Apple’s over-arching company strategy follows an innovative, mysterious and customer-centered strategy. One of the main reasons for Apple’s success has to do with their large commitment to satisfying customers while continuously innovating their products and design without creating a sense of “too much” or confusing their consumers through new operating systems. These goals, which create a unique and successful company, are achieved through the ways in which they use the five key strategic elements: arena, differentiators, vehicles, staging and pacing, and economic logic.
The arenas in which Apple play have developed strategically alongside their products; inevitably, like most businesses, as Apple grew and their products developed, their target markets grew. After dominating the education and artistic markets, Apple found that they had very little in the business market and, thus, began to move into that sector (Thomke & Feinberg, 2012). Apple targets these consumers through direct sales but has also become very successful in selling their products through retail stores. These stores, which Apple decided to enter during the time in which many companies were beginning to move to direct sales, were just as innovative as their products. Through prime real estate and fantastically designed buildings, these stores were more than just stores, but rather an entire experience for people who walked in and the non-Apple customers who were lured in by the atmosphere (2012).
The way in which Apple was able to enter these arenas so successfully was due to their differentiators. The beauty in Apple’s products is their simplicity, yet the vast power each product holds. Through eliminating unnecessary components of their products, Apple is able to zone in on the important, essential features and make them as powerful and capable as possible. Furthermore, the depth in which the Apple team scrutinizes and contemplates each detail of each product allows them to find the root of every potential issue that may arise as well as all the possibilities to better the products. This care and scrutiny that Apple applies is also a differentiator for them because many other companies, when faced with a consumer desire or need, will simply add another feature rather than deeply exploring the already existing features and figuring out how to change them or remove them to fix the problem at hand and make a better product.
The ways in which Apple thinks of ideas, creates their products and gets them into the hands of consumers is very creative, innovative and free. Apple focuses more on innovation and less on a regimented process in creating products. After having tried a more traditional process approach, Apple found that maintaining the same operating system, OS X, in order to avoid confusing consumers and overloading them with new things to learn with each product they bought was the best way to grow their product family; innovating from one core product was the most efficient and successful way of business (Isaacson, 2012).
The Apple team believes in spur of the moment meetings when ideas surface and creating and enhancing the one best features or products by rejecting a thousand others. Furthermore, Apple is very secretive about their up and coming products, creating excitement for customers and a magical mysteriousness about the company. In order to maintain this sense of secrecy, Apple tracks all of its packages with webcams installed at shipping docks to determine what is revealed and it does not give out much information about products before they are released.
Similar to their design process, Apple’s pacing is very spur of the moment, depending on when new ways to improve the products or ideas for new versions of products are thought of and put into action. During Steve Job’s reign, before Tim Cook took over, the pace of production and innovation was fast due to the excitement and constant focus of the team (Wakabayashi, 2014). Through constantly working to better Apple products and come up with the next best thing, new additions were being added to the product families very quickly. Once these ideas are thoroughly formulated and put into the hands of the engineers, due to Apple’s strategy of building upon already existing products, the development process is much quicker.
Apple is very economically logical in terms of production as well as maintenance. Reuse, while saving time, also saves money through creating more reliable products and, therefore, less potential of breakdown and repair costs. However, when creating brand new products, such as the iWatch, Apple must start from scratch, requiring more initial investments to create a platform that can be built upon in the future. Apple’s move to create the iWatch is a reactive move, reacting to the development of smartwatches by other companies, and utilizing the second-but-better approach through observing competitors products and creating something better. Considering that Samsung has just come out with its third version of a smart watch and LG and Motorola have already stepped into the smartwatch game, Apple needs to enter in order to stay competitive in all areas of technological development (Gross, 2014).
Since the idea of Apple creating a smartwatch has been floating on the surface for a while now, it will most likely come out with a bang and trump the already existing smart watches. Through this approach Apple was able to sit back and develop their product while observing the pros and cons of those emerging before them. With the innovative and thoughtful process, which Apple utilizes in all of its product development, one can only imagine the magic in store for customers patiently awaiting the iWatch and the threat it poses for its competitors.
Gross, D. (2014). Before the iWatch there was… CNN. Tech.
Isaacson, W. (2012). The real leadership lessons of Steve Jobs. Harvard business review, 90(4), 92-102. Thomke, S., & Feinberg, B. (2009). Design thinking and innovation at apple. Harvard Busyness School, 1-12. Wakabayashi, D. (2014). Tim Cook’s Vision for ‘His’ Apple Begins to Emerge. The Wall Street Journal.
Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways – innovation at Apple stems mainly from spur of the moment ideas and unplanned meetings. Apple is also very selective about the choices they make, saying “no” to many things in order to find the perfect thing to say yes to. “it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” Keeping products a complete secret until they appear in stores
Computer, music, mobile telephone and retail industries.
Deep commitment to understanding how people used computing devices and a desire to develop “insanely great products.” Match needs, abilities and dreams of millions of customers.
“The company often defies conventional business logic and was not afraid to experiment outside its core markets.” Built retail stores when competitors were moving to direct sales and distribution models Apple realized that they needed to enter the business market. It was dominated by Windows operating system and Intel processors (Wintel) Apple had 50% of the education market and dominated “artistic” enterprises – Eg. Graphics, advertising, movies, animation and music. The retail stores themselves are Apple products – prime real estate, freestanding locations and are ”architectural statements” Attracted customers into the stores – even customers who never used apple products were attracted into the stores
Bold moves, experimental, thinking outside the box, design thinking
Emotional connection between costumers and the apple products – said to come from “the heart and soul of the design team.” (p 2)
Focus on the individual and the benefits to the customers – had to make it useful and simple enough Decided upon a design that worked for people before knowing how to build it – secured customer satisfaction because it was built upon the customer. The designers and engineers both had to think outside of the box Focus on every little detail – even the smallest ones. Although customers probably aren’t as consciously nit-picky as the designers and engineers, etc., Jobs believes that the whole product would not be as successful and useful as it is Differentiators:
Apple products are often very popular and well received due to what they don’t contain rather than what they do contain – “when the smallest detail is scrutinized, it’s possible to discover what can be lived without. Simplicity stems from finding the deeper problem and building upon it to create a better product rather than just adding more features, etc. (clear up what this really means) Beyond superficial trends so that design happens from the inside out – gets to the essence of customer experience, however, Apple maintains sleek, sexy products that attract costumers on an aesthetic level as well.
Apple are known for their laser like focus on the customer experience, and when you couple all of the details and touches they provide and mix it with the respect and trust of the customer, you have a winning combination. Listen to your customer’s needs and issues, overcome them, and present them a solution. It’s a basic lesson, and one that many companies will follow, but sweating the small details, as Apple does, and the rewards will become tangible.
Three evaluations required at the inception of a product idea: a marketing requirement document and a user-experience document Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways – innovation at Apple stems mainly from spur of the moment ideas and unplanned meetings. Apple is also very selective about the choices they make, saying “no” to many things in order to find the perfect thing to say yes to. “it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” Keeping products a complete secret until they appear in stores
Reuse within product families – build on and make use of existing design elements in the platform. Greater reliability and lower costs
Initial product becomes the platform for the derivatives or following products This also means less repair, maintenance and service due to a reliable design, which in turn saves money Less of training hurdle for consumers due to knowledge of how previous items they purchased at Apple work – similar interfaces and design elements
Faster production due to reuse?
Use customer testing – participatory design “the more user testing a piece of software has the smoother it can become.”