No one thought the Apple Store was a good idea in 2001.
One retail analyst was quoted saying “Apple’s problem is it still believes the way to grow is serving caviar in a world that seems pretty content with cheese and crackers.” Also, “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.”
(Oooo. If there was a list of words you wish you could take back, I bet those would be on it.)
15 years later, 50,000 Apple Store employees serve one million customers a day across Apple’s 450 stores worldwide. The Apple Store generates more revenue per square foot than any other retailer, and by a mile.
The brand envisioned its stores to be much more than, well, stores. They envisioned it to be an experience—a solution center, a museum, a place to purchase a product with the purpose of enriching and connecting lives.
And it’s done just that.
Let’s take a step back and talk “brand”. A word so often overused and even more so misunderstood. (Cringe) We’re here to set the record straight… a brand is not a logo. It is not a color palette. It is not a website. It is not the words used to explain a service or product. It is none of those things…
It is ALL of them combined.
A real brand is the perception and feelings your audience has about you. Your brand is a feeling.
Every single touchpoint makes a difference, so it’s no wonder companies (like Apple) have turned to focus so much on in-store experiences. The retail space is one place that a brand can come alive and truly activate itself across all senses. And every once in a while it’s important that brands take a step back to evaluate the experience customers are having.
Millennials (especially) place a premium on overall experience and that includes comfortable, well-designed spaces. “Good design is no longer reserved for high-end experiences,” said Susan Cantor, CEO of Red Peak Branding. “It’s about curating the whole look, tone and feel: all the touchpoints that will capture the consumer.”
Fast food chains have heeded this call.
KFC first began redesigning their restaurants in October 2014 and have since redesigned 100 more locations. The new space design is a visual representation of the brands re-commitment to its Colonel Sanders roots in Louisville, Kentucky and the one special recipe that made this chicken restaurant chain so popular. Since the redesign, KFC has seen 3% sales growth.
Arby’s remodeled 179 of its U.S. stores with plans for another 225 and has seen a 15% sales lift as a result. “We had an aging asset base, and it was time to change it,” said Greg Vojnovic, Chief Development Officer at Arby’s. “Design really helps with your positioning and helps you appeal to guests who might not consider you otherwise.”
Taco Bell is following suit, testing four new design concepts with gray brick walls, art murals and creative installations. (Anyone else getting the taco truck vibe here?)
Lesson: experience matters. Overall guest satisfaction and brand loyalty is tied to the look, feel and service that occurs in a retail environment, making it one of the most important components of any brand building efforts.
If you’re involved in any sort of retail space, it’s worth an experience audit. Give us a call.