Apple adopts new fulfillment model ahead of iPhone 12 launch
by Paul Davenport Paul Davenport on

There’s a lot to like and gripe about the new iPhone 12, but the truly revolutionary news regarding Apple’s latest major product launch has more to do with when and how new phones are set to reach customers.

While Apple has traditionally shipped direct-to-customer via their network of regional warehouses (if not directly from China), the company is now the latest and perhaps highest-profile brand to start leveraging their retail stores as distribution centers.

It’s an attempt by Apple to address long- and short-term challenges that are plaguing retailers of all sizes today, as brands have been exploring creative ways to utilize their physical locations as recent pandemic orders have left malls and streets empty, exacerbating already long-eroding in-store foot traffic.

By shipping online orders out from stores, Apple hopes to eventually ensure day-after delivery on some products (very much a rarity today), while keeping the lights on at locations that would otherwise be under utilized. The service will soon be available to customers who live within 100 miles of a retail location in the United States and Canada.

There are a number of other benefits to this new delivery model being touted by Apple (including environmental offsets by cutting delivery distances), but the biggest driver is really a long-brewing shift in consumer tastes that was cemented by the pandemic: A recent survey by Accenture found that 77 percent of U.S. consumers want their gifts delivered to their doorstep this holiday season, and iPhone 12s will inevitably be at the top of many wishlists.

As we saw this week, Apple isn’t the only Tech/Retail behemoth who has evolved their strategies this holiday season to accommodate global events and market conditions. Amazon’s annual Prime Day event—which itself is a relatively new disruptor in the history of “flash sales”—was moved from its traditional July perch to October, as the company anticipates higher-than-ever deliveries from warehouses and stores alike over the 2020 holidays. The new date allowed holiday shoppers to move up the traditional post-Thanksgiving spree by more than a month to ensure delays are avoided.

Going forward, and as social distancing guidelines evolve, retailers will still need to support in-store shopping, which, while evolving, is hardly disappearing. As Apple has demonstrated perhaps better than any other brand, fostering “experiences” are what will separate the winners and the losers of not just brick-and-mortar but retail in general going forward. As a result, Apple and other retailers exploring this new fulfillment model will have to start deploying new systems and technologies to support inventory management at these “hybrid” locations, as well as customer experience as in-store expectations evolve.

This will all put a greater emphasis on the network connections between retail locations, warehouses, enterprise data centers and even the contact center and knowledge workers that will all be involved in fulfilling customer orders going forward. Managing these connections and the bevy of stakeholders involved calls for constant, comprehensive performance visibility to guarantee that customer expectations are met and that business is able to bounce back (if not excel) when the industry undergoes a major groundshift.


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Filed Under: Industry Insights

Tags: Amazon prime , Amazon , Apple store , network performance monitoring , network monitoring , enterprise WAN , enterprise IT , iPhone 12 , Apple iPhone , Apple