retail prophet | June 20, 2012

Retail Speaker Douglas Stephens: Detailing the Apple Store's Success

Why are Apple stores better than most retail outlets? In a recent visit to the Lavin offices, retail speaker Douglas Stephens explained. Much of it has to do with the late Steve Jobs' obsessive dedication to detail. "What Apple was very good at doing was thinking radically," Stephens says. "They didn't model themselves after any other computer store." In addition to the genius bar and mobile point-of-sale technology that eliminated lineups, Stephens pointed out, Apple trained its retail workers to use specific language—for example, to say “as it turns out” instead of “unfortunately.” In fact, a recent article in The Atlantic revealed just how far Apple goes to engineer the perfect shopping experience, even down to the angle of each computer screen:

Turns out, though, that there's one more bit of precision required to make the Apple Store so Apple-y. The notebook computers displayed on the store's tabletops and counters are set out, each day, to exactly the same angle. That angle being, precisely, 70 degrees: not as rigid as a table-perpendicular 90 degrees, but open enough -- and, also, closed enough -- for screens' content to remain visible and inviting to would-be typers and tinkerers.

The point, explains Carmine Gallo, who is writing a book on the inside workings of the Apple Store, is to get people to touch the devices. "The main reason notebook computers screens are slightly angled is to encourage customers to adjust the screen to their ideal viewing angle," he says -- "in other words, to touch the computer."

Learning from Apple is quickly becoming—or has it always been?—a great way to think about your own retail enterprise. In his Lavin visit, Douglas Stephens wasn’t suggesting that every store needs to emulate Apple; he was challenging retailers to think outside of the box and re-evaluate their own retail strategies. Stephens' retail thinking has influenced many of North America's best-known retailers and brands, and his emphasis on retail futurism—what's trending, what's next—is highly valued within the industry. While Apple is viewed as one of the 'gold standards' of retail, they didn't get there by emulating their competition or shying away from risks. In his highly customized keynotes, Stephens focuses on what consumers will want, and delivers proven strategies that help companies not only respond to change, but lead it.