Customer Relationship Management is a Contact Sport

Our Friday parting shot (...yes we're still here but heads down on three new projects that hit simultaneously) ...our parting shot this week is, as the title suggests, a commnt about one of the best in the consumer relationship management space: Apple and how they use their brick and mortar experience to build brand loyalty.  We've said before and say again that CRM is brand engagement and management.

Yesterday, Forbes contributing editor Carmine Gallo posted an interesting article that nearly ironically coincided with one of our partner's having an Apple store experience, and separately sharing with us  consistent insight, without even being aware of Gallo's article.  In fact, we would've missed it, but for deciding on a lark to run a Google Search on the topic.

The gist of the article and our own observations is that the details of consumer experience matter big time, and every Apple retail employee knows such.  In fact, did you realize that before the opening of a Store each day the displays on all the Macs are precisely set to a certain angle?  And its not just aesthetics.  Actually, it is done intentionally to engage a visitor to adjust the display to their own best viewing position.  That's right: the intent is to engage the consumer in touching the equipment! 

Gallo writes about his one year spent researching the Apple retail experience, and this is but one of the little inside tricks he learned.

The resulting maxim is: interactive expereinces create a sense of ownership.  This is also why every machine is jacked into the Internet and loaded with Apps.   Gallo writes (we'll paraphrase here), that the idea is to engage the consumer or customer in a way that encourages direct tactile interaction.  For example, trainers who teach customers how to use Apple products never touch the device without the student's permission.  Rather,  they patiently guide customers to find the solutions themselves.

And here is a really big idea (that most retailers finance officers will roll their eyes at as nonsense, and yet if you look into any Apple Store on any day you'll see its swamped with both broswers and buyers.)   The idea is that the Apple Store was never created on the premise that people want to buy stuff.  Actually, Apple discovered that by creating an "ownership experience," customers would be more loyal to the brand.  And they would eventually buy.  In volume.  For life.

Indeed, as Gallo explains (and we have it on independent information this is true), the Apple Store is designed to create an ownership experience from the moment a consumer walks through the door.  Devices are there to be fondled... furiously if so desired.  Our partner took special note today, the first afternoon of summer vacation, how the store flowed with kids (of all ages) many fixated and furiously mousing or tapping, or visually entranced, depending on the circumstances of their engagement.

Gallo recounts an experience with his daughters and points out something really telling: the difference betweeen an Apple Store and a Best Buy store experience.  Ironically, our partner also found himself at Best Buy at lunch today and saw this with his own eyes: the opposite is true at Best Buy.  The store is not overflowing with people, and the machines are typically in screen-saver mode with very few Apps, seldom connected to the 'Net, with many not even turned on.

The point really is, Apple learned long ago what many other businesses are just starting to realize: make it fun for consumers to connect with your product or service using all their senses, and you will quickly sense brand loyalty.

Gallo goes on to share another example to prove the point that this isn't just applicable to consumer electronics, but works for things like the Build-a-Bear Workshops -- again employing this multisensory experience paradigm. 

We note that Carmine Gallo has actually written a worth reading new book on the the Apple Experience -- "Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty."

So, our parting shot this week is that CRM is a contact sport.  The more you engage your customers’ senses, the more likely it is that they will engage with your product on an emotional level and reward you with their loyalty.  As Gallo suggests, and we heartily agree: the next time you wander into an Apple Store (and you know you will), pay attention to the smallest details.  You might learn something valuable about creating customer loyalty.

 

Comment

Gregory Miller, CTO

Greg has been in the tech sector as a software architect and engineer, product manager, marketing and biz dev exec., and even IP and privacy lawyer for 3 decades. He is currently on the Board of a non-profit tech foundation reinventing America's election technology, is a venture adviser in the Silicon Valley, and serves as the CTO for C[IQ] Strategies, Inc.