It’s all about the customers
At the beautiful Marina Bay Sands Apple Store — or known as Apple MBS — there is a couple in their 70s listening attentively to the “Today At Apple” session. Apple organises sessions daily to inform and educate users about the features of its products among other things. The couple is curious as the session is all about the iPhone camera and have a ton of questions as they are planning a vacation soon. The person conducting the session has patience in abundance and answers all questions and tells them — and many others — about how to get the best out of the iPhone camera.
It is this experience and many others that Apple will soon bring to India.
Walk into any Apple Store and you can see how quintessential Apple it is. The attention to detail, and the design aesthetics are quite naturally in line with Apple’s ethos. “We like to say our stores are where the best of Apple comes together — our products and services, our customers and team members. We design our stores just like we design our products — by putting the customer at the centre of everything we do,” Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, tells The Times of India-Gadgets Now.
O’Brien has a point. All the store employees are given a rigorous amount of training — and it is an almost year-round process — about how to deal with customers. So even if you are casually browsing in any Apple Store, you will perhaps get one person to come up to you and ask if you need any help. Depending on your answer, you get the experience. For instance, you say “I am just browsing” and you will be left alone for as long as you are in the store and till you actually seek help. Hang around for as long as you want (psst, there’s free Wi-Fi at all Apple Stores) and you won’t be bothered at all.
You will notice that there aren’t any cash registers or counters where you have to stay in line to do the billing done. That’s because every Apple Store member is equipped to handle the payment and billing. It is something you have to experience.
In my personal experience, I have actually once walked in an Apple Store to buy an iPhone. I knew what model, colour, and variant I wanted. It took flat 150 seconds for the entire transaction and I was on my way out. The whole experience is ultra smooth and super fast if you want it to be. And then there’s the other side as well. Want to spend your time looking at every product on offer? Be Apple’s guest and it won’t be a problem as Apple wants you to experience not just the Store but its products.
The India story of Apple Store
In the last few years, Apple’s emphasis on the Indian market has grown multifold. Apple CEO Tim Cook has mentioned many times how Apple is “bullish” about India. During the Q1 quarterly call,Cook said how Apple did fairly well through the Covid-19 pandemic in India. “I’m even more bullish now, hopefully on the other side of it. That’s the reason why we are investing there by bringing retail there, bringing the online store there and putting out a significant amount of energy there. I’m very bullish on India,” Cook said during the call with investors.
It is something that O’Brien echoes. “We love our customers in India, and we’re really excited to be expanding here in retail,” she says.
Apple’s retail journey started with the Apple Store Online and O’Brien says that the company has connected with so many people across the country. “We’re so inspired by their energy, creativity, and passion. And we’re really looking forward to deepening those connections with our amazing retail team members helping customers get the most from their products and finding new ways to unleash their creativity,” she says.
O’Brien assures that the Apple Store experience will be at par with Apple offers across the world. “In everything that we do we lead with our values and here in India is no different,” she says. It is something that Prabhu Ram, head, industry intelligence, CMR agrees with. “Apple would seek to replicate the famed Apple retail experience – including, overall consumer experience, staff knowledge and expertise, and the service standards, amongst others – in India, and steer greater market growth in the years ahead.”
In India, Apple is powering its facilities with 100% renewable energy and O B’rien says that it also be going further to support communities. Apple has forged partnerships to expand access to safe water and sanitation across the country.
Apple is also working with a conservation group to protect mangrove forests. And then there’s the Apple App Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru, which has helped thousands of local developers and entrepreneurs gain new skills and develop apps.
While the retail journey may be new, Apple has been in India for more than 20 years now. With the Store, O’Brien says that the idea is to bring the best of Apple to the customers in India. She says that Apple wants to create a seamless experience for its customers however they choose to shop with us. “Our talented team of Specialists are ready to connect with customers and support them at any stage of their shopping experience,” she says.
If you are wondering that it will come down to just a purchase, then no. Apple has Genius Bars — special tables meant to tell customers about options like Safe Data Transfer and Switching to iOS. There are dedicated teams whose job is to make it easy for customers to get set up and ready to make the most of their Apple device.
Once again, this isn’t a ‘forced’ experience at Apple. An employee will ask whether you need support or not and only if you want then you’re directed to a different space.
There was a time — not long ago — when people queued outside Apple Stores to buy new products or just experience it. The queues have more or less disappeared. Believe it or not, but the iconic “cube” store in New York — Apple Fifth Avenue — used to get more visitors than the Statue of Liberty or the hugely impressive Empire State Building. The queues are likely to be seen outside Apple BKC, at least initially when the curiosity about the Apple Store will be sky-high. Will Apple BKC get more visitors than the Gateway of India? Let’s wait and watch.