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Angela Ahrendts discusses humanizing technology, Today at Apple, more in Cannes Lions interview

Speaking today in an interview at the annual Cannes Lions Festival in France, Apple’s SVP of retail Angela Ahrendts shared her vision for the future of Apple retail and gave an update on Today at Apple programs.

The 45-minute interview was conducted at the Lumière Theatre by Tor Myhren, Apple’s Vice President of Marketing Communications. Yesterday, Ahrendts tweeted about her visit to Apple’s store in Nice, France as a prelude to the event. Below, we’ve rounded up some key details and insights discussed at Cannes.

Myhren and Ahrendts began their conversation by debuting a new video featuring scenes and artwork from recent Today at Apple sessions. The video focused on live art programs, a series made possible by the iPad and Apple Pencil.

  • Ahrendts said it’s Apple’s job to humanize technology. “It’s not just technology alone. It’s technology when it’s married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities that impacts the world and makes our heart sing.”
  • Today at Apple could be the “largest platform we’ve ever had for enriching lives.”
  • Creativity is driven by instinct, vision, and humanity.

Today at Apple recently celebrated 1 year of worldwide sessions. Apple has been steadily adding new programs along the way, one of their most recent additions touting the ability of the iPad Pro and Keynote to prototype iOS apps. We tried out one of the first prototyping sessions and were impressed.

  • Apple’s stores were again compared to the company’s other tightly integrated products. If the physical building is thought of as the hardware, the experience inside the store can be thought of as the software.
  • Ahrendts has visited 150 Apple stores worldwide. Rather than selling, store employees are told to enrich people’s lives by telling them something they don’t know.
  • Store employees don’t work on commission, Ahrendts stressed. She says people are hired for empathy, and that Apple measures human connection.
  • Data shows 75% of people will shop online within 5 years. Ahrendts refutes the idea that retail is dying, saying it needs to evolve instead.

Apple now operates over 500 retail stores across the globe. Their newest location will open in Macau on June 29th. Over the past few years, the company has been aggressively remodeling their older locations to feature Today at Apple-friendly layouts and a more modern style of architecture.

  • Apple retail’s “secret sauce” is the people who work at physical stores. Ahrendts says they’re Apple’s biggest differentiator.
  • Ahrendts touched on her time at Burberry. The company culture was what “made the business fly.
  • Creativity is not driven by data, but rather by instinct, vision, and humanity.
  • Last year, Apple said they would begin giving surveys about the store experience. Ahrendts says they’re not measuring quantitative things, it’s about how the customer feels.
  • Engagement scores have “never been higher.

  • Myrhen laments the lack of human connection in the world today. “Being able to sit down eye to eye with a brand is so important.”
  • Myrhen: “There is a crisis of creativity in the world. The top 10 grossing movies were all sequels. Think about what that means for creative thinking.”

Near the end of the interview, some time was spent talking about Apple’s upcoming retail projects. Both Washington D.C.’s historic Carnegie Library and Milan’s dazzling Piazza Liberty amphitheater were noted as models of the experience Apple strives for in retail. Both stores are expected to open by the end of the year.

For more Apple store news, watch our retail guide.

Top photo via Twitter

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Avatar for Michael Steeber Michael Steeber

I’m a Creative Editor passionate about Apple Retail and design. My stories highlight the work of talented artists, designers, and customers through a unique lens of architecture, creativity, and community.

Twitter: @MichaelSteeber