Apple senior vice president of retail Angela Ahrendts gave a new interview today at Cannes Lions, an annual international festival in France that celebrates individuals and companies in creative spaces. During her talk, Ahrendts discussed a variety of topics related to Apple and its pivot away from retail “stores” over the last few years to become community gathering places (via NBC News).
Thank you to the creative community who joined us at #CannesLions today to hear about #TodayatApple and how our retail experience inspires learning, unlocks creativity and encourages human connection. pic.twitter.com/64i4NL9SeY
— Angela Ahrendts (@AngelaAhrendts) June 20, 2018
Ahrendts’ discussion also included Apple vice president of marketing communications Tor Myhren, and the SVP of retail explained that Apple’s approach is to be “in the human business” and to “humanize technology.”
I love the creative arts… that’s kind of when we came up with the tagline: maybe we’re in the human business. Maybe the largest tech company has these 65,000 kids and maybe it’s our job to humanize technology.
Looking to the future of retail in general, Ahrendts mentioned numbers from an analytic firm that suggest while the majority of shopping will move online, many customers will still venture out to physical locations to finalize a purchase. This means that shoppers will use apps and online websites to research products and items, and perhaps reserve them for in-store pickup, much like Apple already does today.
You have your instincts and you use a lot of smart outside guys, and the smart outside guys they don’t say retail is dying. They say digital is gonna grow at three times the rate of physical, but in the next five years… 75 percent of people will shop online, shop to learn [about what they want to buy], but 75 percent of business will still be done in physical stores.
Because of this, Ahrendts explained that “retail isn’t going away” or “dying,” but it will have to “evolve” as time passes. Apple has already made moves to change up Apple retail locations with next-generation layouts that emphasize communal gathering and encourage interactivity during Today at Apple sessions. This plays into another of Ahrendts’ talking points in the interview, when she said, “I think [retail] has to serve a bigger purpose than just selling.”
Some really interesting insight on the future of retail from Apple’s @AngelaAhrendts!
— Cannes Lions (@Cannes_Lions) June 20, 2018
Ahrendts also discussed an internal social network that Apple calls “Loop,” which was built for the company to measure how well it is doing in its retail mission to keep customers happy, accomplished through surveying both customers and retail employees. Loop is examined by Ph.D. students and results in data that helps Apple executives “improve systems” surrounding its retail business.
Ahrendts went on to discuss Apple store employees:
“They are not hired to sell,” she said. “There is no commission, no quotas. What we’ve tried to do is keep uniting them around the big vision and the impact we want to make.”
Ahrendts routinely discusses Apple’s next-generation retail plans in interviews, and last year even appeared onstage at the iPhone X event to briefly talk about retail and Today at Apple sessions. Shortly following that September event, Ahrendts climbed to the 13th spot on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list for 2017, jumping from 14th in 2016 and 16th in 2015.
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