Visitor Center of the Future: An Apple Store


The Visitor Center of the Future: The Apple Store

On a recent trip to the mall…my daughter prefers to take several a week…we walked past the Apple Store and I causally mentioned that we should go in.

Uh, no thanks.

Really? What teenager does not want to go into the Apple Store and play around with all of that hype?

It is always too crowded she responded.

True, it certainly is.

In fact, it is the only store in the mall that is ever crowded. Every other outlet and retail establishment is either closing, having a sale or an Urban Outfitters.

Considering the seemingly endless state of flux that most Visitor Information Centers are in, what could we learn from Apple’s retail genius? And how could that shape the future of the info center / desk at a time when so many of us are becoming self-reliant or, at the very least, social network reliant?

Here are 3 Apple Store concepts that will upgrade our VIC experience:

Interaction

True, Apple is selling a product, but unlike most retailers and VICs, the consumer is encouraged to interact with the product. From the VIC perspective, let’s get rid of the brochures, pick up a nice looking table at Ikea (may we recommend the BJURSTA series?) and spend some budget on a few iPads. Or better yet, has anyone actually talked to Microsoft about the Surface? Let the consumer interact with the internet, Google Maps and their email, all the same tools they used to plan the trip while at home.

Design

Information Centers, whether it is a state welcome center, ski resort or an airport desk, are visual nightmares. Endless racks of brochures that all look the same, giant images of people who don’t look like me rafting down a some river that probably is not nearby, desks covered with hand-written notes and so many signs that is looks like a garage sale. Drop the clutter and focus the visitors attention on the real value within…the people (and their local knowledge).

People

Ah, the reason to actually visit a Visitor Information Center. Too bad they are stuck behind a desk, or worse, spending most of their day restocking shelves. Again, let’s pull out the desk, go all Apple on these folks…give them a nice color-coded shirt and fancy name tag (preferably one that lists their name as well as favorite restaurant or attraction in town)…and set them free into the world of questions, directions and stories. With a little help from technology.

If I was tasked to redesign or develop a new information center for a tourism client, I would look to the Apple Store for inspiration…clean, inviting and always full of energy.

So why can’t our visitor information centers be more like the Apple Store and less like a garage sale of local knowledge?

Update: I presented the Apple Store VIC concept at the 2010 eTourism Summit.  You can view the entire presentation, ‘The Visitor Center of the Future’, on Slideshare.

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