Most consumers view shopping in two ways — you either go to a physical store to purchase an item or you order it online.
But retail veteran Ron Johnson, Apple’s former senior vice president of retail and the former CEO of JCPenney, thinks there’s a need for something in between.
That’s what is latest startup Enjoy seeks to address.
Enjoy is a shopping platform that sells high-end electronic devices, such as Sonos home theatre systems, drones, gaming consoles, and even electric skateboards.
But instead of just delivering products to your home, Enjoy’s experts help you set them up, install them, and learn how to use them.
It’s sort of like having a genius bar technician on demand to help set up your new products.
Johnson unveiled Enjoy last October, announcing that his company had raised $US30 million in a round co-led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Oak Partners. Last month, the service launched in San Francisco and New York.
Enjoy faces lots of competition, as companies large and small are trying to get into e-commerce. Pinterest recently added “buy” buttons to its page so that people can purchase items they see on various boards directly through the platform. Google is rumoured to be making a similar addition to its search results. And shopping site Jet.com hopes to lure some shoppers away from Amazon by enticing them with cheaper prices if they buy products in bundles.
But Johnson says his startup isn’t competing with Amazon — he’s pitching Enjoy as something entirely new.
Buy it and enjoy it right now
The crux behind Enjoy isn’t in the products it sells — you can buy Windows tablets, an Xbox, or a drone through almost any electronics retailer. With Enjoy, you’re really paying for the concierge service of being able to have the product delivered and set up wherever you are.
“I’m convinced that you can serve customers better where they use a product than you ever could in a store,” Johnson said to Business Insider. “In this world where the home’s going to be all connected to all your devices, someone has got to go through the door to really make magic. It’s pretty hard to do 10 miles away.”
Johnson says there’s a future for Enjoy beyond its concierge-like shopping service. Since the real secret sauce behind Enjoy is its team of trained experts, there’s the possibility of holding public events and workshops for introducing people to technology they haven’t used before.
So, for instance, Enjoy could hold an event for an outdoor product such as the Boosted Board electronic skateboard where you actually get to learn how to ride it before you consider buying it.
“It’s something a store can’t do,” Johnson said. “But we’ve got this community of experts that are completely mobile, so we can go anywhere at any time…We can have the Genius Bar equivalent at a coffee shop.”
Johnson has worked in the retail industry for 30 years, and is probably most remembered for his time at Apple where he helped former CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs build out the Apple Store retail chain. He had a harder time at JCPenney, where the magic he applied at Apple was unable to turn the ailing department store company around. He was ousted a mere 17 months after he hired, in April 2013.
Now he’s putting that time in the past. Johnson brought two notable former Apple executives with him to work on Enjoy — including Jerry McDougal, who worked as Apple’s vice president of retail until 2013, and Tom Suiter, Apple’s former creative director.
Johnson reiterated that Jobs valued the customer experience above all else when it came to developing the Apple Store, and that seems to be an ideal that stayed with Johnson as he built Enjoy.
“Imagine if you could order today and enjoy tomorrow, instead of order today and get it delivered tomorrow,” Johnson said. “That’s a simple idea. And the more I thought about it, I couldn’t shake this.”
The hardest part about building a successful retail business is envisioning how people will buy things differently in the future, according to Johnson.
“Physical retail is really hard,” he said. “[If] you build a store, it’s a 10-year minimum commitment. So you’ve got to make sure it’s how people would want to buy products in 2025, not 2015.”
And the key to succeeding in retail is patience, says Johnson.
“You’ve got to recognise that it’s going to take time to succeed,” he said. “Most things that seem like overnight successes weren’t.”