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Unified shopping information could make Apple Store visits less confusing

In the 11 months since Apple began taking precautions against COVID-19, the world has come to recognize Apple Stores as the gold standard of retail health and safety. Most customers understand Apple’s safeguards and trust they’ll find a careful environment when they visit a store. One small change could help additional customers and Apple’s own teams have more successful experiences.

Less clear than the health and safety measures taken at all Apple Stores are the services available at individual locations. Under normal circumstances, Apple tries to create a consistent experience no matter if you’re visiting in New York or New Mexico. But a city-by-city, data-informed approach to operating stores during the pandemic demands unique circumstances.

Many customers still arrive at their local Apple Store unaware that it’s temporarily closed or open by appointment only. The Express storefront model is still novel to most visitors who have restricted their shopping trips over the past year. Apple’s own Support teams working online and over the phone don’t always have relevant information about store status to inform customers. The result is ambiguous expectations and wasted store visits.

Poke around Apple’s website, the Apple Store app, Apple Support app, or an Apple Store itself, and you’ll find little tidbits to inform you of available services. From easels flanking the lines outside every location to banners and links below store hours, there’s a lot to read. Customers would benefit from one consistent resource across every medium with just the information they need for a successful store visit.

Here’s how it could look:

Apple likes to focus on the positives, but calling out what’s not available upfront serves a better experience.
Emails for shopping sessions, Genius Bar appointments, and pickups could prepare customers with store service availability.
Straightforward checkmarks make it easy to instantly identify the status of your store.
From online messages to in-store easels, information should be presented consistently across all mediums.

If you’ve ever taken a road trip across the American Midwest, you’ve probably come to appreciate the glowing VACANCY/NO VACANCY signs that dot every roadside motel. They communicate elegantly through their simplicity. You know within a split second whether you should stop or continue down the road. Apple can do same with a bit less neon and a bit more style.

I’ve praised Apple Retail’s constant communication during the pandemic. At the same time, the fluidity of the situation means the information can become overwhelming and hard to follow. I’ve been tracking the status of Apple Stores worldwide daily since last January, and I still often find it difficult to determine the services and operating models available at each location.

There’s no magic shortcut to the perfect store experience. The reality is that this pandemic is far from over, and the situation will be complex and deeply nuanced for the foreseeable future. Customers would appreciate the clarity of unified shopping information, and Apple’s store teams would appreciate anything that makes their jobs a little bit easier during a challenging time.

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Avatar for Michael Steeber Michael Steeber

Michael is a Creative Editor who covered Apple Retail and design on 9to5Mac. His stories highlighted the work of talented artists, designers, and customers through a unique lens of architecture, creativity, and community.

Contact Michael on Twitter to share Apple Retail, design, and history stories: @MichaelSteeber