3 Lessons from Apple Store creator Ron Johnson

Editor’s note: This post is just a skim of all that we covered with Ron Johnson. To get the full scoop, watch his interviews on our SmartSocial Innovators page.

For three decades, Ron Johnson has been reinventing the way consumers interact with products. He has a storied career: from transforming Target into Targét, to failing to revive J.C. Penney, to creating the Apple Store. A lot has been learned along the way, so we sat down with him to uncover some of his biggest lessons.

1) Create Experiences That Engage The Mind and Heart

To truly differentiate oneself, stores must create experiences that engage both the mind and the heart. “You want to engage people in stores. You want to connect intellectually. You want to connect emotionally,” Ron explains. “So, you have to find a way to get them in touch with people and products. And if you do that, a store can deliver a great experience”.

To truly differentiate oneself, stores must create experiences that engage both the mind and the heart.

 

Take Apple, for instance. Ron and his team created the Apple Store to engage consumers in an entirely new way. When you go through the door, you walk into a clean space with Apple products on wooden tables and employees on the floor. You have two choices: put your hands on a product or talk to somebody. “Everything was an engaging experience,” Ron explained. “And when you're in the experience business, you're trying to create experiences that change the relationship that a customer has with you.”

2) Bring The Digital and Physical Together

According to Ron, store’s aren’t going away. Deep Exhale. But consumers are demanding digital convenience. “What digital retail is exceptional at is a digital convenience,” said Ron. “You can find a product. You can compare prices with one click. You can have a product delivered to your door.” But, that doesn’t complete the puzzle.

What stores excel in is delivering something more—an experience. The best retail brands are those that help bridge the divide and bring the physical and the digital worlds together.

Case in point: Burberry. At their flagship Regent Street location, Burberry seamlessly integrates technology with the physical retail space. For example, when a customer approaches a mirror in the store, multimedia content displays runway footage and other exclusive videos. Store associates also have iPads loaded with customers’ purchase history and preferences to enhance their next customer interaction.

The best retail brands are those that help bridge the divide and bring the physical and the digital worlds together.

 

3) Be In The Relationship Business

“If you're a brand, by definition, you're in the relationship business,” explains Ron. “We relate to brands. We become emotionally connected to brands. You have to think through everything you do from the perspective of a relationship.”

Brands have a responsibility to build, restore or enhance their relationships with customers. At a store, one can argue that’s relatively easy to do: ace a face-to-face interaction with great in-person service. But how do you deliver a premium customer experience digitally? Firstly, through thoughtful social customer care, and next, through delivering a smarter last mile (last mile: the last leg your product takes before arriving on your doorstep).

At Enjoy, a startup founded by Ron, the mission is to deliver a “smart last mile with a smile.” Customers purchase a premium product from a partner, such as AT&T or Sonos. Then Enjoy sends an expert—for free, and typically on the same day—to your home to hand-deliver the product, personally set it up, teach you how to use it and connect it to your life. That’s delivering value and that’s building a relationship.

For more words from the wise Ron Johnson, don’t stop here. Keep the ideas flowing by tuning into his SmartSocial Innovators page.

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Caitlin Cavanaugh is the Brand Marketing Specialist for Spredfast, where she spends her time building the world’s most #SmartSocial brand through the power of customer voice. When she’s not chasing a revolutionary success story, you can find her embarking on her next hunting or fishing expedition or baking up a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies.