Re-Imagination

I was totally impressed yesterday afternoon at the Apple store when replacing a damaged iPhone with a new one.

I’ve been through the experience several times over the years to upgrade to new models, and each time, it’s abundantly clear that Apple is continuing to re-make the retail experience.

An associate greeted us at the front entrance. Plugged a couple minimum bits of information into the (very slick and well-designed) software on his iPhone, and managed the entire transaction from the palm of his hand. All nearly instantaneous, digital, mobile, seamless.

I even signed the receipt with my finger on his iPhone screen.

The thing is, this is Apple’s secret sauce. They re-imagine an existing experience, then build the new approach.

The software interface. The publishing process. The portable music experience. The on-line method of buying digital assets. The phone. The tablet. Distributed app development. And on and on.

Re-imagination is not enough to create a business – you also need superb execution. But without re-imagination, you’re left with incremental improvements or marginal efficiency gains as a business model.

Perhaps we need to train our next generation of business people to continually ask two questions:

Why this?

And why not that?

Ha! This post by Dan Pallotta just showed up in my tweetstream, published yesterday at Harvard Business Review on-line. Talk about mind-meld!!

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The Shopping Networker

I’m a networker. And, I occasionally go food shopping, although that responsibility generally falls upon my longsuffering wife. As a member of the blogging community who has been in his share of stores, I’ve never written about a shopping experience at Shop-Rite. Or A&P. Or Kings. Or Kroger. Or Stop and Save. In fact, the only food store I’ve written about (until now) was Stew Leonard’s, because it was a memorable experience created through a remarkable environment.

This week, I met someone at a Wegman’s in central Jersey. I was early, but I didn’t mind, because I found myself wandering around, figuring out why I had such positive feelings about being in this store. Someone had very carefully designed an environment that made me WANT to be there. What was it?

First of all, the store design managed to pull off a sense of both airiness and intimacy. The ceiling was high, but was painted an interesting rust/brown hue. Suspended from it, however, was an attractive gridwork of black metal, on which was carefully mounted a lighting scheme that brought the ceiling down while still leaving it open. The various lights employed nicely highlighted the shelves. It was quite brilliant in design, actually.

The floor pattern was not plain, but had a multi-hued, almost stone-looking pattern. Combined with the faux (but attractive) windows and siding that were mounted along the walls, the effect was that you were strolling in an Italian courtyard. You didn’t feel trapped in an impersonal box; instead, they managed to capture the feeling of small shops in a more intimate setting.

The layout was straightforward, but not sterile – pleasant signage mixed with easy-on-the-eyes displays. The cafe section (where I met my client) was set up upstairs, so you could grab some coffee at the coffee bar and just sit and relax at quiet little tables. The aisle widths and patterns varied somewhat, so that the usual institutional feel was absent.

I’ve been to exactly one Wegman’s – this one. Are they all this remarkable? I don’t know, but the store philosphy seems strong, and someone clearly wanted to create an atmosphere that was three cuts above your average food store. When I go to most stores, I just want to get in, get it done, and get out. At Wegman’s, I wanted to linger. That is remarkable.

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