A Glimpse of Apple's Shopper-Locating Retail Store Software

Late last week, The New York Times took a look at Apple's retail store software for responding to customer requests for assistance, offering a relatively rare public glimpse of one of the company's internal applications.


The internal app responds to both assistance requests from the iPads that serve as information displays at products on the sales floor and notifications from customers who have placed advance orders for pickup and then signaled their arrival by launching the Apple Store iOS app.

The iPod Touches of Apple employees show these customer requests and give employees the option to respond to them. The app then shows an illustration of the shopping floor and highlights the customer’s location in red.

According to the Apple retail employee who demonstrated the app's capabilities, sixteen customers had used the functionality to pick up orders at the Palo Alto store that day, only a tiny portion of the total customer load for the busy Black Friday shopping day. But Apple has reportedly indicated that it eventually expects a majority of its retail store customers to eventually take advantage of the new services such as in-store pickup and self-checkout using the company's iOS app.

This feature allows shoppers to ask for assistance when they feel comfortable doing so, unlike in other retail stores where customers are hounded by employees eager to make a sale, [retail store employee Diego] Aguirre said.

“It’s more toward customer experience,” Mr. Aguirre said. “We don’t want to feel like we’re hassling our customers to shop. We want them to feel at home.”

Apple has been working hard to build out capacity to meet customer load at its retail stores, which rank among the most profitable retail sales locations in the world. In recent years the company has been putting a significant focus on building larger, more iconic stores and also building out its international retail presence. But with the retail chain's oldest stores now approaching ten years old, the company is also looking to replace or renovate a number of these stores in order to keep up with the company's continued growth in popularity.

Top Rated Comments

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116 months ago
It's "Find my friends" turned into "Find my customers" !
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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116 months ago
Not there yet

The reality of my last two purchases at the Apple Store in Palm Desert CA was less than futuristic. Their current system of divvying up responsibilities meant I waited 10 minutes for a customer service rep to sell me the iPhone I already knew I wanted while half a dozen post-sale specialists stood around doing nothing but chatting with each other. Then, this past weekend, I was directed to pay for my item at the "express" checkout at the front of the store where one employee took 5 minutes to collect and process another customer's order on his little hand-held device, then took another 5 minutes to process my order on his little hand-held device. It would have been much faster if he just had a regular cash register.

I have no doubt that Apple will figure this out and make it work, but for now I think it looks pretty lame at times. There should never be a perception that employees are just standing around while customers are waiting, and space-age check out should be faster, not slower.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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116 months ago
Pretty cool! :)
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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116 months ago

Not exactly, since you don't explicitly authorize Apple to track you.

hu·mor   [hyoo-mer or, often, yoo-]
noun
1.
a comic, absurd, or incongruous quality causing amusement: the humor of a situation.
2.
the faculty of perceiving what is amusing or comical: He is completely without humor.
3.
an instance of being or attempting to be comical or amusing; something humorous: The humor in his joke eluded the audience.
4.
the faculty of expressing the amusing or comical: The author's humor came across better in the book than in the movie.
5.
comical writing or talk in general; comical books, skits, plays, etc.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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116 months ago
Smart Signs

I spoke with a retail employee and he explained to me that the smart signs do put you into a queue, but unfortunately the position in line isn't necessarily true. There are some people who come into the store that aren't using the smart sign but were there before other customers who do. It's always best to check in with the person at the front door otherwise you may not be helped. It is their job to direct you to the right people so the wait times are minimal, so you can be in and out and be satisfied.

Apple is a great company, they look out for their customers, all we have to do is listen and not b-line past the front door person haha.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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116 months ago

one day, maybe - from what I read here, that day didn't come yet. :D

You can't judge it from a couple experiences. You also need to take in consideration that this has just been implemented. Give it a few weeks to be tweaked. This is still dependent on employee engagement. I understand Apple does a good job on hiring store employees but there will always be bad apples.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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