Having revolutionized the computer, music, and phone industries, Apple is now targeting brick-and-mortar stores. On Tuesday, the technology giant released the free version 2.0 of its Apple Store app, which allows iPhone users to pay for products at the store by themselves.
The two new features are Personal Pickup and EasyPay. With Personal Pickup, a customer can select and pay for an item remotely, and then pick it up at the store. This alone is not that new, as some other retailers allow customers to order online and pick up their purchased items at the physical store. Once you purchase the product, Apple said that "most in-stock orders are available for pickup within the hour" in the U.S.
Will Be 'a Big Hit'
But, with EasyPay, you can scan the bar code of a product at the store, see info on the product, log in with an Apple ID, and use the credit card linked to the Apple account to pay. Receipts are available on the phone, in the app. Only certain products, such as accessories, are currently available for such self-checkout. EasyPay currently requires either an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, and requires iOS 4.2 or higher.
The app also allows customers to check the status of current or previous orders. The new EasyPay feature is an expansion of a test in the 2009 holiday season, of a similar feature.
Laura DiDio, a research fellow with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., predicts that a self-service app for Apple stores "will be a big hit." She noted that Apple stores are often crowded, so this could save time for a customer.
She also pointed out that most products at the stores are kept in the back, with only samples or empty display boxes in the main store. So, even if Apple extends EasyPay to a wider array of products, some interaction with store personnel will likely still be required.
Mobile Device Revolution
DiDio said she expected that self-checkout using mobile-device technology could become a trend, if it allowed sales to be made with minimal staff time, and didn't increase loss to theft.
Mobile devices have the potential to dramatically change the retail store experience, for customers and store owners. In addition to mobile-device apps that allow self-checkout, for instance, a new platform uses mobile devices to obtain the kind of analytics of customer behavior for store owners that only Web sites have previously enjoyed.
Last week, a new company called Euclid Elements introduced that platform, which tracks customer behavior by tracking their cellphones. The company described itself as "Google Analytics for the physical world." The Euclid platform uses sensors to map shopper traffic patterns in retail spaces, by tracking the position of customers' smartphones based on Wi-Fi signals.
The data includes numbers of unique visitors over given time periods, numbers of people walking by when the store is closed, new vs. repeat visitors, customer loyalty and frequency, the effectiveness of promotions in creating loyal customers, metrics between stores, average dwell time, and window conversion rates -- how many shoppers walk by vs. how many walk in.