Meet the Apple of the coffee world: Nespresso

By Kym McNicholas , written on June 1, 2013

From The News Desk

For ecommerce companies looking for the best way to set-up a retail space Apple is the ultimate example. But I’ve found another company that launched its first retail shop the same year as Apple, and exemplifies that ultimate experience for the customer as well. It’s Nespresso. The coffee company, owned by Nestle, just opened up its first retail shop in San Francisco, and will soon do the same in Los Angeles. It has more than 300 worldwide.

In many ways, Nespresso is the Apple of coffee companies. The coffee makers have a modern and minimalist design and once you buy a Nespresso machine you are forced to engage with its ecosystem. The coffee pods that are the fuel for that totally respectable cup of coffee have to be purchased from the company like apps for your iPad have to originate from Apple's app store. Like Apple, Nespresso insists on controlling the user experience. Environmentalists have also criticized both companies for filling up landfills. In Nespresso's case, millions upon millions of those aluminum coffee pods. With Apple, it's old computers, iPhones, and iPads. As a result, both companies tout their recycling efforts, although it's not clear how many consumers take advantage.

When I walked into the coffee retailer’s Union Square shop in San Francisco, the feeling of being in an Apple Store also came over me. Nespresso representatives are everywhere and eager to help you pick out the perfect Nespresso machine or a coffee pod that best fits your taste. There are iPads available to dive into the details of the selections on your own. But even more, there are coffee makers on display, with Nespresso representatives on-hand to help customers learn how to use the machines – customers actually get to drink the product of their labor.

Finally, in true Apple fashion, it has what it calls a ‘self-selection room’ where customers who don’t need any help, can walk in on their own, select the coffees they want, and check-out on their own just using their club card and credit card. The machine reads the RFID tags attached to the coffee packaging and also removes the sensor, which is on there to prevent theft.

Nestle is such a traditional brand that you might wonder how it could be so innovative. It treats Nespresso as its own start-up. It has from its inception.

“That’s the key to Nespresso’s success,” says Patrice Bula, Executive Vice President, Nestlé SA . “It’s about creating an entrepreneurial environment for innovation to flourish.”

Check out their space in San Francisco in the video below. I talked to both Bula as well as Frederic Levy, President, Nespresso USA about how they’ve created the retail shop of the future.