Apple announced some pretty huge improvements to its software last week, and it’s clear that under Tim Cook the company is deviating quite significantly from its heritage as a predominantly closed eco-system.
By opening up Siri, Messaging, and Maps to third-party developers, Apple is well on its way to disrupting its OS proposition.
And with it, Apple (and others) is steering us towards the third wave of digital transformation, the ‘Platform Economy’.
The first wave involved migrating offline experiences to a website, while the second involved optimizing website experiences for mobile (Apps).
And with recent announcements by Google, Facebook (Messenger) and now Apple, it is clear the third wave will be about optimizing apps for a few core pillar platforms that integrate other products and services into a tightly woven experience.
This is a significant and disruptive transition, not only for technology incumbents, but for traditional businesses and consumers too.
Just like we have built policies, processes and competencies around the web and then mobile, organizations will need to do the same for platforms, but with one caveat.
These experiences will be delivered in an environment curated and controlled by a third party, and thought will need to be given not only to how we roll out products and services in the future, but how we maintain our relationship with the end consumer, when essentially we are delivering an experience through an intermediary.
Whilst the above is game-changing in nature (particular over the medium to long term) as someone employed in financial services, I believe Apple’s decision to extend Apple Pay to the web browser also has the potential to be pretty significant and in quicker time, too.
Enhancements in experience design
Essentially Apple Pay on the web will give ecommerce players and all digital incumbents a new lens through which to view experience design.
Since the first ecommerce site was launched back in 1992, the generic ecommerce interface has hardly changed. We still employ shopping carts, catalogues, panels and web pages.
Yet all of our digital experiences outside commerce have changed.
From Tinder, to Uber and Airbnb, customer-obsessed startups are providing fast, simple, personal and enchanting user experiences which are driving growth.
And with the introduction of Apple Pay for the web, traditional digital incumbents can now deliver streamlined, frictionless user experiences which do the same.
The rise of contextual commerce
By shortening and in some cases eliminating the purchase stage of the conversion funnel, Apple is not just removing the disconnect in the experience customers have from cart to checkout.
The company is unlocking opportunities for merchants to seamlessly implement “one click” payment options for the web/mobile web, image-heavy social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and brick and mortar locations.
This change (in parallel with Near Field Communications technology and the adoption of APIs) has the potential to provide a channel agnostic solution that completely condenses what can be an unnecessarily extended customer journey.
Giving brands the ability to provide integrated omni-channel experiences in real-time, as consumers discover, evaluate and purchase our products.
Example: Integrated real-time engagements
Imagine being at work, and a colleague has just walked in with the Apple Watch, which you have been thinking about purchasing for some time.
Instead of asking her specifics about the device, you tap the watch with your smartphone (both your phone and the watch have NFC-enabled capabilities), and immediately all the information related to the watch, such as price, reviews, similar products, as well as the ability for you to purchase the watch there and then and have it shipped to your home, are communicated to your mobile device.
As pointed out by thought-leaders such as Noz Urbina, the introduction of Apple Pay for the web will enable scenarios like the above.
Encouraging brands not just to think in terms of online and offline, but instead to focus on integrated real-time engagements, as we deliver user experiences, which allow customers to consider, evaluate and purchase our products simultaneously, at any point along the customer journey.
And all without the hassles that came along with earlier forms of payment, such as scrawling a signature on a piece of paper, or spending minutes on end registering to a website.
Finally, beyond being just a payment platform, Apple Pay will provide significant value in regards to loyalty, as brands use it as a mechanism for extending customer lifetime value.
How many of us have online interactions with brands that bear no connection with in-flight contextual data about us or our ongoing relationships with those brands.
Tying this data in with the actual marketing and sales platform is a golden opportunity, and this is what the introduction of Apple Pay for the web facilitates.
Ultimately this is an experience that could/should be managed by our financial services providers, but with no legacy systems to build upon I believe Apple, Google, or maybe even Samsung will be most aptly placed to facilitate this relationship.
Payment platforms such as Apple Pay are ushering in a new era of digital experience design.
The emphasis will no longer be on optimising each stage of the funnel and driving customers towards the shopping cart, but on using technology to create magical frictionless experiences, taking into account what customers are going to feel and what they would want to share.
By simplifying and stripping the friction out of the checkout process, not only does Apple Pay increase the likelihood of conversion, the platform changes the mind-set of digital product owners.
This will free us up to really think through what the customer is going to have to experience, in order to unlock a growth partnership with our brands.