Apple (s aapl) significantly updated its retail store experience over the weekend, and the star of the show (which you can see more of at AppleInsider) for Apple Retail 2.0 is clearly the iPad. iPads are now in place as interactive customer displays stationed in permanent enclosures next to Mac and other Apple products, where they provide information and retail-specific functions.
The new iPad displays are distinct from the iPads on display for customers to try out; their home button doesn’t do anything, and the tablets appear to be running a custom version of iOS software that is specifically designed for the Apple Retail environment. The iPad software displays information for the products they’re next to, including pricing, technical information and features. You can also compare different models from the iPad consoles, check out a section aimed at new Mac users (who continue to be a key target audience for Apple Stores), get support information and also call a specialist to come and help you out.
The presence of the iPads means that instead of static information placards, customers have access to an interactive display featuring tons of useful information regarding the product next to it you’re interested in buying. At the same time, you’re using another Apple product to digest said information. It’s a natural extension of Apple’s hands-on experience retail focus and could lead to more retail sales as people experience the ease of iPad navigation and its responsiveness.
The use of iPads as selling tools is one step closer to providing a retail experience that sells by using the infrastructure of sales, not just marketing and display material and the products themselves. Apple Retail 2.0 is a live case study that other business owners and retailers can observe in action, complete with examples of how Apple hardware and software can work together to change the very nature of your in-store customer relationship.
Apple also introduced a new version of its Apple Store iPhone app, which brings new in-store features, including push alerts telling you when the next Genius Bar appointment is available, and a call button for a customer service representative, so you don’t have to hunt down a blue-shirt yourself. The app also now includes built-to-order customization options for Macs.
All of the changes mirror a trend with Apple in general to move to in-house solutions where possible, and to keep the ecosystem and product interaction tight. But it also acts as a great example for business users and enterprise, where iPads are often used as sales tools. Apple hasn’t traditionally pushed its products very hard on the enterprise sales side, but it’s still making huge gains in that space. And while it may not market to business directly very much, creating a living, breathing proof-of-concept is arguably a much better selling tactic, anyway.