Apple to overhaul retail operations with iPads running new RetailMe software

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Apple stores have been receiving stockpiles of iPad 2 units with magnetic Smart Covers, as Apple is prepared to equip its retail specialists with tablets for on-the-job use, AppleInsider has learned.



People familiar with Apple's retail operations revealed that stores across the U.S. have been stocked with dozens of iPads that are being prepared for use by employees. Training and utilization of the hardware could begin as soon as this weekend.



In one location, nearly 40 iPads were supplied for a store with about 100 specialists. Based on those numbers, everyone working on any given day could be equipped with an iPad, perhaps in place of an iPod touch-based EasyPay terminal, which Apple stores switched to in 2009.



It's also possible that the iPads could be used in addition to the current iPod touch EasyPay terminals, perhaps utilizing the larger screen of an iPad for showcasing product features to customers. While a device the size of an iPad could offer distinct advantages like signing to authorize a credit card transaction, it could also prove unwieldy when used for other activities, like when employees input data, unless it is placed on a desk. Currently, employees stand next to customers to complete a transaction holding just an iPod touch.



The delivery of iPads to stores around the country comes as Apple is apparently prepared to release an iPad version of its proprietary in-house communications client known as RetailMe. The RetailMe service offers information about products and training videos for retail employees.



One person privy to the workings of Apple's brick-and-mortar stores suggested that the RetailMe software for iPad could turn out to be the be the password protected gigabytes of corporate training data that employees were recently issued. Still, as usual, employees have been kept in the dark, leaving them to put pieces together and draw conclusions based on the available evidence.



"We still don't have details as to what is going on this weekend," one person said.



As further evidence of the impending roll-out of iPads at Apple's stores, AppleInsider was provided a photo of stacks of iPad 2 units stockpiled in the back of a retail location.







AppleInsider first reported on Tuesday that changes at Apple's retail stores set to begin this weekend will be "procedural" in nature, suggesting they will be related to the way the shops run or operate, rather than new products customers could buy. This would align with the distribution of iPads and new RetailMe software to Apple specialists.



Apple's existing iPod touch-based EasyPay



Apple is said to have scheduled a series of meetings for employees at its retail stores beginning this Sunday. The date is just a few days after the tenth anniversary of Apple's retail operations, which has led to rampant speculation of more fantastic changes such as near-field communication payments.



In April, AppleInsider was first to reveal that Apple had restricted employee time off between May 20 and 22. At the time it was said that store managers were "very excited" about those dates.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    While the "gigabytes" of material may be training and programs for the iPad retail system, it doesn't seem likely that that's what they'd use to celebrate their 10th anniversary and it doesn't seem like something store managers would be particularly excited about. Aren't these sorts of progressions just business as usual?
  • Reply 2 of 51
    Hey Apple, how about putting some damn iPads in your stores to SELL before giving them to employees to use as a handheld cash register.
  • Reply 3 of 51
    ktappektappe Posts: 763member
    I wasn't expecting a major announcement this weekend; no new hardware or any such headline-grabber. I did think it might be iCloud, which would rank as a minor announcement and be of at least some interest. But if this iPad2's-as-sales-tool is all that will be happening, it basically means nothing at all to the consumer and is thus a letdown after all the conjecture. Bummer.
  • Reply 4 of 51
    I worked in apple retail when they used the Windows powered handheld checkout devices. They were cumbersome and flaky. I left before they switched to the iPod touch checkout devices but thought that was a benefit for the specialists on the floor. I can't imagine carrying an ipad for an eight-hour shift. If in fact they expect sales to be conducted using iPads there better be some huge holsters or apple branded tactical pants with massive pockets to carry them around. While iPads don't weigh much, after several hours anyones forearm would be cramped holding one.
  • Reply 5 of 51
    paul94544paul94544 Posts: 1,027member
    I agree about arm stress, though I can imagine the employee might have the iPad tether the thing by hanging it around his/her neck. The advantage of this method would be when employee uses it themselves would orient itself correctly and when customer it would drop down and display it would flip so customer could write signature or view app running. Plus of course employee can walk around hands free and not lose it.



    Not sure if 1.1 pounds of weight on neck might cause health related injuries though. lawsuit / workers comp??





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by applestoapples View Post


    I worked in apple retail when they used the Windows powered handheld checkout devices. They were cumbersome and flaky. I left before they switched to the iPod touch checkout devices but thought that was a benefit for the specialists on the floor. I can't imagine carrying an ipad for an eight-hour shift. If in fact they expect sales to be conducted using iPads there better be some huge holsters or apple branded tactical pants with massive pockets to carry them around. While iPads don't weigh much, after several hours anyones forearm would be cramped holding one.



  • Reply 6 of 51
    prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    ... a device the size of an iPad could ... also prove unwieldy when used for other activities, like when employees input data, unless it is placed on a desk. Currently, employees stand next to customers to complete a transaction holding just an iPod touch. ...



    I don't get this comment. If you *have* to put an iPad down on a desk to put information in it, you're doing it wrong.



    Inputting information while standing up is kinda the whole point of having an iPad instead of a laptop.
  • Reply 7 of 51
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by applestoapples View Post


    I worked in apple retail when they used the Windows powered handheld checkout devices. They were cumbersome and flaky. I left before they switched to the iPod touch checkout devices but thought that was a benefit for the specialists on the floor. I can't imagine carrying an ipad for an eight-hour shift. If in fact they expect sales to be conducted using iPads there better be some huge holsters or apple branded tactical pants with massive pockets to carry them around. While iPads don't weigh much, after several hours anyones forearm would be cramped holding one.



    How heavy were those Moto devices? Were they designed in a way that holding them was comfortable?



    I've already seen employees with iPads, some with the case that holds your hand o it on the backside. That would seem to make it easier to hold.
  • Reply 8 of 51
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,215member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by applestoapples View Post


    I worked in apple retail when they used the Windows powered handheld checkout devices. They were cumbersome and flaky. I left before they switched to the iPod touch checkout devices but thought that was a benefit for the specialists on the floor. I can't imagine carrying an ipad for an eight-hour shift.



    I checked with my sources.

    These ipads are NOT for point of sale. They made the switch because stores have only perhaps 3 computers on the private network that employees can use for checking email etc. But they have a good 50 employees working on any given day with 6-8 starting a shift at the same time. And they need to check email and such before going on the floor so they are giving out correct and up to date info.



    So now they can get an ipad and do their reading, turn it back in and hit the floor. That's all.



    There are 2-3 customer facing ipads in use already but they are separate from this. They are used for checking folks in, adding those without iphones to the wait lists during busy times and for doing the paperwork for those One to One data transfers (which starting next week will allow for digital signatures and 'airprint' of work forms)



    Easy pay ring up on those ipod touches is not going anywhere.



    My sources also tell me:
    • That their stores have NOT received any major hardware that is under lock and key as some rumors claim and they believe that said hardware is actually the last installations of the set up area tables which have been rolling for several weeks.

    • They said that it is possible but not probable that they will be issued new shirts. If they are it's more likely something they will wear for the next week for the anniversary and then back to the regular blue the week later. Or simply changing it up and same style and material but a new color. something that isn't Best Buy Blue. Not likely black since they use that for a particular reason. Maybe something orange, green or a golden yellow. But all staff the same color.

    • They suspect that the black curtains are a combo of perhaps one or more new windows and inside banners for the floor perhaps for the anniversary and simply wanting to keep lookers from disturbing the meetings. Stores have apparently complained about customers seeing the folks in the store and banging on the door wanting to buy something, get their phones fixed etc. Curtains up is a giant 'no'. And if they do knock the sounds is muffled by all the fabric so it doesn't interrupt anything

    • They say it is possible that the 2-3 free standing card readers on the sales floor (used when a customers card won't swipe on the hand helds) could be updated to models that will also take NFC as part of rolling that system into the stores. But that it is NOT a reflection of if or when any actual devices would get said tech

    • The whole phone things, my sources say, has been going on for a while. And it's to prevent folks from playing games when they should be paying attention.

    • If there is an NDA it can be for anything. A new store process or product.



      If it is a product it is most likely whatever is happening with MobileMe and could be under an NDA because it won't be announced to the public until WWDC or even 1-2 weeks later (perhaps with the new iphone). Apple would want the staff to know that new stuff inside and out so they can confidently pitch it to customers particularly if it has a cost involved ("Why should I pay for this when X gives it to me for free?" and so on).



      If it is a store process it could be something that Apple believes will really shake things up and those they don't want it spread around so places like Microsoft will get a heads up.



      Or it could be that they are having folks sign a fresh NDA every meeting so if they catch someone leaking info they have a paper trail to back up firing the person for not following company policy (validity of the NDA itself aside, if the rule is keep your mouth shut you keep it shut). It's hard to claim you don't know the rules when you signed your name to agreeing to follow it once every 3 months for a year and a half, or simply just last month



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Paul94544 View Post


    though I can imagine the employee might have the iPad tether the thing by hanging it around his/her neck



    Thus looking like a total asshat. AND risking the tether breaking.



    I've seen folks with the floor ipads at the stores that I go to. They hold them in a hand, pass them around and set them in the table when they need the hand free. Not a big deal. IF Apple was going to do anything to have them with ipads on the floor that aren't in hand or on the table to be swiped by someone then they would likely do some kind of bag. Perhaps bring back the belts they had for the MotoEasyPay and attach a bigger holster to it. Perhaps something with a cross the body strap. Or even user choice. Many employees that I've dealt with are wearing their own shirt under their uniform shirt so it would be no big to put on the strap and then the work shirt over it. Especially if the bag detached for going to breaks etc
  • Reply 9 of 51
    cambocambo Posts: 38member
    They've been using iPads in the Vancouver Store for ages...just assumed it was systemwide.



    Is this really 'news'?



    Cameron
  • Reply 10 of 51
    psych_guypsych_guy Posts: 458member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    I don't get this comment. If you *have* to put an iPad down on a desk to put information in it, you're doing it wrong.



    Inputting information while standing up is kinda the whole point of having an iPad instead of a laptop.



    Says you! What? I should bring my laptop to the airport just because I want to set in my lap to tap out email and update Facebook? I shouldn't be bringing my iPad to watch movies on the plane or journal?



    If you're not using it the way you want to you're doing it wrong.
  • Reply 11 of 51
    tardistardis Posts: 90member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by charlituna View Post


    I checked with my sources.

    These ipads are NOT for point of sale. They made the switch because stores have only perhaps 3 computers on the private network that employees can use for checking email etc. But they have a good 50 employees working on any given day with 6-8 starting a shift at the same time. And they need to check email and such before going on the floor so they are giving out correct and up to date info.



    So now they can get an ipad and do their reading, turn it back in and hit the floor. That's all.



    There are 2-3 customer facing ipads in use already but they are separate from this. They are used for checking folks in, adding those without iphones to the wait lists during busy times and for doing the paperwork for those One to One data transfers (which starting next week will allow for digital signatures and 'airprint' of work forms)



    Easy pay ring up on those ipod touches is not going anywhere.



    My sources also tell me:
    • .....



      If it is a product it is most likely whatever is happening with MobileMe and could be under an NDA because it won't be announced to the public until WWDC ..... so they can confidently pitch it to customers particularly if it has a cost involved ("Why should I pay for this when X gives it to me for free?" and so on).



      If it is a store process it could be something that Apple believes will really shake things up and those they don't want it spread around so places like Microsoft will get a heads up.



      Or it could be that they are having folks sign a fresh NDA every meeting .....






    I went to an Apple Store last week and the staff had handheld iPods with card scanners so they could handle a sale from anywhere. If you paid cash, they had to go to a cash drawer to give change. I don't know where they got plastic bags from, but I said I didn't need one and the sales person reached under a table and brought out a "Sold" sticker.



    My appointment was handled by a concierge with an iPod. Previously I have seen Apple Store staff using iPads, and before that they used MacBook Airs.
  • Reply 12 of 51
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    I don't get this comment. If you *have* to put an iPad down on a desk to put information in it, you're doing it wrong.



    Inputting information while standing up is kinda the whole point of having an iPad instead of a laptop.



    Yes of course. The iPad 2 is quite usable while standing. In portrait mode, you can thumb the keyboard, although it's takes some getting used to. Navigating and tapping buttons and links can be done easily while standing. You have to set it on a table to type in landscape mode.
  • Reply 13 of 51
    Are any of Apple's competitors looking at what Apple is doing? Apple is constantly improving every aspect of their business...not just software and hardware, but everything.



    It's time for RIM, MS, Google and HP to get their fingers out of their noses and do something! Anything! Ugh!
  • Reply 14 of 51
    This could be the most boring 10th anniversary for the customers...who cares..
  • Reply 15 of 51
    pxtpxt Posts: 683member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Paul94544 View Post


    I agree about arm stress, though I can imagine the employee might have the iPad tether the thing by hanging it around his/her neck. The advantage of this method would be when employee uses it themselves would orient itself correctly and when customer it would drop down and display it would flip so customer could write signature or view app running. Plus of course employee can walk around hands free and not lose it.



    Not sure if 1.1 pounds of weight on neck might cause health related injuries though. lawsuit / workers comp??



    There's also the potential for a comedy chest app.
  • Reply 16 of 51
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    How heavy were those Moto devices? Were they designed in a way that holding them was comfortable?



    I've already seen employees with iPads, some with the case that holds your hand o it on the backside. That would seem to make it easier to hold.



    They had some weight but could be cupped in the palm of your hand and fit in a back pocket of your jeans. I think the size of the ipad is what would make it less ideal for this scenario. If others are right about the devices being used for training/reading while staying out of the "back of house" then that makes far more sense. It was cramped back there and the inventory guys weren't fans of the traffic.
  • Reply 17 of 51
    jawcljawcl Posts: 10member
    I wonder if this is just one of those things that may not even happen. And why are they stealing all of our iPad 2s? Now we know where all the stock went...
  • Reply 18 of 51
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    I realized the other day why I don't like Apple retail stores. The two things that stand out about them is that the environment is highly designed and sterile, and the shop assistants are very casual, both in dress and manner.



    Sorry to get political, bit this is essentially a model of a leftist ideal world. The economy highly designed/controlled but the people themselves have no standards or judgment applied to them.



    If you can imagine an ideal capitalist Apple Store, it would be slightly cluttered and messy, since they don't believe in controlling the economy so much, but the people themselves would be well dressed and polite, since they believe in holding people to standards.



    On another topic, even the Apple Store Online has been going downhill lately. It used to be just 3 clicks: product family-> product model->buy (with optional customisation after you click on the product model screen). So logical and essential. But now there is a totally redundant screen after you select the product family, where you have to select exactly the same product family again, even though you just clicked that.
  • Reply 19 of 51
    malaxmalax Posts: 1,598member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by john22132 View Post


    This could be the most boring 10th anniversary for the customers...who cares..



    I don't know if this is intended as a criticism of Apple or not. My answer is "who is asking you to care?" Apple hasn't said a peep about this being the 10th anniversary of Apple retail have they? I guess I can see why one could be "disappointed" if nothing exciting happens, but that's not Apple's fault. A week ago none of even remembered it was the 10th ann'y and certainly weren't expecting anything. Apple schedules some staff in-services and all of a sudden they're on the hook for a mind-blowing announcement?



    Also, thanks to Charlituna for the cogent insider perspective/analysis.
  • Reply 20 of 51
    ktappektappe Posts: 763member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    I realized the other day why I don't like Apple retail stores. The two things that stand out about them is that the environment is highly designed and sterile, and the shop assistants are very casual, both in dress and manner.



    Sorry to get political, bit this is essentially a model of a leftist ideal world. The economy highly designed/controlled but the people themselves have no standards or judgment applied to them.



    If you can imagine an ideal capitalist Apple Store, it would be slightly cluttered and messy, since they don't believe in controlling the economy so much, but the people themselves would be well dressed and polite, since they believe in holding people to standards.



    Isn't that where our entire society is heading? Nobody where I work wears a tie or suit. I don't think I know anyone in any walk of my life who does. But 50 years ago we all would have.



    Due to this relaxation of society, Apple has made the conscious decision to standardize a relaxed atmosphere in its stores. I have to contradict your last point; there absolutely are standards in the Apple stores; they just aren't your standards. But given Apple's continued overwhelming sales, they obviously are a lot of other peoples' standards. Perhaps it's you who are the standout. Just a thought.
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