Friday, May 19, 2006

Technology merchandising: take a play from the Apple playbook

A friend just sent me the NYT's article about Apple opening a 24/7 store in Manhattan. Cool. 6 hours to go! Check out the zen-like glass cube. But what caught my eye in the article was the discussion of technology merchandising and creating a digital experience. And Apple has completely done that with it's physical stores. Here's a snippet:

At first glance, some of the company's moves seem, in stark financial terms, to be costly indulgences. Almost half of the store staff is there not to sell but to provide free help on how to use Macintosh computers, iPods, software and third-party accessories like digital cameras. Nearly all of the computers have Internet access, and the stores are crowded with people checking their e-mail, browsing the Web or listening to music on the iPods.

...stores are organized around different uses of computing technology: organizing music, editing digital photos or movies, creating podcasts and blogs — all done with Apple's software.

"The Apple stores are selling digital experiences, not products," said Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Its stores can be seen as solutions boutiques. And that's the direction that selling technology to consumers, from cellphones to HDTV's, has to go to be successful."

This approach is totally about branding--how to create the brand promise and then follow through with a good customer/brand experience. How to fulfill the brand promise throughout the customer journey.

Gateway tried to do it with its physical stores--but the Gateway brand wasn't strong enough to persuade enough people to interact with them in the stores. It didn't make enough of a brand promise. Apple, on the other hand, is practically kid-in-candy-store for Mac users, and hip-designer-y feeling enough to entice PC-users (potential "Switchers") in to take a test drive. Plus, it's all organized around what YOU as the customer want to do, instead of around product lines, etc.

So now I pose the question to us, library people: How can we create enticing digital experiences for people, without changing our library locations, without totally remodelling, and without totally changing our staffs?

What plays can we take from the Apple playbook?

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