Apple has long been the financial world’s darling. Revolutionizing the mobile industry and single-handedly fostering the adoption of the “App”, Apple has changed the game, set an industry standard, and earned a devoted fan-base.
Their intricately designed products deliver a premium feel, leading smartphones to sell at $1,000+. Apple’s powerful reign of the telco world has brought them fans and haters.
OEM vs. Telco
Recently, Apple’s glowing halo has dimmed with “worse than forecasted” financial results. Apple saw a dip in sales, creating a panic among investors, which then rippled into dollars being wiped away from their valuation.
For years, Apple Retail has been an inspiration for retailers. Since opening the first Apple Store in 2001, to launching the iPhone in 2007, they have set an un-touched benchmark for what a tech retail store should be. So much so, that many of their ideas have been copied, such as:
- Having open windows with large store fronts to allow visibility inside
- Displaying products on tables
- Implementing mobile checkouts
- Building a Genius Bar
- Offering the ability to book appointments and control the footfall
- Doing in-store repairs
- Selling a range of accessories
- Using omni-channel features
- Installing digital mini-display screens to replace paper silent salesmen
- Training staff to sell, demonstrate, trouble shoot, and advise
- Hosting workshops and interactive sessions
This is an impressive list, it’s no wonder that Apple’s experience is superior to competitors. That being said, others are getting close. Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi are a few of the OEM’s battling to catch up.
For the telcos, the Apple standard seems to be a distant dream. But before we attack telcos, we need to cut them a little slack. The enormous client base telcos serve and the service traffic they accommodate makes Apple’s pure sell, pure experience model difficult to execute but not impossible – as the flagship stores of Verizon, AT&T, Rogers, Telus, and Singtel would testify.
A Retail Nightmare
No company is perfect, even Apple. So, what are Apple’s retail problems?
During a recent trip to Dubai, I decided to check-out the Apple AirPods.
As I approached the Apple store in the Dubai Mall, I noticed how busy the Apple store was. But this was not surprising, as I was in one of the busiest malls in the world. Browsing the store, I failed to find the AirPods. I wandered the extremities of the space, I could see some accessories were scattered throughout the store – but still no AirPods.
Finally, I found a small case on a shelf in the corner, no price, no information, nothing.This is exactly when my shopping experience began to decline.
The primary challenge wasn’t with the store layout, but with the staff. The employees were all congregated together – except for the staff already busy with customers –lost in their own conversations, oblivious to anyone else in the store.
In this scenario, approaching someone feels like you’re intruding. I braved the crowd and politely asked if someone could help me with the AirPods. The group of employees completely brushed me off with a simple, “Sorry we don’t have any right now.” And continued with their conversation.
This experience left me floored – and not in a good way. I received:
- No assistance on said omni-channel dropship approach
- No offer on an alternate product
- No offer to be put on a wait list
- No asking if I needed anything else
Feeling irate, I took a deeper look into the store. I observed scuffed walls, torn and worn furniture, and dead ‘live’ products displayed out of their packages.
Except for the one employee running a demo for five customers, I felt like I was standing in a retail store designed for customers to walk in and walk out. Purely transactional. I left thinking my visit was pointless – I should’ve ordered online.
Compare and Contrast
Now, no self-respecting consultant will judge a business on the strength of a single visit. Even the best businesses can have a bad day or an unengaged employee.
So, what did I do? I repeated my visit seven times. During my four weeks of travel, I shopped at different Apple stores across the globe, including another visit to the same store in the Dubai Mall.
You know what happened?
The same thing, in each store. My second visit to the Dubai store was even worse than the first; I had to interrupt three employees talking to each other and one of them didn’t even break from his conversation. With no eye contact, one said “Sorry, we don’t have.” Turning back to his three colleagues and laughing.
I was furious.
What can you put this down to? Lack of training? No, we know this isn’t true. Lack of processes? No, we know that Apple has a strong omni-channel capability.
I can only suggest one thing – brand arrogance. And when that happens, you are in trouble.
Mystery Shopping to Save the Day
I wonder if Apple employs third-parties to Mystery Shop in their environments? If they don’t, they should!
I often talk about this with my clients.
NPS surveys can tell you how the customer feels. But you only get that information from customers who purchase, not the ones who walk out. So, it can’t tell you the behaviour exhibited in a store. Mystery Shopping will tell you the behaviours your customers experience when they visit your location.
Riddle me this – if a customer buys from you, is their inclination to score an NPS survey highly going to be stronger than if they didn’t? I’d think so.
So, all these tech and retail business who have followed the trendy NPS to gain insight into their experience should consider revisiting the old-school classic mystery shopping program to ensure they understand exactly what’s going on in their store.
As for Apple, I hate to say it, but I’d give them a D- grade.