Here's Why You Should Take a Bite out of Apple's Playbook Right Now
Apple, a company that has been able to master the art of innovation in their branding, products and consumer engagement, continues to provide customers with best-in-class offerings with their unmatched commitment to product technology, in-store engagement, and commitment to delighting their customers.
But, how does all this apply to your business?
Well, we can explain in this mini case study.
People as assets
An important asset to Apple’s success has been its staff. Apple employee product knowledge, in addition to the support programs they offer to customers such as the Genius Bar, are real values to customers. These employees, in turn, translate to one of the most powerful marketing strategies of the 21st century.
Apple’s marketing and in-store environments have created consumer-focused shopping experiences that enhance the Apple brand. Apple also deploys a distribution and manufacturing structure responsive to a changing market that has outpaced the competition for over a decade.
Among all of successful programs and strategies set forth in Apple’s marketing strategy, the company will have to analyze current initiatives and outline other opportunities in order to continue to grow while remaining a leader in the tech world Apple’s products, which range from the Mac computer, iPhone and iPad, to the deployment of the ever-evolving iTunes and App Store service offerings that accompany their products, have maximized sales across the market.
Apple not only prides itself on changing technology that upholds the company’s mission and vision of providing the highest quality innovative design with seamless integration and ease-of-use, but also the style, longevity and superior software interface.
Apple products are traditionally priced higher than competitor offerings such as Apple desktops, laptops and tablets, but offer their customers the seamless integration of exclusive apps and easy to use interface software across platforms. What is the difference though? Well, service, and people.
aligning vision with reality
The Marketing program deployed has aligned its goals with its pricing, promotion and distribution program, realizing the importance of branding among its cult-like consumer audience. To add to the heavily branded marketing initiatives was the realization of the unique shopping experience for customers with in-store tech support and the unique use of space in their retail stores. In order to maintain a competitive advantage among competitors and other retails looking to adopt Apple’s competitive edge in the market, Apple encourages a culture of secrecy as part of their "Corporate Culture". The lack of transparency challenges traditional conceptions of what makes a company successful.
Even though this is the case, employees say they “remain passionate about their work and are a part of a unique experience”. The success of the flat structure deployed by the company has much to do with Jobs’ encouraged debate on ideas and the creation of a vision that these highly skilled and enthusiastic crusaders believed in. Steve Jobs, during his tenure at the heart of the company, was able to give his employees a clear vision in their mission statement.
Apple’s mission was once in alignment with their vision, and success resonated within the multiple divisions on the firm, including their marketing, in-store environment, commitment to meaningful customer engagement and best-in-class product offerings. Since Jobs, Apple now has to re-evaluate not only their profitability and success since, but in doing so, also create a new vision for a changing and competitive share in the multiple markets of the smart phone, computer and cloud technology industries.
The internal strengths of Apple as a company are its employee education and training program, proud corporate culture, and distribution of product. Aside from the sleek products and software application offerings (not to mention Genius Bar support staff), Apple has also dealt with the shortcomings of a poor supply chain management plan that evokes profit over employee welfare and exposes flaws in production. Additionally, the multiple intellectual property lawsuits on proprietary patent violations cast competitors in a bad light while also legitimizing the brand and its technology with a track-record of winning cases.
Additional opportunities to align vision with reality for Apple can be found in their commitment to sustainability (particularly E-waste) and the idea that because Apple makes its products built to last, the constant updates and software innovations cannot keep up with obsolescence of “old” models. Other opportunities for the company can be found in customer privacy. Working with the government to implement a plan for mobile privacy, rather than adhering to it, might legitimize Apple’s customer privacy notions. Additionally, Apple might have to re-evaluate whether the closed system is the best for competition.
Apple has also successfully delved deep into cloud technology, smartphone and computer offerings for consumers through their in-store experience and integration of multi-device synchronicity. Nevertheless, uncertainty of changing markets and technology offerings among competitors are forcing Apple to act fast for these devices and applications to withstand the price-conscious decisions of twenty-first century consumers amongst tech giants Amazon, Google and Microsoft’s more affordable offerings.
Both the threats on Apple as a company as well as the opportunities in the future help draw conclusions on the outlook of a potential strategic focus and competitive advantage in the marketplace. Apple prides itself on making quality products for creative consumers that buy products based on their longevity and ease of use. The future of Apple since the death of Steve Jobs in 2011 has been faced with concerns of politicians suggesting that Apple bring production jobs back to the United States, and potential stakeholder pressure as well. Also, while consumers continue the trend that Apple has created of unveiling the latest and greatest product offerings that force older products into becoming outdated. Because Apple competes in so many different markets as mentioned earlier, the company needs to instill in its consumers that the integration and multi-device synchronicity of the products through iCloud, iTunes, Apps etc. is a real value.
doing things a touch better
Apple has truly been at the forefront of its completion, offering fresh perspectives on once imagined ideas with things as simple as product updates, software and application updates and upgrades, and employee and support staff that not only troubleshoots their products, but also believes in them as being the epitome technologically sound.
Apple simply does better by practicing its core mission and values while setting aside meaningless score cards and metrics. While some firms see themselves in business to make money and meet their bottom line, Apple’s goal is to delight. Apple has proven that making money is the result of the organizations actions.
From a strategic evaluation of the multi-stakeholder engagement, consumer and customer outreach through marketing and in-store experiences, and the product offerings themselves, there are some potential opportunities along the horizon. The retail experience continues to be a success, but more can be done to attract not only repeat customers, but also new customers through new programs that are rooted in sustainability and resiliency. The foreseeable future for Apple should be focused on emphasizing the fact that each product is not only built to withstand the test of time, but when the product is “retired” it can be recycled.
In relation to the environment and commitment to sustainability, Apple should take up initiatives for buyback programs and recycling that could become a part of their retail stores. The potential advantage of this is consumers feeling as though they contributed to reducing the carbon footprint while also getting consumers back in the store for the latest product offerings. The on-line experience must also highlight these efforts so there is consistency in marketing the initiative so that it encompasses their broad reach.
Preferred manufacturing and distribution will continue to be a topic of conversation as we move towards fair treatment of workers who manufacture the products, and the transparency of these initiatives can serve Apple well when approaching new customers that feel that Apple’s negligence of guidelines and labor laws are outrageous. Within 5-10 years, Apple could begin mitigating pressure from stakeholders and politicians by adopting employment utilization plans for manufacturing that are widely acceptable in the United States.
With all of these proposed opportunities Apple could take advantage of in ensuring it is the expert authority on its markets, there are some concerns that could potentially arise with these proposed actions. Manufacturing in the United States could potentially drive the price of products up, forcing Apple to re-evaluate its allocation of resources. Apple must make the decision of potentially automating some of their back-of-house tasks that are not already automated. Another problem in deploying such automated programs is that Apple’s expert employees are so important to the company that this aspect of the company cannot suffer while Apple dials back manufacturing overseas so as to not risk customer loyalty. In order for the sustainability initiative to be effective, Apple’s efforts in-store and online must be transparent and easily tracked through some sort of “life-cycle” report. Concerns of Apple being able to keep up with competitors will also be a major concern because Apple competes in multiple markets.
reinvent yourself, again, and again
Despite the foreseeable fate of Apple being scrutinized in the analysis, the company has recently introduced new market offerings to consumers with many new features and offerings that most Apple followers will pre-order as soon as humanly possible.
Apple is trying out something different though with this product launch, it will now offer its own financing plan and offer customers its beloved AppleCare as well. This new program directs customers directly to Apple stores while offering the AppleCare service, which is typically only sold with a two-year coverage for $129 up front from most cell phone retailers.
Apple often changes its products’ features, quality, and aesthetics on a regular basis to create the perception that you have to have the latest and greatest model, making older models obsolete:
One of the most important strides in continued success for Apple can be focused on the potential for meaningful partnerships among organizations. In late 2014, Apple partnered with tech giant IBM in efforts to deploy an IT structure that is Mac based, utilizing the “software-as-a-service solution”. This might seem counter-intuitive for IBM, but both Apple and IBM have made it clear that it is a winning move for both companies.
After analysis of Apple’s strategy within the multiple disciplines, it is clear that Apple continues to reinvent what it means to offer the latest and greatest products while simultaneously allocating the appropriate resources to the teams that will market new sustainability, resiliency and domestic manufacturing strategies in order to prosper. Most of Apple’s consumers have been brand-loyal, and the marketing of such new initiatives will serve as most important if Apple wants to continue its reign in the tech market.