How Apple's New App Will Change its Retail Operations

While information about Apple’s new iOS app and retail plans have leaked out in various forms over the past few weeks, we now have the whole story thanks to a trusted source. On Thursday, Apple’s new retail store app for iOS will launch, and it will bring two major features with it.

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First, it will enable online ordering with retail store pick up. This has already started happening in a few stores in California and New York City Apple stores as well, and more stores will go live on Thursday.

If a customer orders an in-stock product, pick up will be available approximately 12 minutes after completing the order. Why 12 minutes? Well, the order goes through the system to the designated Apple Store in about 3 minutes. Apple’s back-of-house employees have 2 minutes to set all of the products aside on a shelf from the minute it was ordered. There is then a 7-minute grace period for employees to get everything else in order. Around 12 minutes after purchasing, customers will be able to walk into the Apple Store, skip lines, skip registers, get their products, sign for them and leave. We’re told Apple is really excited about this, and it’s something customers have been seeking for a while.

If a customer orders something that a retail store does not have in-stock, like a custom-configured machine, an accessory the store does not carry, or something like an engraved or gift-wrapped device, the customer will be a given a pick-up date right after the purchase is completed. Everything will have free shipping when sent to an Apple retail store. Once the order arrives at the Apple Store and is available for pickup, a push notification will be sent to the customer through the Apple Store app, letting him or her know the order is ready. We’re told the same 12-minute timeframe applies here as well: 12 minutes from the time the push notification is received, the customer’s order should be waiting to be signed for.

We have been told customers who opt to purchase online or through the app will be given priority when they walk into the store over a customer waiting for a retail specialist, and that Apple expects the majority of customers over the next few years to use the in-store pick up option as their default method of buying products. This will help with foot traffic in retail stores while also reducing the cost of shipping for Apple, and possibly even reducing the number of stores Apple needs to open to accommodate sales.

Apple will offer customers the ability to return items purchased online to retail stores.Lastly, we’re told that Apple will be attributing revenue from items purchased in this manner to the retail store where the items are delivered and retrieved. This should help create new job opportunities since hiring at Apple Stores is based on sales. Apple is reportedly expecting a 30% increase in sales at retail stores from this program, and it will only be available in the U.S. for now.

The other major feature coming in Apple’s new app? Customer self check-out at retail stores. This is a huge deal and Apple is the first to be able to put it together. Here is how this will work: after you find the item you want to buy, like an accessory, you launch the Apple Store app on your iOS device and there will be an option to buy a product in the store. You scan the product with the camera on your device in the app, click purchase, and it will charge whatever credit card is associated to your Apple ID. You then just walk out of the store. Yes, we have been told that Apple will not be checking purchases which seems hard to believe, but this self check-out option will launch Thursday worldwide at all Apple retail stores.

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