Apple this week introduced a new iPad, iPad Pencil and apps, software and programs for the education market in an event held on the massive, historic campus of Lane Tech College Prep, Chicago’s largest high school, a setting that also reinforced Apple’s ongoing retail strategy to foster community, creativity and education, according to Fast Company.
Apple Senior Vice President of Retail Angela Ahrendts told Fast Company in an interview afterward that some Apple retail stores in recent months have been hosting events called "Teacher Tuesdays," in which educators share tips with one another about using Apple devices, apps and services in schools and class settings.
Ahrendts also said the company is now expanding these events to all of its 501 stores and holding them more frequently, as it acts on the inspiration of late co-founder Steve Jobs, who stated that an aim of retail, beyond just selling products, should be to enrich the lives of consumers, according to the report.
Apple said about a year and a half ago that it wanted everyone to stop referring to its retail locations as "stores." The plan was to advance a strategy to redefine stores as community gathering spaces, complete with space dedicated for community group meetings, technology tutorials and various speakers and other events.
Back then, it was kind of easy to mock Apple for trying to force a community vibe into retail spaces in an attempt to make itself appear a more casual and generally more consumer-friendly retailer than your average massive technology company.
However, as Apple has progressed with a globe-spanning project to redesign many stores, it has been consistent with this message of stores as learning spaces, and has come up with programs like "Teacher Tuesdays" that reflect its commitment to that notion. Ahrendts reiterated in the Fast Company interview that the desire to host such programs played directly into its remodeling strategy.
So when Apple talks about wanting to provide new iPads and iPad app experiences that can help educators and students, it becomes easier to believe the company has more than just commercial motivations in mind (though with a $299 price tag for students, those commercial motivations should be satisfied.) This week's events in Chicago —the device and apps announcement at Lane Tech and an evening event at Apple's downtown Chicago flagship store — put on display in a literal way how intertwined Apple's broader social goals are with its core business goals.
The traditional bottom line goal for any retailer — to make the sale — has evolved over the years to the point where building a strong, long-term bond with the customer is just as important, or perhaps even more important. Apple aims to do both, and correctly recognizes that treating its markets like the communities they are can help it achieve multiple goals.