One of the most compelling parts of the Apple Genius Bar experience is that the bar itself is sleek and minimal, but that geniuses have ready access to anything you might need throughout your conversation with them. Need help with iTunes? The Genius can pull it up on the same model computer you use, and walk you through it. Having a problem with your iPhone? You can take a look at the Genius' own phone, or yours. There's little else lying around at the bar but a MacBook and various AC adapters. As a result, it feels like a conversation rather than a customer service appointment. There are no forms or brochures or sales materials. You roll up to a stool, sit down, and chat.
Our first experiment in setting up New Balance to use a Microsoft Surface table at the New York City Marathon Expo felt a bit like a pop-up Genius Bar about the two upcoming shoe lines we were set up to discuss. Want to know what colors the 890 will come in? No problem, let's conjure up a visual that you can shrink and expand. Wondering how the heel-to-forefoot drop of NB Minimus compares to other barefoot-inspired shoes in the market? I could tell you in numbers, but let's look at them side-by-side in a chart. Are they durable enough to wear on long runs and in hostile conditions? See them on the feet of Ultramarathoner and all-around trail badass Anton Krupicka in this video, who by the way also helped develop the shoes.
A lot of it boils down to the physical dimension. Instead of strangers staring at each other, back at the shoes, back at each other, there's the table and the set of information it unlocks that the visitor can attend to throughout the conversation. In some cases, the material presented through the table's UI served an introductory and table-setting function, when a visitor would walk up and interact with the table interface him or herself. More often, table hosts used the information to punctuate and illustrate points throughout the conversation, and as a point of reference when a visitor had a question the table was well set up to address.
As we look to evolve the experience for the next event, we'll focus on improving both kinds of interactions - the self-guided experience, where a visitor is prompted to pull themselves through a narrative on their own, and the Surface as a visual encyclopedia containing helpful explanatory materials that fuel dialogue and understanding.