I walked into the newly expanded Apple Store at Knox Henderson on the day of the release of the next version of the iPhone.
I hesitated at first thinking it would be packed with crowds but my iPhone was stuck in the middle of an upgrade. I needed help and I needed it fast.
There was a line around the block to get in and the store was jammed. Since I was not there to pick up the new iPhone, I got to walk past the line. I walked in and found the person responsible for scheduling the Genius Bar appointments. He scheduled me for an appointment in the next 15 minutes.
Apple Knows Customer Psychology
While there I played with the new iPhone and iPad. I tested some new apps and decided I should upgrade in the near future.
I stayed long enough to get my iPhone fixed. I quickly sensed the rhythm of the store. Every few seconds three or four people left with their new purchases and three or four more entered the store. This was in addition to those that were getting the new iPhone. Lots of lookers. Lots of buyers.
This Apple store is clearly a showcase for products that were first contemplated through online research, played with in the store and then purchased.
Customers like me came with a specific problem to solve. While there, we touched items that we were dreaming about. I noticed that the Apple t-shirt staff stayed away until a customer made eye contact. They did not intrude on the reverie. Apple clearly knows customer psychology.
I walked around the block to a new Microsoft store. By contrast, a dark-suited staff member stands on guard next to each Surface tablet on display. As soon as you walk in you are greeted by a staffer much like you are when you walk on a car lot. The hungry sales staff pounces! Beware the impending sales hustle! Memo to Microsoft: learn the new rhythm of shopping.
Customers Want To Sample The Product
Shopping today is clearly a visual, hands-on experience.
People want to see the merchandise, see the menu, see the interior spaces, even see faces. Some of that seeing happens online. Does anyone select a restaurant these days without first going to Yelp or Foursquare and reading the menu and reviews? We do people-searches in LinkedIn and Facebook before meetings, dates and sales calls.
Step one of a purchase is word of mouth. Step two is online research. Step three is visiting a visual showcase to sample the product. Step four is sample the merchandise. Only then does a purchase occur.
How does your conference leverage each of these steps of the buying process? How do you allow potential attendees to sample the product? What visual display of past or current offerings can they peruse? What online reviews can they find? Where are others talking about the conference experience in various social networks?
The Great Walled Edifices Of Yesteryear
Later that day, I was reviewing a large conference online. It couldn’t have been farther from the style of the Apple store as possible.
No way to view any of the past or current offerings. Just the online equivalent of vertical acres of walled stone. Nothing visible except product names which were as confusing as possible. It reminded me of visiting one of the large, dark, gloomy church edifices of the past. The barriers were to keep people out not invite them in to participate.
I kept trying to see about this conference’s past and future events. No “merchandise,” as it were, on display, just empty pages with the words “More info to come.” The site was outdated with a message from the CEO composed from a year ago, not recently. It looked like a relic from the past.
I wonder how conferences of the future will remain alive and in-the-flesh in years to come. Apple seems to know a lot more about people and how they tick than conference hosts do.
Sell the sizzle and joy of conference participation, not the threats of non-attendance, as it were. Sell the dream, not the past. Sell getting hands onto the magic, not staying piously distant. Sell the fun of discovery and feeling smart about it, not submission to shoulds and must attends. Sell solutions to relevant problems, not information they will need a year from now!
What are some ways conferences can provide a visual showcase of their offerings that potential attendees can sample? What keeps conference hosts from showcasing more of their conference experience online?