Reinventing the Buying Process

Wow!  I mean… just WOW!  I just had a legitimately cool offline buying experience that I need to share.

I’ve been on vacation for just over a week and I still have 4 weeks to go.  I brought my new 17” MacBook Pro along as my computer.  Killer computer.  I love it.  Well, except when it comes to fitting it inside my old Targus computer backpack.  I’ve been trekking through California for 8 days with my $3,100+ computer poking out the top of my bag that I can’t even zip up.

I’m pretty loose with my stuff… but even I was feeling nervous about the security of my notebook.  So I took the opportunity to stop by the Apple store in downtown San Francisco to pick up a new bag.

First of all, if you’ve never been to an Apple store you need to go.  Soon.

It’s a completely different consumer experience from anything else out there.  Even if you don’t have a Mac it’s worth visiting the store just to see how it’s possible to re-invent the buying experience.  Everything from their Genius Bar to the look and feel of the store is completely different from anywhere else.  Plus you can see how they create true buzz in their stores.  It’s cool.

So I pick out my new bag while my kids are playing at the Mac stations for kids and begging me to buy stuff — very clever.  And when I go to check out I don’t see a checkout counter… there’s just Apple employees helping people everywhere.  So I ask where I go to checkout.  And the guy says “right here if you’re ready.”  Slick.

He pulls out a wireless PDA with a scanner and credit card swipe slot.  He scans my bag and the Speck Skin I picked out, swipes my card and asks if I need a printed receipt or if they can just email it to me.  Of course I select the email option.  Which means they get my email address (I don’t know if they’ll use that for anything else).  And they have a built-in excuse to contact me.  In fact, that email receipt is what prompted me to blog this.

Anyway… no lines, no waiting, nothing.  The employee who helped me is also the one who checked me out.  He puts a couple blue stickers on my stuff and I’m good to go.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a truly different buying experience.  Everybody does what everyone else does.  And then I have an experience like the Apple store and I’m reminded that you can make anything and everything better.  It’s okay to question even the most basic of operations.  And even something as ordinary as the checkout process can build customer loyalty.

Go check out your local Apple Store.  Pay attention.  You’ll learn something about marketing and product presentation.  Right down to the checkout process.