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Apple’s Jennifer Bailey Retail Appeal: Business Chat Plus Apple Pay Equals Engagement

Apple is still preparing to roll out Business Chat with retail partners like Lowe's as mobile is expected to be the largest e-commerce channel in 2021 in the U.S., Bailey told NRF Big Show attendees.

The use of mobile payments and the ability to chat one-on-one between local businesses and consumers have long ceased to be revolutionary for retailers, but Apple VP Jennifer Bailey took to the stage at the NRF Big Show 2018 to make the case that in the Cupertino company’s hands, these tools become game-changing technologies.

Among the primary features Bailey highlighted in her afternoon keynote was Apple’s Business Chat, which the company previewed at June’s WWDC event introducing iOS 11.

Clearly designed to match Facebook Messenger’s direct merchant/consumer connections, Bailey presented Business Chat as a way to amplify and enhance omnichannel engagement as a way for brands — and Apple, naturally — to capitalize on the growth of mobile commerce.

“Mobile is increasingly transforming retail. Let’s talk about that in more detail,” Bailey said. “Looking back 10 years, Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, when all the internet usage and e-commerce was happening on personal computers. The iPhone began this mobile transition, and in 2016 mobile usage overtook personal computer usage, and it’s never going back. That’s traffic, but what about commerce?

“Already, mobile represents 25 percent of all e-commerce in the U.S,” Bailey continued. “It’s growing four times faster than desktop e-commerce, and 10 times faster than physical retail. With these growth rates, mobile spend is expected to be the largest e-commerce channel in 2021 in the US. While you may we make think some of these forecasts are overly optimistic, we already see, like markets in China, that over 80 percent of e-commerce is mobile. With our 1 billion active iPhones in our global market, we see mobile devices as the predominant way we will digitally engage with customers.”

Apps vs. Walled-Gardens

In discussing the growth of mobile and Apple’s place in it, Bailey also took what could be seen as a subtle swipe at Google’s attempts to build out the physical web and extend mobile commerce and marketing beyond the walled garden of apps, which is where Apple’s revenue is increasingly derived.

“Mobile is truly transforming how we live our lives, and apps are at the center of this change,” Bailey said. “Of the time spent on mobile devices, 87 percent is spent within apps. Let me say that again. All the time we spend on our iPhones, 87 percent of that is spent in an app.”

Anticipating doubts about those figures when it comes to shopping, Bailey disputed that most of e-commerce traffic is on the web, not in apps.

“We’re seeing is the same pattern as when internet shopping began,” she said. “The internet and personal computing have had a huge influence on how we all shop, and now we’re seeing the same thing with apps. The impact of mobile commerce is even more rapid, and more profound in changing how we shop, and how we, as retailers need to engage with our customers.

“Why do customers prefer apps? The reason is clear. With iOS apps, we can deliver the best possible experience,” Bailey said. “Apps enable you to leverage the power of integrated hardware, software, and services by using capabilities like the camera, location services, identity, and augmented reality. Many of you are already innovating with apps, and making them the centerpiece of your customer experiences. Let me show you some of the best retailing apps we see today.”

Apple’s Jennifer Bailey touts mobile commerce via apps at NRF Big Show 2018

Warby Parker Taps Apple

In offering a practical example of how apps can bridge online-to-offline commerce, Bailey put a spotlight on Warby Parker, which began primarily as an online retailer, and now has over 60 physical stores.

For example, the use of augmented reality can provide that best mix of omnichannel marketing, she said.

“Warby Parker has a five star app for shopping, and most recently they took on the challenge of recommending glasses for their e-commerce customers,” Bailey said. “That’s a pretty tough problem if you can’t physically try on a pair of glasses, right? Well, Warby Parker is solving the challenge by using our true depth camera technology in a new and innovative way. Let’s take a look.

“Within the app you tap on find your fit. Then you hold up your iPhone, and the Warby Parker app creates a map of your face, using the true depth camera. In real time, the app uses proprietary algorithms to recommend the frames that fit you best, based on that facial scan,” Bailey said. “You can then select the frames you like, and use Apple Pay to buy them. In a few short steps, your new glasses are on the way. Even if you don’t need new glasses, you should give this a try.”

Continuing The Conversation

Besides being able to virtually try things on via the phone, being able to get direct answers without having to jump from one app to two one or two others is part of the ease and seamlessness Apple is promising brands with Business Chat, which is connected to Apple Maps.

Essentially, the concept is that as personalization becomes an expected part of retailing generally, businesses need to get comfortable having a conversation with its customers “just like they do with their friends,” Bailey said.

For example, customers can ask about service, product information, technical support, and even new orders.

Using Lowe’s, one of Business Chat’s launch partners, Bailey suggested that after doing a search for the nearest Lowe’s location, a customer would see a store detail card with a new contact option for messages. Just one tap, and a customer can start a conversation directly with Lowe’s.

Business Chat can also be initiated via Apple’s voice activated assistant Siri for directions to the nearest Lowe’s location. As HomePod, Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home connected devices, is slated to be released in the next few weeks, Business Chat could be a crucial opening to discovery and engagement. When engaged, Siri can show and tell a user about Lowe’s store information, also with an option to message the business directly.

Just to cover all the bases, Bailey also noted that Apple isn’t going to “force” users to find all this information in apps. If someone searches for a Lowe’s in its Safari web browser, a Business Chat conversation can be started from there as well.

Contactless And Cartless

At the center of Apple’s m-commerce moves is its Apple Wallet and Apple Pay, even though those features haven’t seemed to attract a lot of attention and plaudits from the tech press.

Here, too, Bailey rejected that premise.

“We launched Apple Pay over three years ago, and the merchant and customer momentum has been fantastic,” she said. It’s a true omnichannel tool, because it can be used in store, in app, and on the web.”

Shortly after Apple Pay was introduced, acceptance was 3 percent of U.S. retail locations, Bailey noted. Today it’s more than 50 percent of all US physical retail locations.

And it’s not just small retailers, she added. About 67 of the top 100 retailers accept Apple Pay today in their physical stores. “In total, this is the fastest contactless adoption in any country that we know of,” Bailey said.

Turning to online, and Apple’s focus on apps, 85 of the top global, the top 100 global commerce apps, accept Apple Pay.

“These app developers are seeing a two to five times increase in checkout conversion, when customer used Apple Pay over any other payment method,” Bailey added.

In an example of how Apple Pay has worked, Lululemon’s app can provide a quick search for, say, yoga pants. A customer can select the size and the color, and check out using Apple Pay, right from the item page.

With Apple Pay, the iPhone automatically provides default billing, shipping, and card information, so there’s no need to go through the process of filling out manually. In fact, in this example, the customer doesn’t even have to go to the cart: just double-click, and glance at the phone to authenticate with face ID, and that’s it; the order’s on its way.

“Of course, Apple Pay is great for shopping in store as well. It’s simpler, faster, and more secure than any other payment method including the new chip cards,” Bailey said. “But most of you know that already. So what else do we have? We know like all of you, our physical store experiences are critical to our businesses. And we know that the foundation of great retailing is the combination of great people, great products, and great services.”

 

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.