No "Geniuses" Please: "Tesla Solar" Wants to Be the Apple Store for Electricity, Analyst Says
Writing for Bloomberg Technology, Tom Randall considers Tesla's move to acquire SolarCity, part of a previously reported effort to be a clean energy company offering "End-to-End" solutions, and compares it to Apple's retail strategy
Specifically, Randall sees adding solar to Tesla's EV stores as reducing customer confusion, the way Apple did for shopping for electronic devices, creating a "joyful" experience that will enable a breakthrough in solar adoption
While the value of an Apple-like brick-and-mortar channel cannot be discounted (especially if a similar cult-like following can be created), we would differentiate Tesla solar (or other energy products, such as storage) from the Apple story
First, while Tesla may be able to physically display solar panels or batteries, we see little interactivity with any such products, versus the way customers can play with iphones and ipads. Should Tesla get into more home energy management solutions (connected home, internet of things), demonstrations of such capabilities, similar to what one can find at Direct Energy's mobile Innovation to Inspiration tour, may provide a "wow" factor solar panels can't
Second, for as much as the "success" of the Apple store is touted, consider that for its flagship product, the iphone, Apple stores, even before a recent downturn, accounted for only 15-20% of sales, with the vast majority of sales occurring through channel partners (mobile providers).
While 20% of iphone sales is still a huge number, it appears to us that the product made the store, not vice versa (were Apple stores the hip, market-leading darlings when they were only hawking iMacs, before the ipod?). Something Tesla should keep in mind
Ask JCPenney about building an Apple store with no "wow" product behind it.
As for the Apple store, our one writer who, for reasons unknown to us, uses Apple products has not been ensorcelled by the chic layout of the Apple store, and complained that making a service appointment is, "like going to the doctor's office," where customers are forced to wait for an available "genius" even after making an appointment for a specific time. Far from wanting to sip artisanal coffee while enjoying the "destination," they just want to "get in and get out"