During an appearance at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival in New York City this week, Apple’s SVP of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts discussed her relationship with Apple Retail employees, Black Friday, and the future of Apple Retail.
Ahrendts discussed moving Apple’s retail presence beyond current comfortable staples, such as the Genius Bar, discussing how to refocus stores around new Apple services and other offerings.
“How should we handle Apple Pay? How should we help customers download Apple Music? They’re not products we’re selling—we get no credit for doing that at all. Yet that’s good for Apple and the customer,” said Ahrendts.
Ahrendts went on to discuss how the store is a “big giant product” in itself, wondering, “How do we get our kids who prefer no human interaction into these stores?” She says the Apple retail experience was fragmented, with the Apple website being separate from the Apple Store website, and both of those entities being apart from the actual in-store experience.
“I asked Tim a very simple question: Why do we do it this way?” she recalled. “He said, ‘I don’t know—we’ve always done it this way.’” The company is now working to better unite its online and offline experience.
Ahrendts envisions redesigning the retail stores around use cases for Apple’s products. Photography, gaming, business, etc. However, there is one thing she says will never change in the stores: The tables the products are demonstrated on. “Jony Ive designed that table—that table is iconic, that table will not change,” she said.
Later on, Ahrendts talked about Apple Retail’s growth in China, which is becoming Apple’s most important growth market. As the company has been ramping up in China, it is investing heavily in its mobility program, where Apple retail employees relocate to different areas around the globe to “cross-pollinate the company’s DNA.”
U.S. employees aren’t the only ones that are relocating, as she wants to make sure international employees are represented at more of Apple’s locations in the U.S. Apple has 21 Mandarin-speaking employees at its Upper East Side New York location alone. (Apple’s U.S. stores are a popular stop for Chinese tourists.)
Ahrendts says programs such as this aid in employee retention, which currently sits at an amazing 81% across Apple’s retail operations.
When Ahrendts joined Apple, one of the first things she worked on was how to better communicate with the 60,000 Apple Retail employees. “My kids were visiting from London and all they were doing in the car was WhatsApp and Snapchat,” she says. “It hit me: That’s the way we should communicate.” Ahrendts records a “three thoughts in three minutes” video for employees every week. She believes makes the employees feel more involved with Apple’s decision making process.
In regards to “Black Friday,” a retail tradition that Apple largely ignored last year, Ahrendts says Apple backed away from the tradition because “being good to your employees will always be good for business.”