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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

I did it. I bought an iPhone.

Now, to be perfectly honest, even though I am an enormous fan of all things Apple, I was a little leery about being an early adopter, an attitude which proved to be correct when a couple of months after introducing the iPhone, Apple CEO Steve Jobs dropped the price by $200. And, I was concerned about switching from Verizon to AT&T, which is what you have to do in order to use the iPhone.

But the stars seemed aligned correctly. The price had been lowered, and it seemed unlikely that it would be lowered again anytime soon. And, my Verizon contract was up…which meant that I could switch to AT&T without paying a penalty. So I took a deep breath, and I did it.

And not for a moment have I been sorry. This is just a very cool phone, and for the past two weeks or so I’ve had a great deal of fun trying to figure out all the various things it can do.

Which is actually my only problem with the iPhone. Believe it or not, it doesn’t come with an instructions manual. Now, in some ways it doesn’t need one, because it is such an intuitive piece of equipment. But there are things that do need to be explained…and instead of providing a manual, Apple instead has videos and PDFs that can be downloaded off the Internet and used. And I suppose that makes sense in the new world order, and also from an environmental point of view. I have to say though, if Apple wants to appeal to people outside its core user market, I think an instructions manual would just make sense. It’d be something I could throw into my bag to use as a reference when I need some help. It would be a kind of low-tech security blanket for a high tech product.

There are, of course, manuals you can buy. I love the one written by David Pogue, the technology writer for the New York Times, which has as its subtitle, “the book that should have come in the box.” Talk about knowing your audience…

My experience with the iPhone has gotten me thinking about the whole idea of instruction manuals, and how much we sometimes take for granted about what consumers know. For example, I’ve been on the west coast this week, and I’ve been driving a car equipped with Sirius Satellite Radio. I don't have satellite radio at home, and I liked the idea of testing it out to see if it made sense to get it for our own cars. Did they have an instructions manual to explain how to use it and what all the various stations were? Nope. So I ended up listening to a couple of CDs I’d brought with me, and the opportunity to convert me was lost. I blame this on Sirius, not Hertz, by the way…though I have another bone to pick with all the rental car companies. I’ve always thought it would make sense to equip every car with a list of local radio stations, so that I’d know how to find news, classic rock, or a sports station as I’m driving through town. It’d be a simple thing, but nobody does it. And that list of stations would be like an instructions manual for the radio, which isn’t much use if you don't know what’s available.

Think about your store. How many customers come in the front door but really don't know how to shop the whole store? I suspect a lot. They know the departments that they always patronize, and they have their standard list of products from which they choose. But nobody really tells them about what the whole store has to offer, what products go with what other products, and how to use them in an efficient and effective way. Some stores do a god job with this – I think immediately of Wegmans and Publix, and I know there are others. But I think that in general the food industry assumes a lot about what its customers know, which doesn’t allow it to educate them in an aspirational way…rather, many stores market to the lowest common denominator and then act surprised when the customer chooses a fast food joint instead of the supermarket.

Let’s bring it back to Apple, which has in every one of its retail stores a “genius bar” that is sort of the ultimate instruction manual. Could your store benefit from having a kind of genius bar to answer shoppers’ food-related questions. I’m guessing yes…mostly because I can't imagine any store that wouldn’t be better for providing this service.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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