“Would people like the Apple store so much if it sold products by other manufacturers?

On a sunny spring Philadelphia morning a few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Franks, VP of Retail for Comcast. We were going to see a recently completed Xfinity store, about an hour outside the city. We talked about how to create a customer experience that rivalled the best out there, and eventfully wound up discussing the Apple retail store.

Overall, I find the Apple retail store a very pleasant, positive and enjoyable shopping experience. Even though they have some major customer service and process issues, they are serial innovators. They still continually land impressive, well-detailed retail environments in some of the best buildings and locations in the world. They have been setting the bar very high for the past 15 years. But they still have issues.

Take their deskless payment experience. With a little more consideration, mobile POS can work well, and hats off to Apple for doing it first. But in effect, they have managed to create a moving queue as customers follow floor staff across the store to make sure they get served next. In a store where everything seems considered, during the busy Christmas period, they use off-the-shelf ribbons (yes I know) to cordon off display tables to create makeshift cashier tills for the overflow sales traffic.

Not everything is considered. Line ups in the Apple store.

Chris then asked a question which I had never stopped to consider. “Would people like the Apple store so much if it sold products by other manufacturers?”

What do you think? Imagine Samsung, Sony or Microsoft products being sold in the Apple store. I can’t imagine that the store would feel the same.

Is the Microsoft store inspired by the Apple store?

The question is another good reminder that all retail experiences are coloured by experiences customers have outside the store. A company’s products, services and brand promise all help to set the customers’ expectations. A magical moment happens when all the branded touch points come together seamlessly.

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