Official Blog of Center10 Consulting

The future of retail is here...and it looks like a steal!

on Friday, December 19, 2014
Allegedly, in 1992, as he sought re-election, George Bush Sr. was surprised by a scanner in a simulated grocery line at a DC convention of grocers. The mechanics of the bar code reader left him amazed, and shaking his head.

I had a bit of a reprise of that moment today, as I walked away from the UWS apple store with an adaptor for my apple computer, never having stood in line, never having handed over a credit card or cash to any shop assistant. I'd popped the little white box into my purse and walked out. This must be what shop lifting feels like, I thought.

OK, I exaggerate.

Apple's app has freed us to be as introverted as we want to be, enjoying retail therapy without the potential pitfalls of engaging another human! If you have the app running in the background, you're greeted with a welcome message as soon as you walk in the door. It's a non-creepy version of the constant messaging you'd see in a movie version of a Philip K. Dick book like the Minority Report.

There are greeters everywhere, but there is a simplicity to the Apple store that allows you to wander and find. It took me less than a minute to locate the adapter.

I so wanted this to be a magical, futuristic experience.

It was not to be.

I looked skyward. I'm 5 feet 4, so while not a giant, I'd say I'm average height. So looking up at the shiny white box up in the sky, I signed, stood on tiptoes, tried a little jump in my stylish heels. My quest for the non-intermediated experience was shattered. I made eye-contact with the pleasant sales associate and glanced upwards. "I'll bring the ladder", she said...

While I waited for my sales associate to find a ladder, I watched another one lug a bunch of supplies and a ladder along so she could stock them sky-high. Here's a tip, Apple. If your associates need ladders to stock the shelves, then chances are, your customers will not be able to get hold of those products either. Seems intuitive? And that puts a kibosh on them experiencing the self-checkout app, doesn't it?

Despite that little hiccup, I've got to say I rather enjoyed the experience with the app. You click the little shop button at the bottom of the screen, and you get the option to shop with easypay,  Apple's payment system.  It opens up a QR code reader. In my case, it took some time to get it to read, and I landed up having the shopper standing nearby hold the box while I scanned. Up popped my hame and saved credit card number. I was asked to enter the code at the back of my card, and voila, all done!

So...not quite a magical experience yet, but I can see the possibilities.

I know my local CVS launched it's self checkout a while back. But the enormity of the shift we're talking about here is the "trust and verify" element at play in the case of Apple. You're not hunched over a large checkout machine, or stuck in the line waiting to check out. I suspect, if I'd been a 6' 4" giant, I'd have been in and out in five minutes. Being more on the compact side, the whole experience took 5 minutes plus another 5 minutes waiting for the ladder. Not bad, considering....

It's also a case of the company leveraging all it's technology to great effect. Most of us have smartphones, and we're app-addicted. By leveraging their app for education but also for the purchase interface, Apple has given me control over yet another slice of the value chain. I'm loving it.

You're probably out there, buying holiday presents. Take a gander at your nearby Apple Store and give the app a try. It's a breeze.