Praying at the alter of Apple
Lessons from their retail achievement
In 2011 researchers in the UK discovered that Apple the company actually triggers the same areas of the brain that light up during intensely religious experiences.
The neuroscientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to discover that, for Apple fans, seeing images of Apple products is the same for them as looking at images of a deity is for religious people.
When former Apple CEO Steve Jobs died, people gathered outside Apple stores to pay homage, leave flowers, and put post-It notes on the windows of the store.
This is an incredible level of affection for a computer company.
Apple on the High Street
Apple is without doubt not only one of the most successful companies of all time, but it is also the most successful retailer. This is not bad for a company that really ought to run its business where it is supposed to, namely on the internet and remotely.
Well over one billion people have visited an Apple store. Together they have brought in US$10 billion in sales. This equates to US$4,700 in sales per square foot. There are on average 22,000 weekly visits to an Apple store.
This is all hugely impressive, but what is even more gripping are the why and how of it all and these are the questions that Carmine Gallo strives to answer in his third book on the Apple phenomenon.
Following on from The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs (chief messages, rehearse ad nauseum and always finish with a surprise WOW factor) and the innovation secrets of Steve Jobs (don’t bother with focus groups because people don’t know they want something until you present it too them – eg the iPad).
The Apple Experience
In his latest book, The Apple Experience (published by McGrawHill, price UK£17.99), Gallow seeks to answer the questions anyone with a marketing background can’t help asking as they browse the store.
Is it really necessary to be greeted at the door, why the blue shirts, why do you use two fingers to point somewhere, why did you spend 20 minutes talking football instead of selling me a product, why do you make me touch the product first?
There is apparently total method in the routine , the layout, the appearance and the experience, and most of it is down to the extraordinary attention to detail displayed by Steve Jobs.
The meeting at the door is particularly interesting, because this, says Gallo, relaxes the visitor, resets their internal clock, means they are prepared to wait longer to be served, but also enables the Apple assistant to guide you to the right part of the shop.
The highly trained, although lowly paid, non-commission staff are taught how to multi-task, so they could be handling as many as 20 customers at the same time, yet each thinks they are getting individual attention. They are tasked with providing the customers with a good experience rather than selling something, so happy people are the order of the day.
It is true that this book is evangelical – Gally definitely prays at the Apple altar – but it is understandably, because this company is extraordinarily good at what it does, and there are definite lessons to be learnt by the rest of us.
From the determined window cleaning and polishing of every store, to the uncluttered appearance, lack of broken devices and calm environment – however crowded – Apple has managed to stand head and shoulders above most other retailers, and succeed on the High Street as many are predicting its demise.
This is a book about determination, passion, listening, understanding, communication and above all about customers. Employees are taken on because of their skills as teachers and listeners, not because they are teckies.
Inspired by other best of breed companies, including Four Seasons Hotels and Disney, Jobs wanted to create an environment where customers could discover what Apple products could contribute to their lives, rather than how impressive the technology was. To do this, it employed people who were nice, rather than those who were smart.
Taking lessons from other teachers including Stephen Covey, the Korn/Ferry book FYI: For your Improvement, and using the Net Promoter Score, Jobs determined to set the standards bar of Apple Stores at an extremely high level. This was ground breaking stuff, and as the products displayed in the stores were also state of the art and totally out of the existing mould, the result was success on an unprecedented scale.
There is plenty in this book about how to keep employees motivated. “Find five reasons to praise for every one thing to criticise,” is a reasonable example.
Keep the messages simple is another. Apparently Jobs was writing sales messages of less than the limit of a Tweet of 140 characters, well before Twitter was invented. Take the launch of the iPad2 with Faster, Lighter, Faster. This was the message on the press release, following Jobs presentation, and it was used almost exclusively by all the media.
Another really useful tip is to use a Brand Message Map. Without giving this away (and it is so simply I easily could in a sentence) this is something that every single company should embrace and use, if only to prevent the thousands of tortuous, convoluted, confused and unclear sales presentations that are given every year.
Apple no longer has Steve Jobs, but it has a legacy that will hopefully keep this very special company at the top of its game. Not least we hope it will so that the rest of us have a standard to strive for.
The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty (price £17.99, published by McGraw Hill).