Apple is often seen as a brilliant example of a design-first approach without of course forgetting the function. It’s the most valuable company in the world and has managed to create a very special fan following and unique retail experience through Apple stores. Apple stores have been so successful that it makes sense to explore this tech giant’s approach to their Apple store design and try to make use of it in an online store as well.
In this previous article based on a study (link) it was already concluded that the atmosphere and layout in an online store significantly influence emotions and encourage purchase behavior. The purpose of looking deeper into Apple store’s success is to try to answer the question of how the atmosphere in an online store could be improved the same way Apple did with its offline store business.
Retail experience online
First and foremost Apple stores use unique atmosphere and design to trigger emotions and their practices aim to create a sense of community by using the products, retail experience, and the customer experience, whereas most online shopping experiences are made to drive transactions (encourage purchases) instead of creating a retail experience. The whole experience in Apple stores aims to take the customer into the Apple World. (M. Carroll, 2012, 2-4).
It seems to make sense for example for an online retailer with especially higher price point items to try to pay more attention to the retail experience in addition or instead of encouraging extra purchases and focusing only on the transaction. Apple stores are designed to feel good with clean environments and high-end materials in the store. The atmosphere is set in a way that whoever walks in feels good and makes it possible to experience the actual products on sale in the best possible environment.
Gartner defines Customer experience management (CEM) as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed their expectations, leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” (gartner.com). Customer experience is the equal of retail experience in web businesses and a good online experience creates repeat customers. Great customer experience in an online store yields the following benefits:
– Better customer retention and brand loyalty
– Higher life time value of a customer
– Free word of mouth promotion for the online store
– Decrease in returns
(bigcommerce.com ; saleslayer.com ; econsultancy.com)
For an online store to replicate great user experience it should try to imitate the following Apple store principles:
– Listening to the customer and finding out what they are looking for and which product (or service) fulfills their need the best?
– Having deep knowledge and communication on how products (or services) on the website answer the customer needs
– Building value for the customer
(M. Carroll, 2012, 6-8)
Discussion of the article
Applying traditional retail strategies to an online environment has always been one of the main goals to create a good customer experience. It’s an excellent idea to have a look that a company such as Apple has done in retail and what practices could be converted into an online store to enhance the customer experience and design to create more value for the customer and increase sales and/or customers’ lifetime value to the retailer. The article itself doesn’t go into too much detail about the actual steps to take in an online store to recreate the successful retail elements in an online store. It suggests general strategies such as: creating content, multiple engagement points, and providing expertise.