Apple is expanding retail operations as the United States emerges from the pandemic, betting that a combination of strategies developed before and during COVID-19 will make its stores more popular than ever, the retail chief told Reuters.
Apple is doing this as retailers work out what the future will look like after the pandemic, including consumers who have become accustomed to ordering almost everything online.
For Apple, the answer has been keeping what has helped it through the pandemic, doubling down on its pre-pandemic strategy of in-store events and experiences beyond shopping.
For example, the express counters that have sprung up to help customers collect online orders more efficiently will become regular features of the more than 500 Apple stores around the world, all of which will reopen from June 14.
The iPhone maker is also adding a new “Creative Studios” program, starting in Los Angeles and Beijing, that aims to teach young people from underrepresented communities to use Apple products to create music, movies and photography. That adds to a wider range of classes based on the stores designed to connect customers with Apple more often.
“We’re now looking at this moment as a way to really start over and start over in every way,” Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people, told Reuters as the company on Thursday prepared to to open. a new store in the renovated Tower Theater in downtown Los Angeles, Apple’s second new US retail outlet since the start of the pandemic.
Apple boomed during the pandemic, reaching $2 trillion (approximately Rs. 1.48.36,500 crores) in market cap in August 2020, setting records for iPhone handset sales and several other categories.
One of the retail-related weaknesses in financial results, analysts said, was a slowdown in sales of AppleCare, a device insurance plan that is often an upsell during a store visit but easier for consumers to skip online. Apple has also faced supply chain missteps in the past year, with it delivering its iPhone 12 later than usual last year and saying in April that the global semiconductor shortage would cost it several billion dollars in sales.
Part of Apple’s retail success amid closures has been streamlining the online purchase and in-person pick-up process. Apple’s long-held retail strategy has been to encourage customers to wander the airy stores to touch and feel their devices.
During the pandemic, Apple has reworked many stores to have small express counters designed to make pick-ups quick, yet add a personal touch, sometimes by contacting them online or later by phone to set up devices.
“The goal was really speed, which is very different from what we usually experience in a store,” O’Brien said. “We want to make sure that in that experience, that they can get in, they quickly get the product they want. But we do want to make sure that we can also have a quick chat with them to make sure they have everything they need.”
If local rules allow it, Apple will return to in-person events and classes at its stores. The “Creative Studios” effort will eventually roll out to other major cities, O’Brien said.
Carolina Milanesi, chief analyst at Creative Strategies, said these types of programs, in addition to courses designed to teach computer coding and other technical skills, are ways for Apple to strengthen its brand with consumers between purchases.
“The more they can get you to use the device, the more engaged you are, the more loyal you will be,” Milanesi said.
© Thomson Reuters 2021