Apple unveiled a store redesign in Dubai on Tuesday that repositions the company’s retail stores as gathering places and hubs for creativity. The updates include new educational sessions dubbed "Today at Apple" that will launch next month in all of its stores, Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts explained to CBS in expansive interview on its This Morning show.
The new Apple stores — which are receiving differing levels and iterations of redesign depending on their location, but which all have been re-conceived with the new approach in mind — are part of a rebranding change seen as a shift in emphasis from hardware to community.
The new retail strategy, which builds on the revolutionary ideas from former Apple retail guru Ron Johnson, who with Steve Jobs developed the first Apple stores more than 15 years ago, goes as far as eschewing the word “store” to underscore the locations as places to hang out.
As Ahrendts noted in Tuesday's interview, Apple’s shift to focus on more than selling devices is a reflection of its sales. Revenue from services, including digital music, Apple Pay, cloud storage and applications, rose 18% in Q1 to $7.2 billion.
“A lot of the big online guys have said they’re opening stores. Amazon’s investing in stores. Google’s investing in stores. ... Starbucks figured it out, you know? Being a gathering place for — right? ‘Meet me at Starbucks,’” Ahrendts told CBS News. “And you know, I’ve told the teams, ‘I’ll know we’ve done a really, really great job if the next generation, if Gen Z says, ‘Meet me at Apple. Did you see what’s going on at Apple today?’’”
Indeed, earlier reports found that Apple is removing the word "store" from the branding of its retail locations and online outlets, after reportedly sending a memo to its retail employees saying it was making a branding change. When customers walk into an Apple retail location, they don't look for the words "Mac" or "Apple." What consumers notice is the big apple icon with a small bite taken out of it, and the signature white, open space design of the stores. By dropping the word "store" from its branding, Apple is refining a marketing strategy that aims to make taking a trip to Apple an experience.
It's a natural move for the retailer and it aligns with recent efforts to introduce entertainment and special events. But Apple's emphasis on community isn't a unique concept. More and more retailers are striving to make brick-and-mortar shopping a personalized, sensory experience, by adding food, lights, interactive attractions and digital platforms so that customers feel comfortable, stay longer and keep adding to their basket.
Apple, as a successful consumer technology brand with a long-standing online strategy, may be in a better position than most to deliver on the community ideal and make a seamless transition from the old store model. But in the end, Apple or any other retailer will only stick with a concept for as long as it drives sales and customer loyalty.
So far, it seems like a successful approach, one poised to particularly resonate with Gen Z consumers, Euclid CEO Brent Franson told Retail Dive earlier this year. “You don’t have to look much further than Apple to see what really good retailers are doing," Franson said, citing Best Buy as another retailer that is particularly good at meeting the challenge. "You can order online to deliver to my home, you have the beauty of the research online, pick up in store, you can go to the store and have it delivered. You’ve got the product playground that is the physical experience, supplemented by human beings that can answer questions — all done by the umbrella of a single ‘Apple ID.’ As Apple consumers we don’t think of 'Apple dotcom.' It’s a seamless and integrated experience.”