Is Apple losing its grip on shoppers?

Ever since Apple launched the iPod in 2001, the company has built a reputation for savvy marketing. What other company can so deftly ignite such a buying frenzy that shoppers will stand in line for hours for the privilege to purchase an over-priced, untested product at a retail outlet that is inconvenient? And yet they have done it with the iPhone – including iPhone 4, which appears to have some significant glitches again – and the iPad.

What is happening here is that, while the technology is customer-centric – designed to feed the passions of the techno-philes – the rest of the organization has forgotten to separate the needs of the consumers from those of their shoppers. They have a loyal following of buyers who are like lab monkeys: 

“See if you like this feature? What do you think of this price point? Too much. Okay, we’ll wait a few months and lower the price – even though the early adopters might get angry. And lets not tell our customers that we’re working on a new version because that might slow sales on our latest generation i-product.”

Apple was built on playing it close to the vest. They didn’t grant licenses for their operating system, keeping a tight grip on the Apple and Mac computers, while PCs bred like rabbits. Apple has developed a vast group of loyalists, many of whom were disappointed by the failures of the latest iPhone and the lack of availability of the iPad, and the company’s response to their complaints. In fact, Apple’s response to many complaints about the iPhone 4 was “Well, we haven’t experienced that problem.” Rather than acknowledging it and communicating their desire to find the solution, they basically called their consumers dim-witted.

There will come a time when Apple will have to recognize that being elite doesn’t mean excluding those who put you in that position. They will have to stop treating their brand fanatics like starving waifs who want a nibble of this forbidden fruit. Apple is a giant among marketers, but not shopper marketers. And with the growing trend toward the shopper-centric mentality, the company must become more in tune with the needs of the shoppers, not just the consumers. Like Apple, Goliath was a giant. And we know what happened there.

Please tell us about your Apple shopping experiences. What are your feelings about the way in which the company addresses the needs of its consumers and shoppers?

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