didn’t take long before someone walked up to me and said, “Hi! Are you Tony?” What questions can I answer for you today?” I really appreciated their approach and how they didn’t ask what they could get me. I had an amazing conversation with this person, who on top of being very well informed, was also friendly, courteous and genuinely witty! This was someone who I would enjoy having an hour long conversation with and it’s clear Apple puts a huge emphasis on only hiring team members who live their core values. Never once during our conversation did they ask if I wanted to buy the MacBook it but instead focused solely on ensuring that all of my questions were answered. This team member educated me on the benefits of Apple Care and since it made so much sense, I jumped on the extended support package.

After I couldn’t think of any other questions I finally asked, if I could please buy it? They said of course and asked how I would like to pay, flipped over the mobile payment portal they had in their hands and rang it up on the spot, lighting quick. No, standing in a different line, no walking me over to the cashier; it was all done right where I was standing in mere moments. While paying, they told me that someone would be out with my new MacBook Air in a minute. I took the opportunity to inquire about cases for my new tool and before we made our way to the case section, another Apple team member pops out from the back, hands me my computer and proclaimed, “Congratulations on your new MacBook Air! You’re going to love it!” Then they placed it in a beautiful bag and shook my hand. Yes, shook my hand! I felt as it I had just bought a house! They also asked if I need any support getting the computer or any services up and running, letting me know that they could do it right there within minutes.

The whole process was ultra quick yet I never felt rushed. This was because the team at the Apple store was so well coordinated and so in tune to making my experience memorable that everything just flowed perfectly.

Compare the above retail experience to that of buying shoes. Typically, I’ll stand staring at a giant wall of product before flagging down someone to go and grab my size from the back. Then they leave me roaming around by myself and after too long of a wait, they come back to you. Then something is usually missing from the box … it just wasn’t like that at Apple. C’mon shoe retailers get some runners and keep your customers engaged at all points of the retail experience!

What can be taken from my experience at the Apple store? Check out these five key points:

  • Speed: The Apple team’s ability to move the process along rapidly without feeling hurried is a big reason why I’ll go back.
  • Knowledge: I couldn’t stump these folks if I tried! Additionally, everything was accurate; I got exactly the right product with all the accessories the first time.
  • Surprise and Delight: Everyone who I dealt with had shown up to work that day ready to go above and beyond to make customers happy. Not a single frown or disgruntled look was found.
  • Genuine Care: Removing the commission meant their sole focus was on ensuring that I got the right product and not the one that would earn them the most commission.
  • Energy: Even in a crowded mall with the world’s biggest brands all competing for my dollar, the Apple store stood out. They have a certain je ne sais quoi that just draws you in and makes you want to stay.

I recently read The Apple Experience by New York Times best selling author, Carmine Gallo. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a deeper look at how Apple is thriving while others die.

Want to create a magical experience? Try out some of the above techniques – it may be the difference between life and death in a hyper competitive retail world!

Tony Gareri

CEO & Culture Enthusiast

Drawing from firsthand experiences, Tony addresses how a culture evolution can lead to improved business results and happier work environments.

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