How to Launch a Retail Store with a Buzz
Apple launched its 15th Australian retail outlet at Westfield Carindale, Brisbane, on Saturday 25th August 2012 at 10:00am. “Launched” is a more suitable description than simply “opened”, as this wasn’t a matter of simply flinging open the doors and waiting for the first punters to arrive.
This was an orchestrated affair, complete with masses of people, cult like chanting from the staff and enthusiastic applause from the mass of Apple fan boys, girls, mums, dads, grandmas, grandpas and babies. This wasn’t just a day out for the nerds! There was a diverse demographic present, representative of Apples mainstream appeal.
Assuming you’ve got killer products and an adoring consumer base, here’s how to launch in style, Apple style.
Here’s the Blueprint
- Send out an email to the faithful, 4 days prior to the event. I’m not sure exactly how they defined their mailing list as I’ve got several email addresses registered with Apple for various purposes, but only 1 of them received the invite. Promise to give away free t-shirts.
- Cordon off a large area of the shopping centre for the faithful to queue up. I’d estimate there were 1000 fans waiting when the doors opened.
- Over-staff with a ratio of approximately 1 staff member for every 4 consumers at capacity.
- 15 minutes before opening time, gather the team, visible to the crowd through the floor to ceiling glass facade, and rev them up with a pep talk and chanting, arms linked.
- 5 minutes before opening time, release the beast – open the doors and let the 100 odd retail team members out into the crowd to run around the line up giving high 5’s to greet the masses.
- Assemble the staff back inside, close the doors, build the anticipation some more, then throw open the doors and welcome in the first customer.
- Pack the store to near capacity and then regulate the flow in of small groups, each receiving their own personal cheers from the enthusiastic staff.
- Give away a free t-shirt to the first 1000 customers.
- Offer amazing customer service and sell some fantastic products.
Watch the Video of the Apple Store Carindale Opening
Never Before has Emptying Your Wallet Been Easier
In the context of Apple retail operations, mastering the art of the store launch is merely window dressing with a relatively transient effect (although some might argue it’s a ‘life changing’ experience with a lasting impact, and they might be be right). I believe the real application of skill is evident through the ease with which punters are able to empty their wallets on shiny new gadgets, on the spot, no fuss, all day, every day.
There are no fixed cash register points in the store. Simply play with your desired gadget of choice and wait for one of the helpful nerds to approach and assist you with any information you require. Once you’re locked-in to purchase, out comes the mobile POS system – iPhone fitted with credit card reader. Pay on the spot and by the time the transaction has been processed, another nerd has arrived with your goodies, ready to go.
There has been much coverage of Apple’s shift in focus away from the customer towards profits in their retail operations since previous retail chief Ron Johnson was replaced by John Browett. Browett has openly taken a more traditional profit focussed approach to their stores. Although I’ve made the point that it’s extremely easy to spend money (and lots of it) in an Apple Store, there is absolutely no denying that the customer is centre of the whole experience – in a good way. I can personally rate the entire shopping experience (launch gimmicks aside) very highly.
While the vast majority of retailers flounder, Apple continues to buck the trend. Having attended this opening, its easy to see why. Walking around the shopping centre afterwards I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the other retailers. One of the camera shops at about 11am had not 1 customer in it, rather 4 staff huddled around the checkout, chatting.
As a kind of funny side note to all of this, how did JB Hi Fi handle the opening? See below. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry.