The Apple Store experience in 2020 has been defined by COVID-19 safety measures. But in the background, Apple has been steadily iterating on new ways to educate customers through improved store navigation. QR codes and NFC tags are beginning to serve an important role in how we shop and receive support.

Apple’s latest wayfinding designs emphasize scannable tags that help customers spend less time waiting and act as field guides to the store. Apple Stores have long been noted for their absence of cluttered signage, and these tags add rich context to in-store features without compromising aesthetics.

QR codes and NFC tags for Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade have recently been added to the Avenue displays at some stores. The small tiles are Apple’s first use of NFC tags with a call to action in the retail environment. Customer iPhones are directed to pages in the TV app and App Store where they can learn more about Apple’s services.

This isn’t the first time Apple has augmented the store experience. Anyone who’s visited an Apple Store during the pandemic will be familiar with Apple’s most successful use of in-store QR codes so far. Easels detailing service capacity and support options flank the entrance to every store, accompanied by codes that offer quick access to online shopping, in-store shopping appointments, and Genius Support.

During a health crisis, these codes limit the amount of direct contact customers need with a Specialist to complete their visit. Most importantly, the signage gives customers an active role in making their visit successful, reducing the amount of time spent passively waiting in line and offering actionable information even beyond the store environment.

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In March, Apple employed QR codes below its “iPhone can do whaaaat?” displays, tying together an online marketing initiative with physical merchandise installations of the same theme. QR codes were also central to Today at Apple cards given to visitors prior to the start of the pandemic, providing a quick way to sign up for creative sessions. In fall 2019, custom display fixtures for Beats Solo Pro and Powerbeats Pro headphones included interactive demo apps with QR codes that led users to special websites with additional product information.

These new ways of interacting with the store offer customers who want to explore or learn more the tools they need to shop independently, freeing up Specialists to offer more personal service to customers who prefer one-on-one assistance. Looking forward, there’s great potential for codes and tags to play an even greater role.

Future signage could link to Apple Watch Studio, upcoming services like Fitness+, or even the Apple Store app’s iPhone comparison tool. Appointment check-in could be automated with a quick scan. And we’ve yet to see the impact of app discoverability thanks to App Clip codes, which just launched in iOS 14.

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