When shoppers sleep outside of stores just to be one of the first to buy an iPhone , it's obvious that Apple is a company that enjoys fanatical brand loyalty. However, this brand success is not a result of dumb luck or forces beyond Apple's control; it's part of a well-thought-out plan to deliver strong products and to create an Apple culture. Find out more about these and other strategies that Apple employs to achieve its tremendous customer loyalty.
A Store Just for Apple : Apple has historically been troubled by big-box sales staffers who are ill-informed about its products, a problem that made it difficult for Apple to set its very different products apart from the rest of the computing crowd. By creating a store strictly devoted to Apple products, the company has not only eliminated this problem but has made an excellent customer-loyalty move. Apple stores are a friendly place where Mac and PC users alike are encouraged to play with and explore the technology that the company offers. This is a space where Macheads can not only get service but also hang out with others who enjoy Apple products just as much as they do. By creating this space, Apple encourages current and new customers to get excited about what it has to offer.
Complete Solutions : Apple's products complement and complete each other. Buy an iPod, and you can download music via iTunes. For the average user, most Mac programs are produced by Apple. This sort of control over the entire user process, from hardware to software, strengthens customer loyalty. Apple users generally don't have to stray to find products and solutions they want.
Are You a Mac? : Let's face it, Apple is a hip brand. It pushes a strong identification with everything young, up-to-the-minute and smart. Consider Apple's I'm a Mac campaign. The Mac guy is smooth and confident, while PC appears uptight and old. Once you've become smooth, would you want to go back to uptight?
Varied Products : Many consumers may not be ready to buy an Apple computer, but they're willing to give gadgets like the iPod or iPhone a try. By selling products with lower entry costs, it creates an opportunity for new users to be introduced to Apple. If these users enjoy their gadgets, they're more likely to consider buying an Apple computer in the future.
Media Fodder : Media outlets, especially bloggers, love to write about Apple. Why? Because Apple makes it so easy. With leaked rumors about new developments, its very own expo and mysterious shutdowns of its online store, Apple gift wraps news stories that are just begging for speculation and hype. By perpetuating this cycle of media frenzy, Apple keeps its customers excited about buying new Apple products now and in the future.
Education Sales : By selling its products to schools and universities, Apple turns classrooms into showrooms. If students go through school using Apple products, they become comfortable with the interface and familiar with the superior performance the brand offers. By creating this early exposure, Apple captures customers before they even know that they are customers.
Products That Deliver : Apple carefully considers what consumers are looking for, so its products are a result of both extensive research and strong design. This meticulous planning is a large contributor to Apple's high customer-satisfaction rates. It's plain and simple: Robust and easy-to-use products not only make your customers happy, but also make them want to buy more products from you in the future.
Outsourcing Unpleasantness : With Apple products, the average consumer's interaction with the company is likely to be low. Unless something goes wrong, you don't have any reason to speak with an Apple customer-service representative. Of course, the iPhone presented an opportunity that could have made Apple much more involved, similar to administering iTunes for the iPod. With a phone, interaction becomes multifaceted. You have to consider billing errors, quality of wireless service, contracts and a number of other factors that often lead to customer frustration. With the iPhone, Apple was wise to stick with building a good product and letting AT&T handle the service.
Consistency : All of Apple's products have the same basic architecture. Because of this consistency, customers who already own Apple products have a good idea of what they'll be getting before they make a purchase. They know that it will be easy to adapt to new hardware, and this makes them more open to making a repeat purchase.
New Innovations : Although the architecture of Apple products is consistent, its portfolio is not. The company offers consumers a number of different ways to enjoy its products. By giving customers an opportunity to employ Apple in their living rooms, pockets and offices, Apple makes it easy to stay loyal to a brand they already like.
Attractiveness : From packaging to aesthetic design to user-interface experience, Apple makes its products accessible and attractive. Bright colors, a smiling icon and slick-looking hardware remind customers every time they use Apple products that what Apple offers is appealing.
What strategies do you use to ensure customer loyalty? Would any of Apple's stragegies work for your industry?