A couple of months ago, on a trip to the US, I decided to replace my aging MacBook with a MacBook Air. I placed the order online, since I also wanted to soup up the memory and hard disk. While I was at it, I decided to order a “COVER” for the machine. Four days later, my new MBA arrived at my doorstep, and a day later, the cover. I’d goofed. I’d ordered a shell for a 15” MacBook instead of a 13” MacBookAir. Even as I figured how to sort this, I noticed that the battery of my new MBA seemed to be draining rather faster than it should. Now, I needed to get this checked up before I got back. I needed to return the 15” case I’d ordered and get a new one instead.
Here’s what happened. I checked availability and found that none of the three Apple stores nearby had the 13” shell in stock – I ordered another one online. I then walked in to an Apple Store. I was met by a girl wearing a headset who asked me what I wanted. I told her, and she started talking to someone on her headset, which I thought was incredibly rude. Fifteen seconds later, she interrupts her conversation to tell me – “ I am talking to an expert about your battery problem. He tells me you shouldn’t be worried, but since you are here, Chris at the genius bar will run a diagnostic on your machine. And while you’re getting that done, I’ll have someone process the return for you.” All that got done in the next 15 minutes, and on my way out, I decided to pick a case for my iPhone. And I asked someone where I could bill it, since I could not see a checkout counter. “Please talk to someone at the front of the store, they will do it for you”. A girl then scanned in the product – and swiped my card on her iphone, entered my email id, and told me – I was done. The receipt was mailed to me….
Its probably better now. Apple has an Apple Store App in the US, which allows a shopper to scan the product and pay for it with the credit card on file at the app store – a self-check out.
I could get advice at the store – even advice from experts who were not at the store, and non-intrusive service – across channels – with no painful waiting. Most importantly – the physical and online stores complemented each other so well that I did not even think about it.
And that’s the way of the future. Its time to re-engineer the shopping experience based on the reality that more and more people are going online – to research – and often to buy. That more often than not, the device they will be using will be a mobile device. At a time when real estate is so expensive, its time to “sweat” space to add to the experience, not detract from it. Physical shopping is not dead – the old model is.
Click here to read an interesting report from JWT – called “Retail Rebooted.”