Two years after Apple’s top retail executives were spotted scouting a store space in Moscow, Apple has debuted an on-line store for Russia, perhaps signaling that retail stores aren’t far behind. In fact, the new Web store uses the retail Specialist analogy to provide product selection assistance and post-purchase set-up for customers. Typically, an iTunes or on-line store precedes the opening of retail stores within a country. In this case, Russia’s iTunes store opened last December, making retail stores the next logical step. As reported in April 2011, a retail store in Russia would be a significant eastward expansion for the chain, even further than the Istanbul location identified just last November. Last night a Web page appeared for on-line commerce, with two blue-shirted Specialists smiling out at customers. A video in English with Russian sub-titles explains that customers can connect to a Specialist via on-line chat, by telephone or by sharing their computer screen. “Since they don’t work on commission, they care only about helping you make the right decisions,” the narrator explains. After a purchase, customers can schedule an on-line set-up session that features screen-sharing technology. Despite the visit by the top retail execs last year, no further store activity has been reported in Russia.
Apple now has on-line stores in 40 countries, and operates retail stores in 14 of those countries. Two new retail stores will be added this year, in Brazil (iTune and on-line store) and Turkey (iTunes only).
The explanation video on Russia’s new on-line store depicts a service model that uses chat and screen-sharing technology that debuted in August 2012. Right now, the UK on-line store is the only other store to use the service.