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The secret tricks Apple store staff use to push certain products

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Pushing a little harder?


Chris Matyszczyk/ZDNet

It all started with an insult.

An Apple store customer in Australia complained that a store employee had “questioned my intelligence” by insisting he use Apple Pay for a transaction.

Also: Apple was right, people love expensive iPhones

That customer was fed up with the pushiness and walked out.

I, however, wanted to help him. I wanted to see if this behavior was widespread. So I walked into a couple of Apple stores to learn whether its salespeople really are incentivized to push certain products or services.

None would admit to any sort of commission payments.

I did, though, receive word from former Apple store employees who said, in essence, that these salespeople may not appreciate everything that’s really going on.

These former employees revealed a little more of the innards of store operations and how certain products or services might, indeed, get special attention.

A former senior store employee told me: “The frontline retail Apple employees aren’t paid on commission or receive a bonus. From a paycheck-to-paycheck perspective, there’s no real incentive to push product A vs product B.”

However, he said, each store’s Leadership Team is under pressure and incentivized: “The direction or pressure for employees to sell a certain product comes from the retail leadership team. This means the Store Leader, Senior Leaders, and the Product Zone [Sales Manager] Leader.”

Also: Siri, Apple is just not that into you 

He explained: “The Store Leader receives a breakdown of metrics and goals in the form of a Market Report from their Market Leader [regional manager]. Retail leadership teams do, in fact, receive a performance bonus based on quarterly sales results, a fact which is never explicitly revealed to the frontline teams.”

Ah, so it’s a case of slightly more subtle tactics? It seems that, sometimes for possibly idiosyncratic reasons, a store might sell far more, say, third-party accessories than many other stores. On the other hand, it might lag in iPhone sales.

Subtle psychological pressure is then applied, he said, in order to redress the balance. It’s all about “directing customers to the product that’s lagging,” without actually pushing that product.

How does this “direction” of customers work? “Consultative selling,” said one former sales manager.

He explained: “After an interaction had concluded, I would frequently check in with the Specialist and ask them, ‘What 3 things have you learned about your customer today?’. The Specialists who learned and remembered their customers’ names, and knew what they did for work, did very well. Apple began really pushing their in-store business services around 2014-15. This could lead to 5- or even 6- figure sales if you are able to close a local small or medium-sized business. Even better, if you knew the customers’ hobbies, you were likely to be by far the more successful salesperson.”

As for leadership bonuses they aren’t, said my sources, dependent on what specific percentage of sales go through Apple Pay or how many customers buy AppleCare. Which doesn’t mean that AppleCare and Accessory attach rates aren’t closely monitored and, yes, pushed. There’s a lot of profit in the little things.

The Power of The Crowd

So why might the insulted customer have been pressured to use Apple Pay? Well, it may well have something to do with the crowded nature of Apple stores, apparently.

Said one former manager: “The push for Apple Pay comes from the familiar dilemma of being in a crowded Apple Store and not having any idea how to get cashed out for that lightning cable in your hand. At a senior level, Apple leadership has decided, based mostly on customer satisfaction metrics, that customers appreciate the ability to pay for something themselves. I think they thought there’s a certain cool factor there like Amazon’s cashierless stores.”

Also: How Apple is messing with people’s heads

Apple following the taste-free pirates at Amazon? Can this be? Still, about the alleged pushiness. This is where the fun comes in.

“This [Apple Pay push] led to ‘fun challenges’ laid out by store leadership to challenge people on the sales floor to get a certain amount of Apple Pay transactions done,” a former manager told me. “You can imagine that if this is done skillfully you can engage a customer, get them to download the Apple Store app — a valuable touchpoint for future transactions and services — and have them feel involved in the process.”

And if it isn’t done right?

Another former Store Leader explained: “We were all pushed to push Apple Pay in every transaction. These measurements were brought up in employee reviews and promotions. They were usually focused around the behavior observations. If you blew the behavior out of the water, you increased your chances of being favored.”

That wasn’t the experience of other Store Leaders. One told me: “I have promoted or given raises to a lot of sales staff over the years, and not a single time has that [Apple Pay] ever even been a part of the conversation between myself and my peers in determining a promotion.”

Pressure Pushing Down On Me.

Perhaps some Store Leaders react to pressure better than others. In any case, I was told, some salespeople are simply better than others.

A former Store Leader told me: “Employees with high Apple Pay transaction completions are also usually the top performing in sales for all other products, as well as having the highest customer satisfaction scores. Is this because Apple Pay is the hardest sell of them all? I’ll leave that to you and your readers.”

It could be, then, that Apple’s just like every other corporation, with varying employee performance and some employees vying to be favored by their superiors. And there you were thinking everything at Apple was magical and revolutionary.

Naturally, I asked Apple for its view on how it incentivizes store staff. The company declined to comment.

I sense Apple is very keen to make clear it would never incentivize staff by offering a certain percentage to a certain salesperson for selling a certain product.


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That simply wouldn’t be consistent with the way the brand presents itself as customer-focused above all else.

It surely wouldn’t be surprising, however, that at least some sort of bonuses are paid to at least some staff for exceeding broader performance goals.

Ultimately, Apple’s stores have been one of the most powerful pillars of the company’s success. The fact that you can go to your local mall, stroke the products and even get a gadget fixed is, to the ordinary human, a truly valuable feature.

Moreover, I’ve generally found Apple store staff all over the country to be engaging, efficient and remarkably honest.

Yet as Apple’s business veers toward greater profit coming from the services side — and with its head of HR now in charge of the stores — could a little more pressure be applied to all store staff in order to send those services numbers even higher?

It had better be subtle pressure.

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Facebook’s stock shrugs off bad-news deluge – TechCrunch

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After social media company Snap reported earnings last week, the value of its cohort of public companies fell sharply.

Snap shed more than 20% of its value after telling investors that it expects a far smaller fourth quarter than the street anticipates. Privacy changes to technology platforms and weak advertiser demand thanks to supply-chain issues are likely to weigh on Snap’s Q4 top-line expectations.

Facebook stock fell around 5% on the Snap news on Friday.

And then Facebook had a difficult weekend of coverage, a period that flowed into a Monday-morning news dump concerning the company as dozens of media organizations began reporting on a trove of documents released by a whistleblower. Facebook is in the midst of what is perhaps its most damning reporting cycle to date, a bit of a high-water mark given the social company’s history of scandal.

This morning, however, shares of Facebook are essentially flat, trading up or down 0.2% to 0.3%. Investors are shrugging off the reporting, it appears.

It would be easy to make a somewhat cynical comment that public-market investors were more concerned about potentially lackluster business results than they are about, say, the company’s inability to handle misinformation and political manipulation in India. But a good chunk of today’s reporting deals with things that do matter in business terms, like Facebook’s slowly declining grip on younger users. So, what’s going on?

It may be that today’s reporting was priced into Facebook’s stock already; the company, worth just under $326 per share this morning, is far from its all-time high of $384.33 that it set earlier this year, indicating that it has already given up quite a lot of value.

But it may be most fair to say that Facebook investors are simply reacting to new disclosures — like Snap’s bad news — more than historical documents outlining longer-term issues. That would explain why Facebook fell Friday and is flattish today.

Regardless of why Facebook’s shares are holding steady this morning, any gains in the wake of an ocean of negative reporting based on the company’s own descriptions of its problems — leaked documents are powerful for that very reason — must feel like a win inside of Facebook’s halls.

Facebook reports earnings today after the bell.

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Cameo buys fan merch platform Represent – TechCrunch

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Celeb video site Cameo is making its first acquisition. The company will buy Represent, a marketing and merch company that helps celebrities and brands set up individualized online storefronts. It’s a natural fit for Cameo, which invites fans to pay celebrities of all stripes for short customized videos.

Represent counts Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey and Kendall Jenner among the members of its pool of partnered talent, so Cameo will be bringing those relationships into the fold through the acquisition.

The company is also bringing Represent’s leadership on board and the acquisition will double the size of Cameo’s team in Europe. Cameo did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Cameo says that its users won’t see changes right away, but in the future they might be able to purchase “gift bundles” that would pair a traditional Cameo video with related merch. The company also hopes that weaving merch into its revenue streams will boost the fundraising efforts that many on-platform celebrities do to raise money for nonprofits.

Most of Cameo’s users visit the celeb video site to procure gifts for friends and loved ones to celebrate birthdays and other occasions. The company said it facilitated more than 1.3 million videos last year, with the company’s top 150 figures earning north of $100,000.

The company has also added a few new products, including Cameo Calls — short one-on-one video calls with celebrities — and Fan Clubs, sort of a VIP section of the site that helps dedicated fans stay in the loop on the talent they follow.

Cameo has raised money from a number of traditional sources like Google Ventures and SoftBank, but also from celebrity investors like Snoop Dogg and Tony Hawk. In March, Cameo raised $100 million Series C, bringing the company’s valuation to upward of $1 billion.

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Internal Facebook documents highlight its moderation and misinformation issues – TechCrunch

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The Facebook Papers, a vast trove of documents supplied by whistleblower Frances Haugen to a consortium of news organizations has been released. The reporting, by Reuters, Bloomberg, The Washington Post and others, paints a picture of a company that repeatedly sought to prioritize dominance and profit over user safety. This was, however, despite a large number of employees warning that the company’s focus on engagement put users at risk of real-world violence.

The Washington Post, for instance, claims that while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg played down reports that the site amplified hate speech in testimony to Congress, he was aware that the problem was far broader than publicly declared. Internal documents seen by the Post claim that the social network had removed less than five percent of hate speech, and that executives — including Zuckerberg — were well aware that Facebook was polarizing people. The claims have already been rebutted by Facebook, which says that the documents have been misrepresented.

Zuckerberg is also accused of squashing a plan to run a Spanish-language voter-registration drive in the US before the 2020 elections. He said that the plan may have appeared “partisan,” with WhatsApp staffers subsequently offering a watered-down version partnering with outside agencies. The CEO was also reportedly behind the decision not to clamp down on COVID-19 misinformation in the early stages of the pandemic as there may be a “material tradeoff with MSI [Meaningful Social Interaction — an internal Facebook metric] impact.” Facebook has refuted the claim, saying that the documents have been mischaracterized.

Reuters reported that Facebook has serially neglected a number of developing nations, allowing hate speech and extremism to flourish. That includes not hiring enough staffers who can speak the local language, appreciate the cultural context and otherwise effectively moderate. The result is that the company has unjustified faith in its automatic moderation systems which are ineffective in non-English speaking countries. Again, Facebook has refuted the accusation that it is neglecting its users in those territories.

One specific region that is singled out for concern is Myanmar, where Facebook has been held responsible for amplifying local tensions. A 2020 document suggests that the company’s automatic moderation system could not flag problematic terms in (local language) Burmese. (It should be noted that, two years previously, Facebook’s failure to properly act to prevent civil unrest in Myanmar was highlighted in a report from Business for Social Responsibility.)

Similarly, Facebook reportedly did not have the tools in place to detect hate speech in the Ethiopian languages of Oromo or Amharic. Facebook has said that it is working to expand its content moderation team and, in the last two years, has recruited Oromo, Amharic and Burmese speakers (as well as a number of other languages).

The New York Times, reports that Facebook’s internal research was well-aware that the Like and Share functions — core elements of how the platform work — had accelerated the spread of hate speech. A document, titled What Is Collateral Damage, says that Facebook’s failure to remedy these issues will see the company “actively (if not necessarily consciously) promoting these types of activities.” Facebook says that, again, these statements are based on incorrect premises, and that it would be illogical for the company to try and actively harm its users.

Bloomberg, meanwhile, has focused on the supposed collapse in Facebook’s engagement metrics. Young people, a key target market for advertisers, are spending less time on Facebook’s platform, with fewer teens opting to sign up. At the same time, the number of users may be artificially inflated in these age groups, with users choosing to create multiple accounts — “Finstas” — to separate their online personas to cater to different groups. Haugen alleges that Facebook “has misrepresented core metrics to investors and advertisers,” and that duplicate accounts are leading to “extensive fraud” against advertisers. Facebook says that it already notifies advertisers of the risk that purchases will reach duplicate accounts in its Help Center, and lists the issue in its SEC filings.

Over the weekend, Axios reported that Facebook’s Sir Nick Clegg warned that the site should expect “more bad headlines” in the coming weeks. Between the material available in the Facebook Papers, another round of Frances Haugen’s testimony in the UK later today and rumors of more whistleblowers coming forward, it’s likely that Facebook will remain in the headlines for some time.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

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