Angela Ahrendts: Fashioning Experience Design per Apple

NOTA AICEX: proveniente da una prominente azienda del settore della moda, Angela Ahrendts è stata scelta da Apple per ridisegnare e massimizzare la customer experience di Apple. Dov’e’ Apple oggi? Sarà possibile traslare metodologie tipiche della moda alla tecnologia?

To rise to prominence in the fashion industry, such as Angela Ahrendts has done, means you have to be very good at experience design: that is, leveraging and maximizing the experience of the consumer as he or she interacts with a product. Here’s how it works in the fashion world:

  • Immersive experience design is the ability to turn customers into ardent and loyal fans. You won’t find a more immersive experience than a fashion runway: the desire to be fashionable (whatever that means) is ingrained into our collective psyche.
  • Magnetic experience design is the ability to draw customers in through the power of a positive experience. Again, the fashion industry exemplifies that as the undisputed style leader.

Angela Ahrendts created a masterpiece of experience design at the fashion house Burberry. It seems that the next challenge in front of her, Apple AAPL +0.66%, will push her experience design skills to the max.

Angela Ahrendts created a masterpiece of experience design for Burberry, can she recreate that success for Apple users?

Where is Apple Today?

On the surface, Apple doesn’t seem like that big of a challenge. Apple is a rich and successful company that maintains a high percentage of the public mind share, and it already has a culture of design and excellence. The trouble, of course, comes from relying on the power of past successes.  Apple is still trying to find its identity after the Jobs’ era. Tim Cook is a great manager and probably the best choice after Jobs’ passing, but let’s face it: Apple has continued to be efficient, but is currently not the splashy cutting-edge company many want it to be. The other big name at Apple, Jony Ive, is a no-show at product introductions, creating a perfect opportunity for Ahrendts to step in to fill a void at a company that is currently lacking in the very skills she honed while working at Burberry.

Ahrendts’ skill with immersive design will focus on two major aspects of Apple. She was hired for the retail stores but, over time, she will also handle the product demos.

The Apple stores have proven that a brick-and-mortar presence is still a valuable way to expand your company and make money. Yet since the departure of Ron Johnson, the former head of retail at Apple, the stores have been in decline. The experience of customers in the stores has become a little dated and needs a refresh. The challenge for Ahrendts is to translate the tactile and vibrant experience of walking into a high-end fashion house to try on clothes, into a comparable experience for glass and metal objects. This has been done well in the past by Apple, but I expect Ahrendts to bring a level of refinement that exceeds even Jobs’ keen eye. Consider: at Burberry, customers can pick up a garment that is fitted with an RFID (radio identification) tag and trigger an interactive video that shows how the product was made and what other items complement it. I can definitely see Ahrendts using this same technique in the Apple store to increase customer immersion!

I’m really looking forward to Ahrendts getting involved with the product demos. The format used by Apple worked for one person: Jobs. Today, the rotating cast of speakers that are stand-ins for Jobs lack the power that he brought to the stage. Ahrendts knows how to stage an immersive experience that involves a captive audience and a progressive showing of product. Of course, there isn’t a one-to-one correlation between a runway show and a tech demo, yet the Apple demos need a refresh more than the retail stores. In this sphere, I would expect Ahrendts to prove she can be the heiress apparent to the CEO diadem.

Ahrendts and Magnetic Design at Apple

So when you can’t pull people to your product by specs alone, how do you get them to pay attention? This is magnetic experience design, and the fashion houses have been very good at this for a very long time. The spec race is almost nonexistent in the fashion industry. High-end fashion houses have to create a strong pull for their products based on design only, because they sell very little product compared to a mass market commercial clothes manufacture.

Apple saw this before most other tech giants, but other companies are catching up. So what do you do to stay ahead of the pack? You bring in talent that has mastered magnetic experiences while working against, and with, other masters. Ahrendts’ primary role is to translate the magnetic experience of a major fashion house into the magnetic experience for a tech giant. Just as an example of magnetic experience,Burberry has more than a million Twitter fans. Apple? While it’s a popular brand, it performs very poorly on the social media side of things. I suspect that with Ahrendts, this will soon change!

Ahrendts: the Future Leader of Apple?

Tim Cook has been criticized for many things, but he is doing a great job of setting up the company for the future. One thing we can be sure of is that Apple will not be in the dire straits the company was in before the second coming of Jobs. The product design talent is in-house, cash is ready and waiting to be put to work, and a good manager is bringing in the correct talent for the future. Whether or not Ahrendts is the future leader who will give us the splashy, cutting-edge company we expect remains to be seen. But experience design is a major driver for innovation. Jobs understood this, and Apple is setting up to tap into this power source to propel itself to the top of the heap once again.



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