Creating an Apple Store Experience to Engage your Constituents
So much of what I read from Inc. magazine is oriented to the for-profit world - selling more things, maximizing revenue, etc. Erik Sherman's article Learn Retail Success - The Apple Store Way, is no exception.
However, as I read the article, I thought about my experience at Apple stores - feelings of connection to the brand, feeling supported by its employees, feeling like the store is an extension of the larger company, and an urge to spend and bring home more things.
Most nonprofits don't have the luxury of a physical space that helps communicate the organizational values and experience. Instead, organizations must rely on their virtual space, their website. There are some important lessons that can be learned from Apple stores:
Create links back to the organization
While the Apple store has the luxury of putting actual staff in front of their 'constituents', there are ways that you can replicate this experience. How easy is it for constituents to access and connect with your organization? Does your site offer opportunities for constituents to engage with your staff to get questions answered, get more information or leave feedback?
Show off your innovations and let people tangibly experience them
Apple stores have their products proudly displayed. They don't clutter their space with meaningless stuff (their walls of accessories are always in the back, along the side of the store). Let people see how their support as advocates, donors, members, etc. actually makes an impact. Keep the important stuff up front. Find ways to let people see how their 'input' can create change.
Simple is better
Austere gets a bad rap as being cold. Yet, on each visit to an Apple store, I see people of all ages ambling, experiencing and buying. They can find the stuff they need, things are clearly labeled, and they feel welcome in a space that is fairly stark. Up front - give people options to easily wander your site and find what they want to find as well as what you want them to find.
Creating your own Apple Store will be an ongoing endeavor - one that can benefit from rapidly improving technology, allowing your constituents to experience your organization in new ways. Think about how videos, interactivity, visualizations, maps - whatever tells your story - can help you communicate the impact of your organization, much the way the Apple Store accomplishes this for Apple.
dotOrg used the folks at Artsmith Media to help us create a site that was simple and uncluttered. We're working on ways for our visitors to see our innovations more tangibly - our own attempt to recreate the feelings evoked at the Apple Store.