Saturday, November 24, 2007

Apple Store: Counter Intuitive

SEATTLE - In the Saturday edition of The Seattle Times was the reprited story from the Associated Press detailing a new shopping experience at Apple Stores.
I commend the AP writer for describing the the intent of the changes to the store. Apple is attempting to transform the shopping experience from a traditional store model that has clerks and a help/information area an expanded "Genius Bar" and the removal of anything resembling a purchase point cashier counter. Apple intends for the shopper to be treated as if they were at a premium hotel with doormen type greeters and personal shoppers throughout the store. They want to create a place you want to be.

My shopping experience was counter-intuitive. That, to me, is counter-Apple.

Absent from the story was consumer reaction, other than an abstract quote, "Where do I pay?", that should explain exactly what is not working for me.

Clipboard-carrying concierges greet customers at the door to direct them to the right section of the store or to the personal shopper or trainer with whom they had made an appointment. Several others mill the floor in case someone has a question or is ready to buy an iPod, an iPhone or a Macintosh computer. Story Link

Here's a problem, not a service, somebody is at the door to direct customers to locations within a space that's absurdly small. The bad old way of doing things might involve signs with words or pictures. Maybe there's a large segment of the population that doesn't know what they are looking for, and they just know the word of the thing they reflexively want.

I didn't make an appointment with a personal stalker, or somebody to read a user's guide to me at the door. I knew exactly what I wanted. I'll get to the "mill the floor" part in a second.
I walk over and pick up the product I wanted. How did I know where it was? I walked away from the products I didn't want and toward an area in the store where the type of thing I was looking for should be displayed. I was looking for an accessory, I walked toward other accessories. No help, no wireless elf, I walked and looked, I call it shopping.

"We try to pattern the feeling to a 5-star hotel," said Apple's retail chief, Ron Johnson. "It's not about selling. It's about creating a place where you belong." Story Link

Apple must has seen this as a problem to solve, or they paid money for marketing advice and felt compelled to follow it, no matter how stupid it may be. Word to you Steve Jobs: don't make this so complicated. I am buying stuff from you, I don't want to hangout with you or your creatures. I have been using Apple products for 25 years, and will continue to in spite of this shopping with a happy ending kick you're on.

I picked up the item I wanted and then I have to capture "others milling about". I have to spot them by differentiating between Apple zellots, and a clerk. Then I have to find one that isn't attached to a customer. Hmmm, more customers than clerks, what now Steve? Do I follow a clerk and some guy around until the clerk is free to see other people? I'm sure the other customer would love that attention from a stranger. Should I go to the 35 foot long "Genius Bar" and ask a Genius? At least I could get some use out of those people. Maybe there should be a place in the store for random shoppers to be (I was an unplanned shopping event)? What if I went in to just look around and then chose to buy something, maybe you have to go out and come back in again, you know, reboot.

The products are usually brought in from storage in the back, but starting Friday and through the holiday season, Apple has designated an "express shopping" section, with inventory on the store floor ready for purchase. Story Link

I've tagged my clerk, he's gone away to get the thing, now I get hit on by every clerk in the store, know why? I'm holding a thing and my wallet, like that never happens in a store. They don't have a physical area where somebody that's waiting to buy can stand, like the counter that used to be there. That missing counter might be a place for people that want to buy stuff to be (line up) when there aren't enough "others milling about".

The counter is intuitive.

With cash registers removed, a common question nowadays is, "Where do I pay?" The store employee would instantly reply, "Right here," and whip out a portable scanner from a hip holster. Receipts are e-mailed on the spot or, if the customer prefers, a paper version emerges from printers hidden underneath display tables. Story Link

I have the clerk print out my receipt on a piece of paper than the one I would print at home. I itemize my taxes and write-off the sales tax. The clerk goes to a table to get the piece of paper. Thank goodness that table is not anywhere near me, or I would mistake it for a counter, people would line up behind me, and other clerks would leave me alone while I stand there.

Steve Jobs, please put the counter back, call it something crazy, like, "Apple Express". So I can get in, get out, and I'm not pissed-off.


Mr Baker

Sent from my iPhone