Apple’s new retail head needs to fix the biggest problem with Apple Retail Stores

“There are many things to love about Apple Stores. The designs are great. Either funky and modern, with loads of glass and natural light, or a respectful yet contemporary conversion of a classical building,” Ben Lovejoy writes for 9to5Mac. “You can freely play with the products, without any sales pressure. If you have questions, there will generally be someone who knows the answer.”

“But there’s one big problem that afflicts almost every Apple Store I’ve ever visited: the horrendous over-crowding,” Lovejoy writes. “The design and lack of sales pressure should make Apple’s retail stores pleasant places to visit. But the crazy busy-ness of them makes a store visit instead something of an ordeal.”

“Instead of a leisurely play with the latest tech, you have to fight your way through the crowds just to get near it, and are then hemmed in on all sides by other people waiting impatiently for their turn,” Lovejoy writes. “From Apple’s perspective, you could say this is a good problem to have… But it’s definitely not a good problem from a customer perspective. And that also makes it a bad problem for Apple’s long-term future. If people come into the stores and have a bad experience, that damages the brand.”

“The simple solution would be more stores,” Lovejoy writes. “If I were Deidre O’Brien, expanding the number of existing stores in major cities – and opening new ones in states which have large populations nowhere near a store – would be my number one priority.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yup. Plus the noise issue is a direct result of designing without regard for acoustics — not a good look (or sound) for the company that designed the HomePod much less trying to demo HomePods in stores with awful acoustics.

We just wish the smaller stores had a quieter place for these programs to take place; some Apple Stores are so noisy it’ll be hard to conduct the classes. Some Apple Stores really need fewer acoustically “shiny” surfaces and more sound-absorbing materials!MacDailyNews, April 25, 2017

Two things additional things about Apple Retail Stores: One, a constant since inception, is that the stores are overly acoustically “bright” making them extremely loud. Hard floors, glass, hard ceilings; it can get deafening. In smaller stores, this makes hearing instructors’ classes, or even staff members more difficult than it should be. Some acoustical design (sound deadening) would go a long, long way to making the stores more comfortable overall. Secondly, the stores are increasingly more crowded – a nice problem to have – which is obviously recognized as an issue as we see Apple expanding stores pretty much wherever they can. (Just don’t forget the acoustics! Quieter stores will seem less crowded, even if they actually aren’t.)MacDailyNews, August 16, 2018

More stores, please to spread out the demand and make the experience less of a loud*, crowded frenzy and more relaxed.

*Much more attention to acoustical damping — please! — too many Apple Retail Stores are far too acoustically bright. Communication in Apple Stores is often a painful chore due to crowd noise bouncing off too many hard surfaces. These acoustically annoying experience could and should be mitigated.MacDailyNews, February 8, 2019

21 Comments

  1. I guess I just don’t understand the focus or why anyone cares about Apple physical retail stores. As someone who’s nearest Apple store is ~70 miles away, at least I have some near me. My guess (does anyone have the data?) that less than 10% of Apples global sales are in the Apple physical Stores. You can look and touch most products at Best Buy, Wal-Mart and about a dozen other retailers that are more common.

    I get that the Apple stores have more sales per square foot than virtually any other retail store. But I can’t see them ever making a consequential impact on global sales. They’re all about “other things” — they look nice (message: Apple cares about design); they’re interesting (who doesn’t visit an Apple store if they visit some far off land that has one); they don’t really have sales people, so are a place you can walk into without being bothered. Who cares if it’s loud or brash or white or glass or turquoise? The folks who have determined what will pass the best “message” of who Apple is, I bet. That they are busy and crowed is intentional, I think.

    The online store is different. Given Apple’s pricing strategy (they almost never go “on sale”) it is immaterial where you buy one from, so the online store should be good and work well (and probably accounts for a LOT more sales than the brick and mortar stores). The on-line store sorta works OK, once you can get to it. It’s the only place for refurbished and clearance (which kinda hides). There are very, very few accessories available; for instance, now that Apple’s out of the router biz, there should be routers that are TimeMachine compatible and “Apple Approved”. The on-line environment could use work. A lot of work. And deserves it MUCH more than the physical stores.

    If Apple needs a retail focus, the focus should be simple: tell me WHY I should give up my iPhone SE/Mac Mini 2/mid-2012 MacBookPro to buy something new. Because, quite frankly, I just don’t see it. Tell me WHY you think an iPad Pro is a desktop replacement, because I just don’t see it at all.

    1. You’re happy and set in your ways! Don’t let any of these whipper snappers tell you that you need the latest and greatest! Your iPhone SE/Mac Mini 2/mid-2012 MacBook Pro suits your needs, why would you want Apple to PRESSURE you into buying anything new? Don’t you LIKE having that money in your pocket?

      In the time it took me to type that paragraph, Apple just sold a few hundred thousand more iPad Pro’s, so, don’t you worry, they’ll do fine 🙂

  2. I like the crowds. Always somebody to strike up a conversation with. Was it Yogi bBerra that said, “Nobody goes to that restaurant because it’s too crowded.” I would rather that than have a Microsoft store crowd.

    1. “But the crazy busy-ness of them makes a store visit instead something of an ordeal.”
      If THIS is Apple’s problem as far as the Author is concerned, put me in charge and I’ll solve that pesky problem of people in the stores! Sharp pointed objects attached to every surface is one way. Ummm, having the entire place smell like a menthol rub. Hire a troupe of sharp-elbowed ne’er-do-wells to hang out near the openings. Don’t allow anyone under 50 without a guardian or, alternately, ONLY sell Macs.

      Give money me please.

  3. I so totally agree. I DREAD going to the apple store. In the past – it was a designation for me – I’d always drop in on an apple store (I travel a lot and have been to more than 50 of them around the world).

    IMHO – for now – these stores are to be avoided. Just a TERRIBLE experience.

  4. Lovejoy projects more angst than the situation deserves. Lots of people go to crowded places again and again – Apple Stores, malls, Disney World, Walmart… If people have a reason to go, then they will go. If a person is smart about it, then they can target a less-trafficked day/time.

    That is not to say that the situation should not be improved, just that we shouldn’t be all that worried about people having a “bad experience” in an Apple Store that “damages the brand” and drives people away.

    I commented on this very topic just yesterday. I prefer less noise and more room. I hate Walmart because the aisles are too narrow to start with, then they make it worse by placing product displays in the aisles. We switched most of our shopping from Kroger to HEB not only because of generally lower prices, but also because the store is more open and the aisles are wider so you don’t get blocked as often.

    I commented on the Apple Store noise in my previous post. It can be hard to hold discussions, particularly around the Genius Bar. This can be fixed via design updates.

    Almost everything can be improved. But I am not concerned about the Apple Stores – they work quite well as is, and I am confident that Apple will continue to improve the retail experience over time.

  5. What happened to Angela’s trees, there are 3 Apple stores within 10 miles of me… none of them have it! … they would help with the noise… and esthetics .
    Personaly , i like the crowd though, to an extent, brings energy and a sense of vibrant comunity to the stores.

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