Apple Pickup, Express storefronts, and the point of no return

In 2011, Apple reversed the scrolling direction with Mac OS X Lion. It was a point of no return. IOS grew in popularity and the Mac had to adapt. Apple added a scroll direction switch to smooth the transition. Some people were excited about the change and longtime Mac users expressed frustration, but one thing was immediately clear: computers had evolved and there was no going back.

Exactly one year ago today – January 28, 2020 – Apple MixC Qingdao in China was the first Apple Store in the world to be temporarily closed due to COVID-19. It was a point of no return. The pandemic has accelerated retail trends, breaking decades of shopping models and creating opportunities for new experiences.

Apple now faces a major challenge. Customers are getting used to express collection, convenient delivery options and personal shopping. Temporary procedures have become the status quo. What does the future of the Apple Store look like?

Make no mistake: Apple is under no obligation to change anything. With the virus under control, Apple Stores could revert to pre-pandemic operations and people would still show up. Ignoring the biggest shift in shopping since Apple Retail was founded nearly 20 years ago would put the customers who Apple says they focus on at a great disadvantage. Nothing has to change, but it should change.

Apple pickup

Amid the excitement of iPhone 12 launch day, Apple unveiled its most notable retail concept in half a decade: the Apple Pickup Counter. A pilot design that was unveiled at the new Apple Valley Fair in San Jose. Tim Cook and Deirdre O’Brien were there to check it out.

The concept is simple but important: instead of tagging a member of staff to help you get an order, wait while someone else finds your items and brings them out from the back of the house, and crowd out other customers at a display table, all online orders are fulfilled at a clearly marked, dedicated Apple pickup counter. Go in, pick up, go for it. It’s a better experience.

Apple didn’t say whether Apple pickup counters could appear in more new stores or whether existing locations could be upgraded. The potential is enormous.

Almost 10 years ago, Apple tested a similar concept in several of its busiest locations. Express counters were tagged with popular part numbers from hero products such as iPhones and iPads. Customers who came in ready to buy could jump straight to the checkout. Express counters are still popular in Apple stores in China and in some locations in New York City.

Express showcase

For millions of customers around the world, Express Storefronts are the new face of Apple Retail. The plexiglass kiosks are sober in design and pragmatic in function and enable safe and efficient collections and Genius appointments during the pandemic. The temporary measure makes a lasting impression.

Customers are discovering that a visit to the store that respects your time can be just as rewarding as an intense, hands-on shopping experience. There is more than one way to experience the best of Apple.

Delivery with setup

Last summer, Apple began an unannounced partnership with Enjoy, the startup of the mobile retail business founded by former Apple SVP Ron Johnson. If you are in a convenient location and choose Delivery with Setup when you check out, an Enjoy team member will help you set up your new products at home during a free 30 minute appointment.

Delivery with setup is a natural extension of the care-oriented philosophy of “surprise and joy” behind Apple Retail. As Apple is trimming its fleet of stores and focusing on expanding existing locations, bringing the expertise of Apple specialists to your home through in-person or virtual experiences is the best way to serve more customers.

Due to the limited storage capacity, Apple reintroduced shopping appointments in July of last year in order to guarantee customers a personal browsing with a specialist. The timing couldn’t have been better. Bloomberg notes that in-person shopping is experiencing a renaissance due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 hit almost exactly a year after Angela Ahrendts announced her resignation as head of Apple Retail, and forever eclipsed which strategic changes are new ideas from Deirdre O’Brien and which are a direct response to the pandemic. Do shopping appointments remain?

Scanning and buying self-checkout with the Apple Store app is also on the verge of a resurgence when in-store purchases return. The feature has remained relatively obscure, despite having existed for almost a decade. This could change when contactless shopping and express pick-up become more attractive. The first step is to remind customers that the feature is there.

In aviation, reaching a point of no return precedes a new goal on the other side. Retail stores never stop moving. Half a decade ago, when customers were looking for a more complete offline experience, Apple responded with a floor-to-ceiling redesign of its stores. This time, the most important changes are not what you see, but what you feel.

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