The Apple Store is a unique place. Under normal circumstances, walk into any of the more than 500 stores around the world, and it isn't just about gadgets and laptops and accessories. I've been in a few dozen, including at least a half-dozen of the company's flagships, and there's just something special about the experience.
Actually, it's all about the experience--from the solid maple tables, to the rows of iPhones and iPads and Apple Watches. It's easy to forget how strange the Apple Store was when it first launched--especially the Genius Bar, which completely changed the way we service our devices.
My favorite part of the Apple Store, however, has always been the classes. I used to sit in the upper-level theater in the old San Francisco flagship store and listen to the company's Creative Pros talk about Aperture and iMovie and getting the most out of your iPhone.
It's weird to think that Apple created a technology store that people enjoy visiting and hanging out in the way they would a Starbucks or a great bookstore. It's very hard to recreate that same experience online.
Yet somehow Apple just did.
With most of Apple's retail locations closed since mid-March, the company on Friday quietly launched an online shopping experience designed to offer the same services you've come to expect in the company's retail stores. The short version is this: It's incredible.
I mean, sure it's just a website, but if there ever was a way to recreate the very best of the physical Apple Store in the digital world, this is it. There's a Genius Bar, you can chat with sales reps, and you can even trade in an old device.
To be fair, you could already do most of those things in one form or another, on Apple's website. Now, however, you can find all of them in one simple place by visiting apple.com/shop.
But none of that is the incredible part.
The incredible part is the "Today at Apple at Home" classes. Apple has created a section where you can watch short versions of the same classes offered in its stores, virtually. But the best part is that the classes were recorded by Apple's Creative Pros, at their own homes.
That's right, you can watch John from the Burlington, Massachusetts, Apple Store teach you how to get better video on your iPhone, or Harriet from the Regent Street Apple Store in London teach you tricks for drawing on your iPad. Both of whom, along with all the other instructors, are at home. Just like the rest of us.
This is seriously the most Apple-like thing Apple has ever done.
Why? Because it's taking a familiar experience that adds value to its customers and using it to create a connection at a time when that's more important than ever.
Allow me to explain what I mean.
People were made for community, and community has always been central to Apple's brand. One of the things that has always made that brand so powerful is the sense that everything the company does is meant to say "we get you." And so, at a time when most of the country is still under "stay at home" orders, Apple is bringing the experience to us in a completely unexpected way.
Look, I'm sure Apple has plenty of recorded sessions it could have dropped on this page, but it didn't. The company actually produced them with its team members in their own homes. That's a powerful lesson about creating connection through a shared experience.
All of the videos are top-notch--this is Apple after all--but there's still a sense of "we get it, we're in this together, and we want to help."
That, by the way, is a lesson for every business. That's exactly what your customers need to know right now. You don't have to be Apple, but your job is to figure out how to create connections and experiences for the people who depend on you in your company and your community. Do that, and you'll look like a Genius too.