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Brands as Retailers: Taking a piece of the Apple pie


Just over 20 years ago, Steve Jobs started what was then a retail revolution, launching the first physical stores devoted entirely to Apple products.

Prior to opening its own retail stores, you could only buy Apple products online, or from third-party retailers. The problem was retailers weren’t any more interested in selling a Mac than they were in selling any of the other computers on their shelves.

Jobs instinctively knew that Apple was both a tech company and a lifestyle brand, and the thinking behind the retail model was to transform the customer’s relationship with the brand by dramatically improving the presentation of the products.

While some marketing ‘experts’ of the day were predicting its failure, the stores ultimately became Apple’s secret weapon, (some even argue the Apple Store might be Jobs’s most important innovation), inspiring other premium brands such as Dyson and Nespresso to follow suit.

While Dyson products are available worldwide through appliance retailers and its own website, in recent years it has started opening its own branded outlets called Dyson Demo Stores.

Much like an Apple store, they exclusively showcase and sell Dyson products, offering hands-on experiences with product experts. In other words, they successfully control the customer’s interaction with the brand and navigate the journey of buying the product.

The flagship George Street store in Sydney is a stunning example of an immersive and informative brand experience. One standout feature is an area devoted to Dyson’s hair care products. Here, customers are treated to complimentary styling sessions, hair straightening, live demonstrations - even a personalised hair analysis to help you select the Dyson hair dryer you need to tame your tresses.

Proving its popularity, the store has had to implement a booking system for peak periods.


Not just a lot of hot air

Dyson also plays into the psychology of consumer behaviour that seeks to justify such wildly expensive purchases with a rational explanation, devoting much space to educating the customer about the superior technology of the product. By understanding the innovation behind the products, customers develop a deeper appreciation, leading to increased satisfaction and, ultimately, higher sales. And of course, this tactic helps to justify the premium price model and lack of discounting.

With freshly styled hair, what better time to explore Dyson’s famous vacuum cleaners. Presented very much as an art installation, the vacuum cleaners take pride of place in the store, with ample space for demonstrations across various floor surfaces.

Customers are encouraged to take the products off the wall and put them to the test. The staff are more than happy to scatter dirt onto the floor for customers to vacuum up, showcasing the product's effectiveness in real-time and providing an entertaining interaction with the brand.


Double shot of retail immersion

While some coffee snobs turn up their bean-sensitive noses at the idea of a Nespresso, with the charismatic George Clooney as brand ambassador (and co-partner of Nespresso since 2013), the brand itself continues to cultivate an image of a sophisticated brand for coffee connoisseurs, both in its marketing and retail presence.

The creation of retail stores – branded as ‘boutiques’ – offers an intimate and immersive coffee experience that transcends the ordinary coffee shop visit. Nestled in premium shopping destinations – including Melbourne, the self-proclaimed coffee capital of the world - Nespresso boutiques are described as an oasis for coffee enthusiasts seeking exceptional taste, personalised service, and a touch of luxury.

Highly skilled baristas guide customers through the nuances of each coffee, explaining the origin, flavour notes, and optimal brewing methods.

Customers are encouraged to explore and sample different coffee profiles, discover new favourites and tailor their coffee choices to suit their unique preferences. These tasting sessions not only enhance the appreciation for coffee, but also bring legitimacy to their brand.

State-of-the-art coffee machines are prominently displayed, showcasing the latest technological advancements that ensure the perfect extraction and preparation of each coffee blend. The boutiques also feature dedicated recycling stations, emphasising Nespresso's dedication to responsible coffee consumption.

The Wow factor

Uncertain times might imply a shift to a more pragmatic attitude, but instead people are craving emotion-inducing experiences with figures suggesting customers are likely to buy from brands that bring them a sense of joy. That’s retail therapy in action.

Creating a sense of wow and wonder around the actual shopping experience is proving to be an important decider for customers - especially when they’re maxing their credit cards on expensive items!

And while ‘brands-as-retailers’ may have only a handful of stores or showrooms, their very presence serves to elevate the brand with the welcome knock-on effect of increasing sales through other channels.


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