Apple's Retail Self-Checkout Is No iPhone 4S, This Really Is An Upgrade

For the next 2 minutes as you read this blog post, please try to forget about Apple the product company and instead focus on Apple the retailer. Two years ago, Apple undertook a worldwide roll out of iPod Touches to its store associates. These devices came wrapped in a sled adding a 2D bar code scanner and credit card swipe capabilities to the hardware lineup and enabled store associates to perform mobile POS transactions anywhere in the store. Ever since the retail industry has been playing catch-up with retailers like Lowes, Gap, and Home Depot recently following suit with respective rollouts of mobile POS functionality to their store associates.

Today Apple raised the bar. Customers in the US can now use their own iPhone 4 or 4S in conjunction with the Apple Store app (one of my favorite mobile shopping experiences and complete with a fresh update) to scan the bar code of most in-store products and perform a self-checkout. The feature, called EasyPay uses the iPhone’s rear-facing camera to scan a product bar code with payment occurring via a simple authentication to iTunes, just like any other in-app purchase. The core difference is that Apple is now allowing in-app purchases of physical merchandise, albeit restricted to Apple at this time. Once payment is complete, the customer simply strolls out of the shop showing their digital EasyPay receipt to a member of staff as they exit. Time will tell if EasyPay results in any increase of in-store fraud for Apple, but for the consumer that knows what they want the convenience of EasyPay is crystal clear.  

Not to be overshadowed by the self-checkout functionality, Apple has also rolled out its in-store pickup functionality across all its US stores (previously this feature was in beta at only a few stores in California). Now in-store pickup is not an innovation, in fact Apple is late to the game, but this is no ordinary  in-store pickup. Reports cite that Apple is planning to have in-store pickup orders ready for collection within 12 minutes of purchase. This is game changing, and we have yet to see if Apple can actually pull this off, but if they can it defines a new level of convenience for the mobile carrying shopper who can now purchase en-route to the store with the peace of mind that pickup will be both quick and frictionless. In addition Apple is: 

  • Prioritizing in-store pickups over customers waiting to speak to a retail specialist
  • Allowing in-store pickup orders to be collected by a 3rd party
  • Sending push notifications to customers as soon as their in-store pickup is ready for collection

For the second time Apple has now re-invented the consumer retail experience with the first mainstream rollout of mobile enabled in-store self-checkout and in doing so is advocating agile commerce as it deeply integrates the mobile and in-store experience.   

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting a series of blog posts on the changing face of the in-store experience as I look at other in-store technologies that big-box retailers are rolling out, then in December I’ll be releasing my latest research The Digitization of the In-Store Experience

If you have been planning a trip to the Apple store, I encourage you to go and try EasyPay this weekend ,and as always I would love to hear about your thoughts and experience as you play the dual role of customer and store associate. Happy scanning.