The new iOpportunity

Apple’s latest iPhone has launched to a predictable fanfare but what opportunities does it offer for tomorrow’s retailer? Tim Brooks, principal for digital initiatives and retail analytics at World Wide Technology, explains

In the coming weeks, following the official announcement of the new iPhone, consumers will be queuing up to get their hands on the latest iteration of Apple’s wildly popular device. 
The main appeal of the iPhone over other devices has been its ability to put a multitude of services into the palm of your hand with extreme ease and minimal set-up. 
Users can switch between messaging friends, checking bank balances and ordering a taxi almost completely seamlessly on the iOS. It is this seamlessness of experience that retailers who run physical stores have been trying to capture in recent years to keep up with their more agile online competition. The new iPhone has the potential to make that gap a little narrower. 
Beacons
A much discussed feature that will come as standard with the new iPhone has been the introduction of Maps to indoor environments such as airports and shopping centres. This feature comes as no surprise to those working in the technology world as we’ve seen the virtual Bluetooth Low Energy (vBLE) beacons that can facilitate this innovation rolled out over the last few months and years, in public spaces such as airports. 
Put simply, vBLE beacons offer a far higher degree of location-finding accuracy than conventional triangulation-based WiFi hotspots. For users, this means that they can benefit from ‘blue-dot’ location services, similar to a car’s GPS, in much more confined, indoor spaces. 
Retailers should seize this opportunity. Enhanced location services mean that retailers can better understand their customers and the products which interest them. For example, brick and mortar retailers can use location services to converge customer path data and basket analysis to determine the effectiveness of in-store merchandising and promotions – just like online stores. 
On a granular level this means that customers located in front of a big-ticket item can automatically receive additional product information directly to their phones via Bluetooth or WiFi.
Potential
This latest iPhone will boast the largest screen seen on any previous model. The potential for unleashing Augmented Reality (AR) on the iOS platform is therefore greater than ever. AR has the potential to greatly enhance the in-store experience, as information and images can be drawn from sources beyond the four walls of the store. We can expect improved product demonstrations and detailed feature specifications to appear onscreen alongside the product as customers target it with their iPhone camera. 
The new iPhone also heralds the release of iOS11, the latest version of the phone’s operating system.  One of Apple’s strongest points when it comes to attracting retailers to their platform is their vibrant App ecosystem where customers can find an associated app for almost any brand they can think of.  
However, brands which truly want to take advantage of the iOS platform and the high-performance tech that will underpin the latest iPhone will need to go beyond thinking of their App as another shop window, limited to simply showing customers their products. 
We have seen retailers thrive when they have embraced the full capability of app-based ecommerce, not only giving customers an incredible experience but also driving up revenue as shoppers find it easier to buy.
A good app strategy encompasses the full product range but also adds value, meaning that customers can receive additional services such as personalised offers and click-and-collect which further streamlines the purchase journey. 
From the moment the iPhone hits the shelves, the race will be on amongst retailers to unlock the potential value it can bring to the market, both online and off.