Question: Do you sell products to consumers or do you sell experiences that influence people to buy products? Apple’s answer to this question is what makes them, according to data from eMarketer, “the top retailer in terms of sales per square foot, coming in at $5,456 per square foot.” To put that in perspective, think of a stack of cash piled up on a 12″ x 12″ floor tile. Now imagine every floor tile in your store with a stack of cash on it.
The top goal of Apple retail stores isn’t to sell products to consumers, it is helping people figure out what they want to achieve. The Apple model has been largely responsible for landing the company in the number one spot on the Fortune 500’s biggest earners list for three years running. How can the Apple experience help your hot tub dealership? Read on.
The Apple Focus
Apple focuses on four key elements in their retail stores: community, telling their story, aligning with their targeted demographic (generation Z), and creating an emotional experience. See how your spa retail store measures up by asking yourself these questions:
- Do your customers feel like they are part of a community that is respected and nurtured?
- Are you sharing your story with both your company and your market?
- Do you use the appropriate technology to connect with the generational lifestyles of your customers?
- Are you cultivating an emotional attachment with your customers?
What is your focus as a spa retailer? Is it, like Apple, a desire to inspire and educate the community you serve?
The top goal of Apple retail stores isn't to sell products to consumers, it is helping people figure out what they want to achieve.
Apple aspires to create places where people can come to experience, not just buy, products. Their stores are less about products and more about how those products make customers feel, how customers can use them, and making customers feel a sense of endearment as soon as they enter the store. The idea is to create an immutable relationship with customers that fosters a lifetime partnership between them and your brand.
How to Achieve the Apple Focus
At this point, you may be thinking that your local spa dealership is in an entirely different league than Apple or that iPhones and iPads have nothing in common with hot tubs. On the surface, this may be true, but the model for moving the products is applicable to all retail situations, including spa sales. Retailers can begin replicating the Apple experience by addressing these points:
- First Impressions: Staff should be clearly identifiable and readily available to assist customers, and stores should be logically organized, and free of clutter.
- Respect Customer Time: Always be aware of how long it takes to serve your customers and be ready to address delays quickly and efficiently. Find out if there are customer service or online apps that might help improve this, especially when it comes to running your technical service department.
- Have the Right Staff: This means hiring and training the right people for the job. People who are enthusiastic and have a can-do attitude. Be prepared to train and cross-train continuously to maintain quality service.
Notice how these building blocks are all people-centric? Apple understands customers want to build trusting relationships with people who offer solutions to their problems and make life more enjoyable. This is done by treating customers like people instead of like consumers.
As a hot tub retailer, your staff should be asking, “What interests you most about spas/hot tubs?” and “How do you see yourself using your hot tub?” Like Apple, you need effective, proven “steps of service” that each staff member follows. Review your service steps with the following questions:
- What are my steps of service?
- Do these steps work?
- Could they be better?
- Are the right people on the job to make them work?
Simple things like hiring “Concierges” and “Geniuses” rather than “Cashiers” and “Sales People” illustrates Apple’s focus on customer experience and service event to the point of staff titles. How could you make this work for your store?
Forget the hard sell and strive for an experience that leaves the customer feeling empowered.
Apple is dedicated to taking the customer experience beyond product purchase to build brand loyalty. One way Apple retail stores are doing this is through educational offerings such as classes on photography skills and using the smartphone camera. As a spa retailer, you can offer spa schools at your store that provide free training, guidance, and project assistance.
Forget the hard sell and strive for an experience that leaves the customer feeling empowered. In a digital age, people still want the time and space to experience a product fully before they buy it. If your spa retail store doesn’t have a test spa in a relaxing environment, it’s time to set one up. Would you buy a vehicle without first test driving it? Of course not, so why expect people to buy a spa without trying it out first.
Apple takes the experience even further by providing a place for business meetings and even a large projector screen where their community can gather for videos and movies. How can you translate this to spa retail?
Here’s an idea to promote community and potentially move last year’s models to make room for this year’s models. How about a spa movie night? Set up three or four or five (you be the judge) older model spas and take reservations. People can climb in and out of the hot tub while watching the movie and the spas are offered for sale at a slight discount. Make it an annual event!
Lessons from the Apple Retail Experience
There are three basic lessons every retailer can learn from Apple retail:
Be a Place of Learning
It’s amazing how much time people put into researching products before they buy them. The key is to provide really useful and really meaningful information that arouses their curiosity instead of trying to lure them in with traditional marketing ploys. (For example, the “Today at Apple” strategy: designed to help customers learn more about different aspects of their phones, such as photography, music, and app development.)
Be a Gathering Place
Ask yourself “What do we want _____’s role in the community to be?” Apple wants their stores to be “forums for collaboration.” They provide an environment where people come to gather, where buying is secondary to the experience. They’ve moved from lifestyle retail to concept retail based on their communities and surroundings; they have become part of the community.
Be a Place that Serves
Customer service always comes first; for example, Apple stores created “Steps of Service Guidelines” based on the acronym A-P-P-L-E. They emphasize frequent training and study of scripts to assist in successful interactions with customers at the opening, during the service process, and at the closing of the interaction.
The main point to remember when comparing your retail experience to the Apple retail experience is this: Apple staff doesn’t focus on selling products, it focuses on building relationships and improving people’s lives. As you make your comparison, ask yourself this “How do we reinvent our store to enrich the lives of our customers?”