Thursday, December 29, 2005

Apples and Staples

Remember my belly aching a year ago trying to get out of a Staples? Peter Burrows of BusinessWeek Online observed my retail dreamworld doing his Christmas shopping last week:
I experienced it on Dec. 24, when I made my last pre-Christmas stop at an Apple store to pick up a new Mac game for my 5-year-old. There, I saw a table set up just to sell iPods, with a big monitor set-up advising customers which models were in stock. It's called the iPod Express table. But the best part was that the Apple "Geniuses" behind the table had wireless gizmos for scanning credit cards, and Apple had worked out a totally wireless, paperless checkout process, called EasyPay. Once scanned, they advise you that the receipt will be in your inbox within an hour (since I'm already a registered Apple customer, they didn't even need to take my email or other information).
I'm no expert in retail operations, but this experience certainly made me wonder why this wouldn't, or shouldn't, be the future of retail. Given the pace at which folks were leaving that store with products in hand, clearly the increased velocity of order-taking was a good thing for Apple.
No, Mr. Burrows, you are an expert in retail operations. Separating customers from their money as efficiently as possible equals a) the ability to process customers with the same or less amount of resources (yay for the retailer) and b) customer loyalty -- they had the bread in hand and you gave them what they wanted without getting in their way (yay for the customer).

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