If I were a product planner, I’d be hanging out at Apple stores

I just had an evil thought. In every Apple store there’s several computers setup where you can get on the Internet, play around, basically do everything you want.

What if Apple were logging everything you do and studying that for marketing information? After all, they would be able to predict what Web 2.0 sites were getting popular before anyone else.

But, even if you don’t log what’s going on, just watching over the shoulders of people tells you a lot about what people do on their computers. I just took a quick tour of the store here and saw Friendster, 123 Greetings, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, some sort of Oracle email app, Google maps, and Yahoo messenger being used.

UPDATE: On second tour I saw two different people using Bebo. I never have used that before. Looks like a nice blogging/social networking tool. Lots of people are using Google and Yahoo to search for travel sites. I saw both Travelocity and Expedia up on screens. Three people here are using MySpace. One guy is surfing YouTube.

I bet if I stayed here all day I’d get a pretty good read on what people are actually using.

If I were planning a new Web product I’d send teams of people to Apple stores all over the world to do market research and just hang out in the stores and watch what people do on their computers.

Comments

  1. Would be kind of strange if they were tracking what the user did on the showroom pcs.

    i guess the guys that work their keep track of what people do on them though so they can tone their sales approach to the customer in the store.

  2. Would be kind of strange if they were tracking what the user did on the showroom pcs.

    i guess the guys that work their keep track of what people do on them though so they can tone their sales approach to the customer in the store.

  3. No, I think you would get a good idea of what sites the type of people use that go into Apple stores. I wouldn’t say that’s representative of the general public.

    I think there’s a list of fad sites that come and go that the geek market get into. The trick is to detect the sites that add real value and traction.

  4. No, I think you would get a good idea of what sites the type of people use that go into Apple stores. I wouldn’t say that’s representative of the general public.

    I think there’s a list of fad sites that come and go that the geek market get into. The trick is to detect the sites that add real value and traction.

  5. If you were a content producer you’d be watching the Emmy’s, tho what a generic awards year, I mean awards for CANCELLED shows…ironic. An Emmy as a goodbye…plus all the usual rabid re-Emmying, I mean how many more times does West Wing, Sopranos and 24 get a nod.

    Still lotttsa great things in TVland, Veronica Mars, 24, Earl, The Closer, Weeds, Monk, The Office, Scrubs, Jericho, Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, LOST, The 4400, Rescue Me, Prison Break, Blade…

  6. If you were a content producer you’d be watching the Emmy’s, tho what a generic awards year, I mean awards for CANCELLED shows…ironic. An Emmy as a goodbye…plus all the usual rabid re-Emmying, I mean how many more times does West Wing, Sopranos and 24 get a nod.

    Still lotttsa great things in TVland, Veronica Mars, 24, Earl, The Closer, Weeds, Monk, The Office, Scrubs, Jericho, Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, LOST, The 4400, Rescue Me, Prison Break, Blade…

  7. A side note about bebo: It is the myspace/facebook equivalent in Ireland. Just about every secondary and college student has one because everyone else has one. The competitors don’t even get a look in.
    I find that interesting; while myspace is known worldwide, some regions use other services exclusively because ALL their friends are ALREADY on it.
    Oh, and there are NO apple stores here either. Stores selling macs yes, but not apple stores.
    ~Michael

  8. A side note about bebo: It is the myspace/facebook equivalent in Ireland. Just about every secondary and college student has one because everyone else has one. The competitors don’t even get a look in.
    I find that interesting; while myspace is known worldwide, some regions use other services exclusively because ALL their friends are ALREADY on it.
    Oh, and there are NO apple stores here either. Stores selling macs yes, but not apple stores.
    ~Michael

  9. Hi Robert-

    You would have a biased and skewed sample that doesn’t represent the overall population…. and even if your intent was to see leading edge stuff, you would still be better off watching college kids in the computer labs.

    Instead you should check out data from comScore. They follow around millions of people and these data are like a crystal ball. The online behavior is also used to predict offline behavior. If you aren’t part of google, comscore is your next best bet, in my opinion.

    Be good,
    E. David Zotter

  10. Hi Robert-

    You would have a biased and skewed sample that doesn’t represent the overall population…. and even if your intent was to see leading edge stuff, you would still be better off watching college kids in the computer labs.

    Instead you should check out data from comScore. They follow around millions of people and these data are like a crystal ball. The online behavior is also used to predict offline behavior. If you aren’t part of google, comscore is your next best bet, in my opinion.

    Be good,
    E. David Zotter

  11. The main thing you would discover is that at least 10 percent of Apple Store users sign into Concierge to make an appointment at the Genius Bar. One neat aspect of that I recently learned is that one gets quicker GB access by signing in under the iPod queue, perhaps because iPod issues are solved more quickly. (A lot of users don’t know how to do a reset.) The other choices are Macs, and, in some stores, the ‘Creative’ Bar.

    I do think you are onto something about the courtesy aspect of Apple Stores, Robert. It is where people drop in to do a swift email check if they don’t have a laptop with them or don’t want to open it, or to print a quick copy of something online, or just to borrow a free Wi-Fi connection, which often can be done sitting outside the store.

  12. The main thing you would discover is that at least 10 percent of Apple Store users sign into Concierge to make an appointment at the Genius Bar. One neat aspect of that I recently learned is that one gets quicker GB access by signing in under the iPod queue, perhaps because iPod issues are solved more quickly. (A lot of users don’t know how to do a reset.) The other choices are Macs, and, in some stores, the ‘Creative’ Bar.

    I do think you are onto something about the courtesy aspect of Apple Stores, Robert. It is where people drop in to do a swift email check if they don’t have a laptop with them or don’t want to open it, or to print a quick copy of something online, or just to borrow a free Wi-Fi connection, which often can be done sitting outside the store.

  13. Yea, what Podesta said. The real lesson learned it how much traffic your store can generate by having complementary access to the internet.

    Any trends or patterns you might think you are gleening from the actual usage patterns is likely not indicitive of much of anything. Is what you are seeing at an Apple store the same patterns you would see by looking over the shoulders of users at Starbucks. Or how about San Francisco Giant home baseball games? :-). Or the usage patterns of people at the free internet kiosks at
    DisneyQuest? Or on a cruise ship? In short I think your sample size at an Apple store is not diverse enough to draw any sort of conclusions.

    And like Chris said, now that you are in the content business, why are you wasting your time hanging out at an Apple store, when you should be looking at the trends and patterns of the entertainment industry.

  14. Yea, what Podesta said. The real lesson learned it how much traffic your store can generate by having complementary access to the internet.

    Any trends or patterns you might think you are gleening from the actual usage patterns is likely not indicitive of much of anything. Is what you are seeing at an Apple store the same patterns you would see by looking over the shoulders of users at Starbucks. Or how about San Francisco Giant home baseball games? :-). Or the usage patterns of people at the free internet kiosks at
    DisneyQuest? Or on a cruise ship? In short I think your sample size at an Apple store is not diverse enough to draw any sort of conclusions.

    And like Chris said, now that you are in the content business, why are you wasting your time hanging out at an Apple store, when you should be looking at the trends and patterns of the entertainment industry.

  15. Silicon Valley is not necessarily the barameter of what people are doing on the web across the nation…

  16. Silicon Valley is not necessarily the barameter of what people are doing on the web across the nation…

  17. John: the San Francisco store sees hundreds of tourists per hour. This is not a SF “bubble” store. Which is why it’s so interesting to hang out there. You get to meet people from all over the world who have computers.

    Oh, and several people there told me they had PCs at home (and there was a guy with a Dell in the theater, probably contemplating an Apple purchase or just sucking down the free WiFi).

  18. John: the San Francisco store sees hundreds of tourists per hour. This is not a SF “bubble” store. Which is why it’s so interesting to hang out there. You get to meet people from all over the world who have computers.

    Oh, and several people there told me they had PCs at home (and there was a guy with a Dell in the theater, probably contemplating an Apple purchase or just sucking down the free WiFi).

  19. Why Apple store? You can look over the shoulder of anyone using a laptop :)
    And if there is an open network, snoop around if over the shoulder is not your style.

  20. Why Apple store? You can look over the shoulder of anyone using a laptop :)
    And if there is an open network, snoop around if over the shoulder is not your style.

  21. Because at the Apple store you can meet a LARGE number of people who hang out on the computer for only a few minutes. So there’s lots of churn. Great place for market research.

  22. Because at the Apple store you can meet a LARGE number of people who hang out on the computer for only a few minutes. So there’s lots of churn. Great place for market research.

  23. @13. Great place for market research? As John McEnroe would say: “You CANNOT be serious”. If that were the case, then why aren’t people doing it? And why isn’t Apple trying to make money from it? Perhaps the professional market researchers know something you don’t?

  24. @13. Great place for market research? As John McEnroe would say: “You CANNOT be serious”. If that were the case, then why aren’t people doing it? And why isn’t Apple trying to make money from it? Perhaps the professional market researchers know something you don’t?

  25. LayZ: actually I’ve met more than my fair share of product planners in stores as they were studying the buying and using habits.

    Jean Louis Gassee (former executive at Apple, who went on to start Be) worked the counter at Fry’s Electronics to learn more about what people wanted. That was back in the 1980s.

  26. LayZ: actually I’ve met more than my fair share of product planners in stores as they were studying the buying and using habits.

    Jean Louis Gassee (former executive at Apple, who went on to start Be) worked the counter at Fry’s Electronics to learn more about what people wanted. That was back in the 1980s.

  27. Yeah: about bebo, which is not just limited to ireland, there are tons of people that actually are on there from australia, and the US.

    As for Apple logging everything that everone does, now don’t go giving them evil ideas :D , remember Google “don’t be evil”

  28. Yeah: about bebo, which is not just limited to ireland, there are tons of people that actually are on there from australia, and the US.

    As for Apple logging everything that everone does, now don’t go giving them evil ideas :D , remember Google “don’t be evil”

  29. What a blindingly stupid idea, Robert. It sounds almost Winer-esque it’s folksy rubeness–almost reminds me of the Onion parodies of Larry King’s USA Today column.

    Needless to say, as others have tried to illuminate your daftness, you’d do better to go to an actual internet cafe where people’s primary objective is to use the computer, not take a 3-minute spin on some hardware for the purposes of forming an opinion about it.

    It’s statistically rubbish and contextually garbage as an approach. Which is possibly why you’re neither a product planner and nor a competentn technology pundit.

  30. What a blindingly stupid idea, Robert. It sounds almost Winer-esque it’s folksy rubeness–almost reminds me of the Onion parodies of Larry King’s USA Today column.

    Needless to say, as others have tried to illuminate your daftness, you’d do better to go to an actual internet cafe where people’s primary objective is to use the computer, not take a 3-minute spin on some hardware for the purposes of forming an opinion about it.

    It’s statistically rubbish and contextually garbage as an approach. Which is possibly why you’re neither a product planner and nor a competentn technology pundit.

  31. JEEEEZ

    Stop beating up on Robert. He’s found a useful data point (which product managers need to use several data points to see the big picture)

    Multiple Data Points add up to a line –which tells a story and draws a picture

    A high foot traffic internet kiosk center in the a well known technology metropolis is a good data point.

    Robert is right = good data point, and can be used to help tell the bigger story.

  32. JEEEEZ

    Stop beating up on Robert. He’s found a useful data point (which product managers need to use several data points to see the big picture)

    Multiple Data Points add up to a line –which tells a story and draws a picture

    A high foot traffic internet kiosk center in the a well known technology metropolis is a good data point.

    Robert is right = good data point, and can be used to help tell the bigger story.

  33. This might show that people usually face inconvenience when opening some websites in different browsers. Like when testing an internet connection, people usually open websites that, they believe, take a lot of time while loading.

    Similarly, people might open websites that are not displayed correctly in every browser to check how this thing works on Apple.

    I will do the same. If I go to Apple store, I would open websites that sometimes show problems in firefox e.g websites made in asp.net etc.

  34. This might show that people usually face inconvenience when opening some websites in different browsers. Like when testing an internet connection, people usually open websites that, they believe, take a lot of time while loading.

    Similarly, people might open websites that are not displayed correctly in every browser to check how this thing works on Apple.

    I will do the same. If I go to Apple store, I would open websites that sometimes show problems in firefox e.g websites made in asp.net etc.

  35. If I were a product planner, I’d be hanging out at Apple stores

    “What if Apple were logging everything you do and studying that for marketing information? After all, they would be able to predict what Web 2.0 sites were getting popular before anyone else.

    But, even if you don’t log what’s going on, just watchin…

  36. Robert – I wasn’t too sure which store you were talking about – Palo Alto, San Jose or SF (or elsewhere). I don’t think you mention in your blog entry that you were at the SF store. I was assuming Palo Alto or San Jose since you live on the peninsula from what I recall from a blog posting.

    My point was more that let’s just make sure that a lot of the future is being invented in Silicon Valley, but may not be an indicator of what will be adopted across the nation (i.e. echo chamber)

    The 53,651 Meme — and the Silicon Valley geek echo chamber
    http://www.siliconbeat.com/entries/2006/05/16/the_53651_meme_and_the_silicon_valley_geek_echo_chamber.html

    John

  37. Robert – I wasn’t too sure which store you were talking about – Palo Alto, San Jose or SF (or elsewhere). I don’t think you mention in your blog entry that you were at the SF store. I was assuming Palo Alto or San Jose since you live on the peninsula from what I recall from a blog posting.

    My point was more that let’s just make sure that a lot of the future is being invented in Silicon Valley, but may not be an indicator of what will be adopted across the nation (i.e. echo chamber)

    The 53,651 Meme — and the Silicon Valley geek echo chamber
    http://www.siliconbeat.com/entries/2006/05/16/the_53651_meme_and_the_silicon_valley_geek_echo_chamber.html

    John

  38. John: sorry, it was the San Francisco store which has a HUGE amount of tourists from other places. The other Silicon Valley stores are definitely more geeky.

    Regarding the 53,651 meme? The problem with that whole thing is that it’s all wrong. We’re in a Digg world now. Every link on Digg drives 20,000 to 60,000 visitors in the first 24 hours alone. Since one link will only get clicked on by maybe 1/10th the readers there, you can do the math.

    Anyway, those who “poopoo” the early adopters usually turn out wrong.

  39. John: sorry, it was the San Francisco store which has a HUGE amount of tourists from other places. The other Silicon Valley stores are definitely more geeky.

    Regarding the 53,651 meme? The problem with that whole thing is that it’s all wrong. We’re in a Digg world now. Every link on Digg drives 20,000 to 60,000 visitors in the first 24 hours alone. Since one link will only get clicked on by maybe 1/10th the readers there, you can do the math.

    Anyway, those who “poopoo” the early adopters usually turn out wrong.

  40. Ditto for some of the top schools like berk, stanford, MIT, Caltech, maybe haaavard too.
    Even more important if your product appeals to the college crowd.

  41. Ditto for some of the top schools like berk, stanford, MIT, Caltech, maybe haaavard too.
    Even more important if your product appeals to the college crowd.

  42. [...] Not just planners: what you can learn at Apple Stores Scoble wrote yesterday that “if I were a product planner, I’d be hanging out at Apple stores.” “If I were planning a new Web product I’d send teams of people to Apple stores all over the world to do market research and just hang out in the stores and watch what people do on their computers.” What to find out what problems are affecting customers? Which sites they’re visiting, the software they’re interested in? You’ll hear this and much more at the Apple Store. What’s so amazing or different about the experience at an Apple store? Lots of things, and it’s not just the cool design and layout: namely, it’s the smart employees and what is encouraged at the store: a great customer experience. I found great in-house, on-site support and service at The Genius Bar… and they’ll answer questions about new purchases and future ones. I asked about a piece of software that they didn’t have in stock, and they offered to help me track it down, either at another store or on the Web. Try getting that level of service at one of the many big box stores: if you know what you’re looking for, no problem… but you may be out of luck if you’re looking for someone who can explain the differences bewteen USB, USB2 and 1394 (even at a high level). (A recent exception: great customer service at the local CompUSA when it came to figuring out the differences between a couple of printers and peripherals.) And there are reasons to visit: a look at a recent events calendar at the Studio in the SoHo store called out a number of events that I would attend, everything from digital movie making to music to photography. Last time I visited the local Apple Store, it reminded me of visits to the local ComputerWare in Palo Alto, where you would run into any number of people from and around the Mac community (heck, a number of them lived just next door in the mid-late 80s). When I worked in local software and hardware companies, spending an afternoon at ComputerWare was a user experience smorgasbord: you’d see a range of people come in from novices to Apple engineers. You’d have lunch with them at one of the restaurants in the area (Cho’s is a great dim sum place that I think is still just down the street from the old store) Everyone answered questions, not just staff. As written in one farewell… “For computer users who “think different” the ComputerWare stores were a friendly, knowledgeable alternative to mega stores that carry everything but are staffed with busy people who know nothing about what they carry.” ComputerWare set the bar for retailers, and now the Apple Stores follow the recipe: employees know their stuff, can get your new machine up and running, load software and help you figure out most any problem you might run into. And, just like ComputerWare, the answers don’t just come from Apple Store staff, answers come from other customers. It was a community. Interesting tie in for the Windows Vista launch? Perhaps hold launch parties with Apple at their stores, and capture the excitement that we saw with Windows 95, Xbox 360. Imagine smartly dressed Apple Store employees opening the stores at midnite, offering freshly delivered copies of Vista for the latest  MacBook Pro along with a copy of Boot Camp, geeking out with reps from Microsoft on how to run Windows Vista on a Mac. [...]

  43. @15. But that’s just one data point.Which is not what you implied. You implied that product planners should plant themselves at a very busy Apple store because they would get an accurate snap shot of the public’s use of the web. I gotta believe, if the guy had any brains, Gasse did more than hang out a Fry’s. If that’s all he did he surely would have missed a HUGE section of the population. For example, I know many a “normal person” that would never set foot in a Fry’s, thinking it the Wal-Mart of tech Big Box hell. Moral of the story, don’t be myopic.

  44. @15. But that’s just one data point.Which is not what you implied. You implied that product planners should plant themselves at a very busy Apple store because they would get an accurate snap shot of the public’s use of the web. I gotta believe, if the guy had any brains, Gasse did more than hang out a Fry’s. If that’s all he did he surely would have missed a HUGE section of the population. For example, I know many a “normal person” that would never set foot in a Fry’s, thinking it the Wal-Mart of tech Big Box hell. Moral of the story, don’t be myopic.

  45. [...] Not just planners: what you can learn at Apple Stores Scoble wrote yesterday that “if I were a product planner, I’d be hanging out at Apple stores.” “If I were planning a new Web product I’d send teams of people to Apple stores all over the world to do market research and just hang out in the stores and watch what people do on their computers.” More than just planners: I recommend product planners, program managers (or product managers in SV), engineers, testers, support agents, execs and sales and marketing types should visit an Apple Store. Want to find out what problems are affecting customers? Hear about their interests in peripherals and add-ons? See which sites they’re visiting, the software they’re interested? You’ll find this and much more at an Apple Store. What’s so amazing or different about the experience at an Apple store? Lots of things, and it’s not just the cool design and layout: namely, it’s the smart employees and what is encouraged at the store: a great customer experience. I found great in-house, on-site support and service at The Genius Bar… and they’ll answer questions about new purchases and future ones. I asked about a piece of software that they didn’t have in stock, and they offered to help me track it down, either at another store or on the Web. Try getting that level of service at one of the many big box stores: if you know what you’re looking for, no problem… but you may be out of luck if you’re looking for someone who can explain the differences between USB, USB2 and 1394 (even at a high level). (A recent exception: great customer service at the local CompUSA when it came to figuring out the differences between a couple of printers and peripherals.) And there are reasons to visit: a look at a recent events calendar at the Studio in the SoHo store called out a number of events that I would attend, everything from digital movie making to music to photography. Last time I visited the local Apple Store, it reminded me of visits to the local ComputerWare in Palo Alto, where you would run into any number of people from and around the Mac community (heck, a number of them lived just next door in the mid-late 80s). When I worked in local software and hardware companies, spending an afternoon at ComputerWare was a user experience smorgasbord: you’d see a range of people come in from novices to Apple engineers. You’d have lunch with them at one of the restaurants in the area (Cho’s is a great/cheap dim sum place that I think is still just down the street from the old store) and talk about everything about the economy, the latest hardware and software, who was hiring and, oh yeah, answer a few questions about your printer driver. Everyone answered questions, not just staff: customers would get involved as they overheard a conversation about somthing that attracted their interest, or if they’d run into (and often solved) a problem under discussion. As written in one farewell… “For computer users who “think different” the ComputerWare stores were a friendly, knowledgeable alternative to mega stores that carry everything but are staffed with busy people who know nothing about what they carry.” ComputerWare set the bar for retailers, and now the Apple Stores follow the recipe: employees know their stuff, can get your new machine up and running, load software and help you figure out most any problem you might run into with your Mac, no matter what the vintage. And — just like ComputerWare – the answers at the Apple Store don’t just come from the staff: answers come from other customers. It’s a community. An interesting tie in for the Windows Vista launch? Perhaps the MS field sales teams could hold launch parties with Apple at their stores, and capture the excitement that we saw with Windows 95, Xbox 360. Imagine: smartly dressed Apple Store employees opening the stores at midnite, offering freshly delivered copies of Vista for the MacBook Pro, along with a copy of Boot camp, geeking out with reps from Microsoft on how to run Windows Vista on a Mac. Heresy? Tags: Apple, Microsoft, Vista, Windows. [...]