Apple Watch calls time on Apple retail?

Apple retail is changing, and so are its customers

apple watch calls time on apple retail

A “significant change in mindset” is promised as new Apple retail leader, Angela Ahrendts, tries to change the way retail works.

We recently learned Apple Watch customers will be limited in how easily they can buy one in-store. Today, we learn most about what she is saying, according to Business Insider:

Get in line online

"The days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers. The Apple Store app and our online store make it much easier to purchase Apple Watch and the new MacBook. Customers will know exactly when and where their product arrives.

"This is a significant change in mindset, and we need your help to make it happen. Tell your customers we have more availability online, and show them how easy it is to order. You’ll make their day.”

She’s right.

Customers are changing and Apple’s actions show it understands retail must change with them.


“As consumers embrace new technologies, the shopping experience has become increasingly sophisticated, enabling new ways for leading retailers to reach their audience,” Deloitte wrote in its report on “The Omnichannel Opportunity."

Recent Altimeter Group stats help illustrate this:

  • 66% of customers are comfortable using digital services
  • 63% use online shopping more than any other digital service

To attract and maintain customer attention, retailers (including Apple) must do everything they can to reach and build relationships with customers across a fast growing selection of “touch points." This is more than just the experience in a retail store.

“Retailers should think about how emerging technology might fit into their overall strategies, while also realizing that untested tech may turn out to be nothing more like hype in the end,” Walker Sands’ Future of Retail Study for 2015 states.

You can’t deny that this kind of omnichannel vision is already at the heart of the way Apple runs its business.


It is known to work hard to deliver consistent and pleasing experiences across the “customer experience." Think about its legendary packaging, fast delivery (in-store and online), after-sales care and warranty. Think about its regular software updates and predictable upgrade paths. All these elements combine to keep customers happily hooked.

That’s not to say Apple is perfect. But even those well-publicized anxieties that do crop up do little to dent overall customer satisfaction, suggesting such complaints do not reflect most people’s experience.

Apple is taking its own medicine. Apple Pay and the Apple Watch itself are both disruptive technologies that support the digital customer experience. It seems clear Apple’s leaders understand digital customer experiences will in future enable it to create new products and services.


Now, I’m sure some will be inclined to reject the impact of online on retail. But I suggest those people misunderstand the digital impact on retail as evidenced by those empty shops in malls and high streets worldwide.

UK shoppers set new records for shopping by smartphone last year. Social media has emerged as a key source of information for product choice. For example, 43% of social media users buy a product after sharing it on social media – and this includes offline sales.

“Awareness generated through websites, apps and online marketplaces creates a positive effect across all sales channels, not just online,” eBay said last year.

Consumers are already digital.

I think Apple’ssignificant change in mindset” will help nurture its relationships with its digital customers, and to apply fundamental change across its already successful retail chain is the kind of constructive self-disruption we’ve come to expect.

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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