Picture of the Genius Bar in the Apple Store R...
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This is a great piece by Ron Johnson who built the Apple Stores. I don’t usually post things about retail, because it’s not my expertise, but this paragraph sums up everything that is changing about marketing, selling, relationships and more whether online or in retail. This is the future and strangely enough, it’s the past. We are returning to the days where you counted on your local merchant to help you, know you, and provide superior service. It will be the death knell of those that don’t get it.

I am an Apple Store customer on a regular basis, because they make it easy and helpful and I TRUST them. There are great lessons here that I try to impart to our Miami Internet marketing clients and the primary one is, no matter what you sell and how many you sell, you better be about the relationship and the value you can provide before, during, and after the sale. The benefit to you is huge, because it means you don’t have to work nearly as hard to get repeat sales and referrals and you gain loyalty.

But if Apple products were the key to the Stores’ success, how do you explain the fact that people flock to the stores to buy Apple products at full price when Wal-Mart, Best-Buy, and Target carry most of them, often discounted in various ways, and Amazon carries them all — and doesn’t charge sales tax!

People come to the Apple Store for the experience — and they’re willing to pay a premium for that. There are lots of components to that experience, but maybe the most important — and this is something that can translate to any retailer — is that the staff isn’t focused on selling stuff, it’s focused on building relationships and trying to make people’s lives better. That may sound hokey, but it’s true. The staff is exceptionally well trained, and they’re not on commission, so it makes no difference to them if they sell you an expensive new computer or help you make your old one run better so you’re happy with it. Their job is to figure out what you need and help you get it, even if it’s a product Apple doesn’t carry. Compare that with other retailers where the emphasis is on cross-selling and upselling and, basically, encouraging customers to buy more, even if they don’t want or need it. That doesn’t enrich their lives, and it doesn’t deepen the retailer’s relationship with them. It just makes their wallets lighter.

via What I Learned Building the Apple Store – Ron Johnson – Harvard Business Review.