Will Apple get customers to go back to school?
Less than a year after Apple began dropping the word “Store” from its storefronts to drive home the impression that its retail outlets are for more than just buying products, the company has launched an initiative to draw customers in — not with merchandise, but with an opportunity to learn something.
Apple launched the “Today at Apple” initiative in all 495 Apple stores (271 in the U.S.) in May, according to Recode. The program expands the existing learning workshops already available at some Apple stores, offering classes that instruct customers on using iPads, Macs and other Apple products to take on creative tasks like drawing, painting and making music.
Customers can sign up for the free classes by visiting the “Today at Apple” portion of the Apple website and choosing from listings at stores in their area. Apple has hosted free “how to” classes for some time. These will continue under the new plan, with upgrades. But the new offerings go beyond simple guidance on using products and apps to school students on such areas as coding and design. And Tuesday night sessions, according to Recode, will be dedicated to courses designed for teachers.
Under the guidance of Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail, Apple has taken numerous steps to upgrade the look and feel of its stores. In addition to the name change, prototype stores opened last year with such features as floor-to-ceiling screens and wooden tables to replace the familiar white. In these stores, an area called “The Avenue” offers customers the opportunity to walk past rows of wooden displays to try out different products.
Ms. Ahrendts has made statements likening her vision for the Apple store to a “town square” where people can gather. The addition of in-store classes appears to be in keeping with this concept.
When Ms. Ahrendts’ came on at Apple in mid-2014, her background as the CEO of Burberry led to speculation that the impending redesign of the Apple store would be based on a luxury look and feel meant to appeal to customers of the recently introduced Apple Watch. But initiatives like “Today at Apple” indicate that the concept of the redesigned store was not pegged to the wearables market.
In addition to the store redesign and move toward a “town square” feel, Apple has introduced three new store-level positions to its job hierarchy — Pro, Creative Pro and Technical Expert.
- Apple is overhauling hundreds of stores to try to create the ‘modern-day town square’ – ReCode
- “Today at Apple” bringing new experiences to every Apple Store – Apple
- Apple opens next-generation stores – RetailWire
- Why is Apple dropping ‘Store’ from the name of its stores? – RetailWire
- Will new retail associate roles drive Apple’s sales even higher? – RetailWire
- Apple’s retail boss wants Apple stores to resemble ‘town squares’ – Business Insider
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will holding classes create a meaningful, sustained draw to the Apple store? Are there other areas of retail where the strategy of holding classes would serve as a customer draw?
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15 Comments on "Will Apple get customers to go back to school?"
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Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
Apple is in the enviable position to experiment with activities like “Today at Apple” that will undoubtedly draw people to their stores. Purely from a sales standpoint these activities can actually detract from selling, but clearly Apple is less concerned about comp sales than they are about creating a sustainable community. This is an interesting initiative for Apple and completely in line with Ahrendts’ strategy.
I would be very curious to see what impact this has on store traffic and conversion rate trends. Offering in-store training is not new — the home improvement category has been successfully doing this for years. The question is, how will Apple’s initiative ultimately connect with business results?
Vice President of Marketing, OrderDynamics
The smartest thing Apple is doing by holding classes is creating a standout customer experience. Nobody likes to be sold to. They are not selling to you. Everyone wants to be helped. They are there for you.
People crave excellent experiences. Shoppers associate that great experience with the product and it drives demand. Better yet, premium quality and priced demand. Core steps for omnichannel retail. Great lessons for us all!
Director, Retail Market Insights, Aptos
I am extremely passionate about and encouraged by this news. Apple, as usual, is on exactly the right path with their retail “stores.” They understand that brick-and-mortar must be more than a transaction hub, and that differentiating from online competition means giving people a compelling reason to come to the store.
These classes are a perfect example of the store adding tangible value to shoppers lives, which I strongly believe to be the key to the future of retail.
Chief Executive Officer, The TSi Company
President, Integrated Marketing Solutions
Apple is one of the retail success stories that stands in stark contrast to Amazon’s march to eat the rest of retail.
The strategy of holding a broader range of classes is significant in four ways:
By adding three more positions Apple expands the career path that it can use to attract and retain talent. There is a reason Apple has the lowest staff turnover in retail … and this the expanded career path is huge factor in this age where store talent can make all the difference.
Principal, Anne Howe Associates
As humans, we define ourselves more by what we experience, than by what we purchase. The root of shopping is community. Apple is applying these two principles in exactly the right way.
Content Marketing Manager, Surefront
Education is a commodity and this is exactly the type of initiative that I champion to bring customers into stores. By offering free design and coding classes to customers, Apple is creating a community centered around their products while sustaining customer engagement. Since Apple products are high price-point purchases that need to be bought less often, offering classes will bring customers into Apple stores as well as give them the opportunity to try (and desire) new Apple products.
Co-Founder and CMO, Seeonic, Inc.
Apple has been very successful bringing customers to the store where they are not only able to talk to associates knowledgeable about Apple products, but where they can take classes on how to use the products. Now with “Today at Apple”, they have made it easy to find classes of interest at the consumer’s local Apple store and the topics have been expanded. Apple continues to expand its user base into a community of users based on the “town hall” concept. As the customers become smarter and more comfortable in the use of Apple products they will get more enjoyment from them and likely entrench the user into the Apple family for a long time.
Any product or tool that is complex to use effectively would benefit from holding classes. Some of the home stores use classes to help customers better use their tools on repair or building tasks.
Retail Industry Advisor, Softtek
Global Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit
This is already old material for operations like The Home Depot and Michaels. Apple could do this if they could cut the chaos inside their “stores” and use real trainers. I quit getting advice/training at the stores when I found that I was helping the Apple person more than they helped me. They also were not trained to train. There was no structure, with total rookies in a session and somewhat more advanced people. One person did not even know how to turn on the Mac — this was in an Aperture session. There is a bigger chance of a fail here than a win, unless they re-think it. Not all Apple store people are “smart.”
CEO, One Door
Yes, this will drive traffic and improve store performance. Apple continues to lead the way in transforming their locations from a “place to transact” to a “place to interact.” Dropping the “store” from the name, offering more structured education, and recognizing the contribution of their associates to the customer experience all represent important milestones on this journey.
Virtually EVERY retail category has something to share — whether it be fashion advice, cooking advice, advice on eating healthier, DIY project tips, or technology advice. It is absolutely shocking that more retailers don’t recognize this as an opportunity to drive traffic (and ultimately conversions).
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
This is a great path to continued success for Apple stores. A textbook example of leveraging a great customer experience to build trust and loyalty with your customer in a personalized way. This may not result in any immediate sales lift but what it will do is create even more feverishly loyal customers to the Apple brand. Customers having learned how to best use their Apple products will be ready to return when it’s time to upgrade and they most likely won’t even consider other brands because they’ll not have done something as valuable as this to build trust. People buy from brands they trust — that’s how loyalty is created.
We shouldn’t overlook the significance of the last point shown about “Today at Apple” — the 3 new positions created for store associates. Apple has the highest employee retention and lowest turnover of any retailer. There’s a reason for that — it comes from investing in their people and giving them a growth path. This adds yet another reason for employees to stay.
Director of Marketing, Wiser Solutions, Inc.
In the long run, holding these classes strengthens their brand loyalty and draws consumers deeper into their community. It may not necessarily increase sales in the short term or draw in new customers, but ensures existing customers stay loyal once they see the need to upgrade their devices. Educating them in the various uses of Apple products is great for customer interaction and community development. Whether Ahrendts’ vision of a town square within the stores comes to fruition remains to be seen.
Director of Marketing, OceanX
Head of Experience Design, Tribal Worldwide London
Apple has been toying with this idea for some time now, with the notion of the Genius Bars when it first opened its stores. It’s a clever and needed idea for the simple fact that with the raft of new technologies here and on the way, Joe Public needs a way to keep up abreast of what he can do with them. And as the majority here have said, it only leads to stronger customer service and brand equity.