Improving the Apple Store experience

Came across a great article in Macworld this morning, pointing out the downside of Apple’s wildly successful retail stores.

My first visit to an Apple Store was revelatory. Not only were all of Apple’s products available for purchase, along with lots of Mac software and accesories, but all the machines were actually in working order and the staff knew what they were talking about. For some of you who have only known a world populated by Apple Stores, this excitment might seem strange, but there was a dark time before these retail oases opened.

I have to agree. The arrival of Apple Stores on the high street was amazing for those of us who had been used to living as second-class computer shoppers for so long.

However…

People of all kinds are camped out at the demo machines, doing everything from checking Facebook to filming, editing, and posting videos of themselves rocking out to some sweet tunes. Interested in actually, you know, trying out a machine before you buy one? You’ll often have to wait.

I think they’re now a victim of their own success. In London at least, it’s near impossible to get in and out (including any firm if purchase) in less than 30mins. Why?

The shops are usually packed to the gills with people using the on display merchandise like they owned them. Emailing, Facebooking and everything in between. My own experience is that Apple store staff seem unwilling to ask them to move along.

When I bought my present MacBook Air – I turned up, decision made with my Amex card burning a hole in my pocket. Still the Apple store employee wanted to demonstrate something to me, but we couldn’t find a spare laptop to use. Standing next to a backpacker buying something on eBay, I indicated that maybe we could use “his” computer.

All I got was a sympathetic smile and a shrug. While our friend with the dreadlocks and improbably large backpack continued his afternoon of free computer use.

There should really be some sort of process to help customers who actually know what they want. I’d like to be able to just walk up to a counter and ask for the computer I want, pay for it and leave.

Why not buy online, I hear you ask?

It certainly seems easier. No queuing or waiting for freeloading tourists to vacate the space. Unfortunately, Apple relies on various couriers to actually their products. My experience of courier companies in the UK is that they are unreliable and not at all secure. It’s simply safer for me to go to a traditional bricks-and-mortar shop.

Come o, Apple – innovate. Make it easier for us loyal customers to buy your stuff. You know it makes sense.

  1. This does screw up the shopping experience, I agree. I don’t think Apple mind this though. I think a large part of the purpose of the shops is for advertising. When you walk past one you don’t just see the very expensive, trendy layout and all the nice hardware, you see it brimming with excited people all using the stuff. It helps Apple market the image of producing things that everyone wants. If you walked past a quiet shop with only people who were actually buying a computer that day it wouldn’t have the same effect. Why else would they have quite such big shops with quite so many demo models available and why else would they not kick people off who were clearly showing no interest in buying?

    I prefer to order online but I agree that the couriers are a pain. I had a delivery last week and the delivery date was supposed to be Wednesday but changed to Tuesday on Tuesday morning. Fortunately my wife was able to stay in to get it.

    (MBP 15″ retina btw. I am in love with it.)

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. Large, empty Apple stories wouldn’t look half as inviting. But there’s got to be a middle ground, surely? Rather than Apple Stores being nothing more than free “internet cafes”?

      I’d like to be able to press a buzzer that indicates “I’ve made up my mind and I have money to spend – please attend to me!”

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  2. Same in the US. Heaven forbid you need to take it IN (with genius appointment) cos you’ll spend 20-90 minutes in a queue to CHECK IN or get your turn if you checked yourself in cos they STILL take whomever in front of you. I’m sorry. I booked an appointment over a week ago. I should not have to wait 90″ past it to be seen cos somebody popped in (and I was early 20″ for said appointnent).

    I used to go with a friend to take the edge off but they got wise.

    I buy online and as you said: I preordered the MBP w/ retina 6 weeks before that shipped and got it 2 weeks late. If I’d popped into the shop, it would’ve been an ordeal but clinched in a day.

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    1. I’ve just had too many valuable parcels either left outside my front door or not delivered after I stayed in all day. I’d rather take my time and wait in an Apple store, but it annoys me all the same. My last visit to the Genius bar was scheduled and delayed. Thankfully, there’s free wifi so I whiled away the time with a book on my iPad.

      Stil. Could be worse. We could be grappling with Windows 8.

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      1. As I did TODAY at the workshop. Ugh.

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