Making Money With Technology

Apple Revolutionizes Customer Checkout in Retail Stores

November 28, 2009

  • Adrienne Szewczyk Adrienne Szewczyk

I had a chance to get up close and personal with the new point of sale system at an Apple Store tonight. Replacing the previous mobile POS system is an iPod Touch wrapped up in a black case that contains a laser barcode scanner. The iPod runs Apple’s Easy Pay app to manage the transactions. The store employee logs in with their Apple ID and they’re presented a simple front end that links to Apple’s existing transaction systems. The app has a very iPhone friendly UI and allows the user to do things like delete a scanned item from the purchase list with the typical single finger swipe to bring up a delete button.

The Apple Store employee gave me a couple examples of how fast the system is to use now. Previously, ringing up a new iPhone with accessories could take 10-15 minutes including the activation.  The new system allows the Apple crew to run the scanner down a page of barcodes and it reads them all in at once. His record time for an iPhone checkout with setup was just under two minutes. That’s an amazing time and labor savings. The new system allows anyone in the store to handle returns now as well, something that was pretty tedious using Apple’s previous generation of mobile POS.

The case hardware itself looked and felt very sturdy (a harder rubberized plastic case) and I suspect it contains an external battery as well (couldn’t get confirmation there). The laser activated quickly from the software and looked very well integrated. I didn’t have the opportunity to pop the iPod from the case to dig in deeper so that’ll happen on a future trip.

Apple has followed their typical path of taking their time to roll out a solution that blows away previous standards and this new point of sale system is setting a very high bar that other retailers will likely be striving to emulate in the year ahead.