Mind the Store

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Apple's Retail Flex Program Post-Pandemic

Brian Tervo, President & COO
by Brian Tervo, President & COO
Wednesday, July 7, 2021

While we are all glad to see stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues opening up again after the shutdowns of 2020, the pandemic forced many consumers into new shopping behaviors. In a recent McKinsey Report 73% of US shoppers reported adopting new behaviors during COVID like BOPIS, curbside pick-up, and contactless checkout. It simply wasn’t possible in some areas to go to stores during 2020. What did many shoppers realize? The newer ways of getting what they want are habits they plan to continue. According to a Deloitte survey shoppers are planning on increasing the amount of purchasing they do online during 2021:

  • For those buying apparel, 27% will buy more items online in 2021
  • For shoppers who need consumer electronics, 29% will up their e-commerce purchases in 2021
  • 30% of Buyers who need health and beauty products will increase their online spending this year as well.

Shoppers aren’t the only ones changing up the retail game. Apple has just released details of its new hybrid in-store and work-from-home arrangement for their retail employees. While many jobs transitioned to remote work during the pandemic, a store associate’s position would seem to require the employee to be in store, but Apple’s “Retail Flex” program is online. The retail experiment will have in-store employees working some part of their week from home, helping to assist e-commerce browsers with product questions, customer service issues or tech support. Apple is known for hiring passionate fans of their products to staff their store, and they are bringing that same concept to live chat on their e-commerce platform.

Who knew such a thing was possible? We did. Needle has the same system, for e-commerce brands, except we were doing it long before the pandemic. Just as office jobs are transitioning to remote work, retail is pivoting many of their efforts in sales, customer service, and tech support to an online business model. It’s not impossible to have brand engagement, personal advice, and product sharing in an online chat. Needle reps do it every day, live in real time. Our chat platform blends seamlessly with your website and is staffed with passionate brand fans who already know and love your products. They’re already your customers, because we leverage social media posts to identify, train, and manage brand reps that can take your e-commerce game to the next level. By activating the network of fans your brand already has, the Needle platform can drive 20-30% more conversions through chat conversations.

Changes can be difficult to manage, especially after the past year when it was so uncertain how the economy would adapt. We think the Needle business model is going to make a real difference in growing market share, lifting sales, and turning the corner on what’s been a difficult time. 

Learn more about the return to in-store
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