Apple has always been one of my favorite brands as well as my first choice in computers. I have long admired their web site for how on brand it is, the clean look, crisp copy and easy navigation. My one criticism is that it doesn’t even try to remember me. They never present a home page informed by where I have gone on their site or what I may have purchased from them (and it has been a lot over the years). The same can be said for their email marketing programs. Not a premium placed on targeting the content to me. Great emails to look at, but rarely do I click through and browse or buy. However, their site search capability has caused me to think about overlooking those shortcomings. If you visit the Apple site they have the normal search box in the upper right hand section of the page. Looks like what you see everywhere. But when you start typing everything is different.
I started typing in iPhone. As I was typing a flyout appeared immediately below the box, populated with real time search results that changed with each letter typed. But these search results look more like a web page or a software window. They are categorized, contain descriptions and images, and in some cases prices are displayed. You can always link to a full results page, which is also improved over a normal search results page.
Here is what I got when I typed in iTunes. If you key in something that is not on the site it says “no shortcut was found” and directs you to another page where you might get a “did you mean” suggestion. This is similar to how the Spotlight feature built into their software works.
This experience enhancement gives consumers yet another glimpse into what it is like to own a Mac before owning one. Apple understands how important it is to manage the customer experience (or perhaps prospect experience, as their market share is still small) at every interaction. This is particularly important online, as consumers have a short attention span and are jaded quickly if something doesn’t work or live up to their expectations. Obviously this is much easier to accomplish when you are searching your own site and products vs. the open Internet. But Apple has executed with elegance in design. Apple is now the third largest manufacturer of computers behind HP and Dell. In their stores they have all but eliminated the cash register, as the advisers on the floor can use a hand held device to ring your purchase and email you a receipt. Seems they are always about bringing innovation to someone else’s expertise.