A Big Slice Of Apple PIE

15 Nov 2011

Steve Jobs is gone and the world’s press and pundits are rightfully paying their respects, lauding on him with comparisons to Edison and Einstein.  He was a re-inventor par excellence and kudos to him for reviving a moribund company in 1997 and turning it into the amazing giant it is today.  Jobs accomplishments are arguably the most successful second act in business ever, and most every one is now talking about Apple as innovator and product leader that got them to where they are today.

We actually believe there is another significant reason for Apple’s outsized success, one that is not talked about enough and is most often overlooked: the post purchase experience inherent in all Apple products.

Think about it.  If Apple shipped an insanely great product that was innovative, the technical specs were attractive, etc. but the post-purchase experience didn’t live up to your expectations, wouldn’t you be extremely disappointed?  Remember Fiat?  Great car but always in the shop (who could forget the acronym Fiat drivers lamented: Fix It Again Tony?)  Imagine if Apple didn’t deliver post purchase?

Consider for a moment the consumption lifecycle of any product or service.   Let’s define the starting point as you purchasing /acquiring said product and ending point is of you disposing of it.  We call this consumption lifecycle of any product or service the Product Interaction Experience (or PIE). It consists of six consecutive steps.

Now lets take a look at Apple in the context of PIE:

Step 1 – Purchase and Acquisition: you can purchase online or via an Apple store.  Apple makes it extraordinarily easy to purchase via either channel, In fact, purchase is now multi-channel – you can now purchase online and pick up at a store.  The purchase process is handled by store associates who are not on a sales commission and have excellent product knowledge.  If they don’t know an answer, they don’t fake it.   Apple products are simply extremely easy to purchase.  BTW, I’ve never heard of anyone mention Fry’s Electronics and “excellent product knowledge” in the same sentence!

Step 2 – Discovery & Setup: unpacking an Apple product is elegant and minimalist compared to so many other competing products.  Setting up an Apple product is not only painless, it’s exciting.  Steve Jobs used to pay critical attention to how much it took to close a product box; how the box opened itself is made overtly simplistic, yet design centric.

Step 3 – Consumption/Usage: Apple products are renowned for being easy to use. Apple has managed to somehow let me build an emotional connection between “my” MacBook or my iPhone and me. Most of the interaction with any Apple’s product is pleasurable and often “magic”.

Step 4 – Maintain/Support: If you have a technical problem with an Apple product it’s usually resolved with a quick online search.  If you do require a real person to interact with, it’s as easy as making a reservation with a Genius at one of their retail stores.  I’ve always been amazed with this service.  It’s quick, it always exceeds expectations and it’s free. Apple will not hesitate to replace a defective product with a brand new one if they can’t fix it.

Step 5 – Expand/Upgrade: Apple operating systems has a built in, easy to use software update service.  They are efficient, unambiguous and simply work.  Ever try to permanently move data/files from one Mac to another?  Apple’s Migration Assistant is an amazing application that I used once to painlessly move all data/apps from one Mac to another.  Painless.  Took less than 30 minutes when I had to do it recently and was very easy to understand.

Step 6 – Disposal: Apple has a great recycling program.  Did you know you can actually get an Apple gift card for disposing of your obsolete product with Apple? Even if it is not an Apple product. Yes, Apple will even take your old Dell laptop and give you an Apple credit for it.

We believe a critical component to Apple’s success can be explained with Product Interaction Experience (PIE). If Apple simply built insanely great products, but those products were then difficult to consume throughout their lifetime, we believe it would result in less customer satisfaction and thus slower growth and market adoption.    Apple has done the opposite.  Every step of PIE for Apple is frictionless, quite magical and very easy to interact with.   We believe it’s a key reason for Apple’s market place success and corresponding dramatic growth.

A few things to think through…  So what does PIE look like at your company?   Who ‘owns’ it?  What aspects of your PIE are bottlenecks and thus preventing further growth?  Where is your competitors PIE eating your lunch and what are you doing about it?  Can you objectively identify and measure your PIE vis-à-vis all your competitors?

You could say Steve Jobs got it right by offering up a great piece of Apple PIE!

Up and Right!

1 Comment for this entry

  • Jay Wagman says:

    Excellent points. One other thing is always missed is his organization without silos. Every function from product design, supply chain, engineering, customer contact and relations, etc. are tied together for each product category and cross products. This allows for quicker product launches and those easy to use products and buying experience you mention. In the early 90’s Re engineering came to favor but most firms did not truly create seamless organization sand reinvent themselves to be nimble. Steve understood that and as a result each product’s profitably far exceeds their competitors.

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