Look for a cool Apple sign in any prominent location. Follow it and you will enter a glass clad store with a big trendy posters on the walls and series of Macs, iPods and other Apple products. But one special thing to notice there is it looks more like a hangout place or a cyber cafe than a store. What you will see is lots of people standing around surfing the Web and playing with Apple products and accessories.
So what is Apple trying to do with these stores? Retail sales of iPods or Macs is certainly not the primary objective of these stores. Let alone primary, I think its not even the secondary objective (in fact when I was taking to a sales person about an iPod, she told me that I might want to think about buying it online, because then I can get a personal message engraved on the back of it). The primary objective is to maintain a cool brand image that Apple is well known for. Secondary objective is to let people use the Macs and other Apple products and let them know that there is another alternative available for them. And then if the store sells products and accessories, great!
First of all, its worth admiring the artistic architecture of these stores. They look more like museums than stores. The one in New York on the fifth avenue is truely mesmerizing. Next thing to notice is the relaxed and calmed atmosphere in the stores. Customers are made to feel at home and they get close to home like experience while playing with the products. This is really a great strategy. People who are so used to using Personal Computers get exposed to Mac as an alternative and all the i list of products that work only with it.
Another way Apple is marketing Mac and the bundled software at these stores is by arranging free training sessions (this is something I experienced in New York). Everyday they have guests from different fields varying from film editors talking about iMovies to web site designer giving a demo of how to use iWeb. By doing this, Apple is trying to create a thought process in minds of customers that anything cool they want to do on a computer can be done using a Mac.
An interesting way to look at these Apple stores is to look at them as really expensive billboards on busy streets. Billboards that talk to the customers, let them get in and experience the products and educate them on how to use the products. Billboards that are updated regularly to expose the new products and create buzz about the forthcoming products.
Travel in metros, take a walk down any public park or just wander on busy streets, you will see one thing in common, every third person will be listening to an iPod. And this is not specific to a certain city, the same thing is happening everywhere. iPod has created a confidence in customers for Apple products. Now Apple is exposing the same customers to other products. If Apple gets the price equation straight for its products, it won’t be surprising to see them creating Applemania in other markets as well.