The Apple Store App for iPhone - Disruptions and Opportunities for Retail

| John Martellaro's Blog

It's almost like stealing. But of course it isn't. You walk into an Apple retail store, scan the barcode of the item you want, and log in with your AppleID. Paid. Done. Never see a salesperson. Walk out of the store. Here's the story of how this fabulous app works.

Last Saturday, I was at the Park Meadows Mall Apple store in Lone Tree, Colorado. I needed an extra USB to Lightning cable, so I thought I'd try out the Apple Store app.

The first thing I noticed is that the App, the moment I launched it, knew where I was. That isn't surprising, but the way it came up so quickly seemed like magic anyway.

I simply selected the "EasyPay" botton, and the iPhone used the rear facing camera to give me an external view.

There's a quick tutorial on how to buy the item.

Next, I held the item at the right distance until one of the bar codes on the product package filled the rectangle on the the iPhone's display. When it came into focus and recognized it, I got an offer to make the purchase. (You won't have this option if you're not inside one of the stores.)

To complete the transaction, I just entered my AppleID password. The app already knew my AppleID account name. Done. If it's your first purchase with this app, you'll be asked to also enter the card's security code (CSC).

What's cool is that my Apple receipt was logged to a special section under the More... tab in "EasyPay Receipts."

If you must print it when you get home, you can take a screen shot. Or wait for the emailed receipt. At this point, with a receipt tucked away, available for inspection, I'm ready to just walk out of the store.

In my case, a salesperson was nearby, making sure I did everything right, and so I asked him, "What's to keep someone from just pointing an iPhone at an item without the app running, for appearance sake, and then walk out of the store with something small but expensive? His response:

"We trust you."

But Wait. There's More!

This nifty app does a lot more than walk you through a purchase. You can:

  • Find the nearest Apple store if you're not sure where one is.
  • Quickly see a store's hours of operation.
  • Make a Genius Bar appointment.
  • Tap a button to call Apple technical support. (866-242-2674)
  • See a list of popular products.
  • Walk through the process of buying a new iPhone.
  • Check your iPhone upgrade eligibility (via a link to the carrier.) Note: the last four digits of your SSN and billing Zip code are required.
  • Complete an online order and check the status of an online order
  • Review your AppleID account information, for example, shipping address or phone number.
  • Set some notification options. For example, a Genius Bar or workshop appointments or shipment status.

The only limitation of note is that you can only buy one item at a time with this app. Also, it's optimized for the iPhone's display and isn't a Universal app. But who goes shopping with an iPad, but doesn't have an iPhone? Even so, I would agree that the app should be Universal.

Finally, in my case, I didn't experience any of the problems mentioned in the reviews in Apple's own App Store.

Prognosis

First, this app exudes class, simplicity and ease of use. One can immediately see Apple's famous attention to good User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) details. Nothing is confusing, nothing is left to chance, and it's a joy to use. The Apple Store app belongs on everyone's iPhone.

I'm thinking that if Apple, as the rumors are going, includes fingerprint authentication on the next iPhone, that will make this app even easier to use.

And guess what? It's all done without, cough, NFC.

Finally, if Apple can do this so well in its own stores, I can see how this initial phase could lead to a broader acceptance for those merchants who partner with Apple. And don't think this won't be a money making opportunity for Apple as well.

It really is a better way to discover, shop and conduct a purchase transaction. I imagine, that this method of shopping isn't lost on managers of other stores in a mall who happen to wander into an Apple store. While they're still wrestling with 20th century cash registers, Apple and now Nordstroms have moved sharply ahead. Soon, it will be a visible embarrassment for other merchants.

Eventually, this technology will leave more time for salespeople to assist customers with product questions. That's the human part of shopping that's so necessary and something we don't want to lose.

Comments

geoduck

“We trust you.”

They’re not fooling me. If I try to walk out without paying I’m sure that they have a bunch of ninja’s hiding in the overhead ready to drop on me with wiffle-bats and Nerf swards ready to do their worst.
:grin:

barryotoole

I bet they have figured in small thefts, which may be inevitable - just like credit card companies figure in spurious charges that they have to refund cardholders at times.

It’s the coat of doing business, and as long as these thefts aren’t enough to impinge on profit, the message to customer - we trust you, has immense loyalty potential.

mrmwebmax

+

That’s an amazing app, and here’s hoping Apple is either right to trust us or that they’ve got some super-secret security mechanisms in place so the unscrupulous don’t “ruin it for everyone.” (And by that I mean something more effective than whiffle bats and Nerf swords….)

John, while you say you can only buy one item at a time, I’m assuming that you could make multiple single-item purchases during a single visit to an Apple Store?

John Martellaro

mrmwebmax:  Of course.  Just complete the first transaction, then go back and begin anew with additional items.

skipaq

All retail includes what is referred to as “shrinkage” (which includes any kind of loss) in the price of every item sold. Department store shrinkage typically runs around 3 or 4 percent. This percentage is added to the markup of each item. For example we may pay 33% over wholesale for a shirt instead of 30%.

I don’t know what the shrinkage is in a typical Apple store; but you can be sure the managers at various levels do. The end result is that we pay for the stuff that is stolen. Thus nothing is truly free even for the thief.

Intruder

@geoduck: they hired every drop bear they could find in Oz.

aardman

@skipaq It’s a slow day, so pardon the nitpicking.  You know an additional 3% over the wholesale price will not make up for the 3-4% lost on retail price (i.e. sales revenue) due to shoplifting, right?  wink

webjprgm

If I were designing the system in the 10 min I’ve been reading this article, I’d say the sales people could get notifications whenever someone buys something and what that item is. Then if someone starts walking out of the store when no notification has been received you know the customer made a mistake or is stealing.

This is harder to be effective in a busy store. But at least you can keep an eye on larger items like laptops and iPads.

The Apple Store app can tell if you’re in the store. I wonder how accurately it can position the buyer? That could perhaps be fed to surveillance cameras to match up who bought what, then guards in the back room can watch for people leaving with items that have not been registered as purchased by that person. Then you have the drop bears and ninjas.

Any or all of these methods could be employed and since they are not 100% effective there’s still that “we trust you” in there with price adjustment for expected thefts.

—-

If Apple does offer a general purpose app or API for retailers to do purchases through the iTunes store accounts, then it would have to have better terms than 30% of revenue going to Apple.

What do you think would be reasonable? 1% ? 3% ? 0.5% ? Back when I was working with online credit card purchases we were charged somewhere around 3% on average, but I’ve heard of some people being charged more and it varies by credit card company.  But 10%, 15%, and especially 30% are unacceptable.

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