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6/15/2009
01:07 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Apple And The Magical Retail Experience In Its Global Stores

A professional investor who's used PCs for 20 years relates the superb retail experience he had at the Apple Store in Tokyo, and emphasizes the power of atmosphere and interpersonal interactions in driving brand equity, revenue and customer engagement. After buying, he wondered, "What excuse could I find to visit my new friends in Ginza, and buy something else from them?"

A professional investor who's used PCs for 20 years relates the superb retail experience he had at the Apple Store in Tokyo, and emphasizes the power of atmosphere and interpersonal interactions in driving brand equity, revenue and customer engagement. After buying, he wondered, "What excuse could I find to visit my new friends in Ginza, and buy something else from them?"Investment manager Jason Kelly says he owned shares of Apple stock long before he owned an Apple computer, believing Apple's elegance and power would set it apart from other PC makers: "My research said so and we followed the conclusion in the portfolio, but I didn't immediately follow it in my own life," he writes on SeekingAlpha.com.

But after he decided to take the plunge, Kelly said the retail experience he had at the Apple Store in the Ginza neighborhood of Tokyo was simply superb, and went far beyond any discussion of relative technical capabilities and features.

Although Kelly's personal adventure focuses on Apple, his Ginza adventure extends to every type of business and the need for companies to create experiences that aren't only pretty and slick but oriented toward creating in the mind of the customer a sense that this seller knows me, understands my needs, and is looking to put together a unique solution.

"Every staff member I dealt with spoke to me politely and informatively, and in precisely the same way they spoke to the store's Japanese customers," Kelly writes in the SeekingAlpha piece. "Yet, they understood my desire to get a Mac with a U.S. keyboard, and told me that they could have it ready for me in no time. That's right, with no special shipping from the U.S., the Ginza store could install a U.S. keyboard on whatever machine I chose. What great service."

Kelly's piece provides rich detail and perspectives of value to all CIOs who believe in the power of engaging closely with customers and building relationships that will be not only sustained but indeed enriched over time, and I would strongly encourage you to read the entire piece as a source of ideas and innovation. But here's a final quick excerpt that highlights how intensely leading companies focus on - and are rewarded for - creating superb experiences for customers:

"He never pressured me to buy more. He showed me all four levels of the store so I'd know where I could get one-on-one technical support at the Genius Bar (again, reservations available online with a click, just like the Personal Shopping), where to see free how-to presentations in the theater, and where to buy accessories and software. We rode a cool glass elevator that enabled us to see each floor as we rode up and down, and he pointed out that Steve Jobs himself had requested that the stainless steel hand rail in the elevator be changed so that the mill lines of the steel went around the tube instead of along its length. "We care about details," Takuya said." Indeed they do.

Not every company sells products in sharp retail stores, but every company does have options in how it presents itself and its products to its customers, creating along the way customer experiences that lead to the type of behavior mentioned at the top of this column: "What excuse could I find to visit my new friends in Ginza, and buy something else from them?"

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