retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Fascinating story on AppleInsider.com about how Apple Inc. has filed a patent application for what it calls a "system and method for planning layout of a retail store," including "a number of interactive features, like dynamic product displays and floor plan blocking, with a centralized management system, ensuring customers have a consistent experience when visiting any Apple Stores in the world. The inclusive application brings together dynamic signage creation and management, customer experience services, floor maps and other details to form a cohesive worldwide retail system."

The story goes on: "At the heart of the invention is a central server that is responsible for providing Apple Stores with floor information, including dimensions and orientation of the floor space, product data, dynamic signage information, organization of fixtures, an interactive map and more. This server sends current information to in store servers which then mete the data out to dynamic product signage.

"The filing notes that conventional retail stores are largely designed individually or locally, with different geological locations setting up displays according to the region's demographic. Apple's system provides an efficient way to roll out new products, display sale items and manage operations to offer customers around the globe uniform shopping experiences."

One of the approaches cited in the Apple application is the utilization of "iPads as the informational kiosks, allowing customers to browse devices on their own or as ask for help from an in-store representative. Because the system is fed by a central server, updates can be pushed out to quickly coordinate changes in pricing or promotions."
KC's View:
Pretty much from their inception, the Apple Stores have been about pushing the envelope, about challenging traditional ways of doing business. Every part of the experience seems to be keyed to the notion that a great store can be a resource for consumers, not just a source of product. And, it is a store format that makes someone feel smarter just for walking in.

That's not to say that there haven't been glitches. There have been some concerns expressed here on MNB, by me and others, that perhaps the chain was getting a little too big, that it was losing the consumer-focus that defined it, and that as the chain expanded, the culture was being diluted. And I think it is fair to suggest that this is something about which Apple will have to continue to be vigilant.

Just FYI ... in "FaceTime" on Thursday, I'll have some thoughts about yet another innovation that I recently discovered at the Apple Store. Stay tuned...