WWDC 2014: Apple's plan to save high street retail

Blink and you could have missed it, but Apple's plans to save retail were hidden among hundreds of announcements at WWDC -- soon every digital consumer experience geek will be knocking on Cupertino's door.


Opening the omnichannel

The following iOS 8-related improvements suggest this is part of Apple's future plan -- and its plans are bang on trend...

  • You'll be able to scan your credit card using Safari in order to pay
  • Apple's investment in indoor mapping services
  • Apple's location-sensing features mean apps from retailers that you choose to carry on your device will be able to send you Notifications when you're near a high street store.
  • In conjunction with Passbook, retailers are already sending you personalized offers to entice you into their shops
  • iBeacon is already being deployed across retailers worldwide, (watch the video below for some reasons why)
  • Expectation that Apple will launch its own mobile payments service is very high.
  • The list goes on.

So why does this matter?

It's about the "omnichannel". This is something "digital experience managers" get paid to think about. They must assess the impact of smartphones on "the customer journey".

Impacts such as these:

  • 79% of smartphone owners use their device to shop,
  • 60% check prices while they are in the shops and purchase items from online retailers if they find a better price elsewhere
  • 57% expect brick-&-mortar retailers to offer them discount coupons via smartphone.
  • (Source: Aprimo, Showrooming).

This is what's happening -- and Apple's plans for retail could help high street retailers survive against merciless online giants.

A touch for touchpoints

Digital consumers want retailers to be where they are. This means retailers must offer their services via a series of "touchpoints": shop, online, on Mac, tablet, smartphone, social media.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Expedia CEO says:

“Research has shown that 90% of online shoppers start their shopping with a handset or a PC and then go to a tablet, then they go to another device. So we have to make sure that the experience that these consumers have is consistent in an appropriate way across the devices.”

For mobile retail to succeed the devices must be used. We know Apple's devices are the most used. Other platforms are not, and many are inherently insecure.

Join the dots

Consistency means delivering equivalent experiences across physical and digital properties. This means easy social networking; losing unnecessary complexity; it means security, privacy and the ability to get hold of human help as easily as getting to the "Buy It Now" button.

And it puts the customer first.

Where can you find a retailer that delivers such experiences across all its touchpoints? Where do you think? You'll find it at the world's most successful high street retailer, Apple.

I believe Apple has quietly assembled the pieces it needs to make its tried, tested, successful omnichannel strategy available to retailers worldwide. And when it does, it might just save the high street.

  • Consumers will benefit: they'll get what they want, where and when they want it, and they will reduce their exposure to mindless marketing friction and meaningless noise.
  • Retailers will benefit by being able to stand against the online giants, while the relatively low cost of deployment may enable some small niche retailers to thrive and stay alive.

If you happen to be a developer, someone in retail, or digital experience marketing, you'd be a fool to ignore Apple as it prepares to open up its omnichannel, as it may soon offer you the secret sauce you seek.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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