Forget Apple Pay: How Apple’s New Handoff Will Revolutionize Multiplatform Shopping

Apple just went live with Apple Pay, the mobile payment app that’s so far been hyped up as a potential “credit card killer.” We still have yet to see whether it’ll become the most game-changing feature of the iPhone 6, but there’s another, more under-the-radar iOS change Apple has made that will also have some profound impacts on the way companies approach their e-commerce.

One of the features of Apple’s iOS 8 and Yosemite OS is a focus on continuity. The new “Handoff” feature allows users to “start writing an email on your iPhone and pick up where you left off when you sit down at your Mac. Or browse the Web on your Mac and continue from the same link on your iPad. It all happens automatically when your devices are signed in to the same iCloud account.”

While this type of continuity might seem like a simple effort to boost user productivity, it also has some heavy implications on multiplatform shopping. Take into account the following trends:

  • “Showrooming” – where a customer examines brick-and-mortar inventory to inform their cheaper online purchases – used to be considered a threat to brick-and-mortar retailers, but it seems that the opposite case, “Webrooming,” is actually more prevalent.
  • Seventy-eight percent of mobile searches for local business information result in a purchase.
  • Local searches lead 50 percent of mobile users to visit stores.

The Web shopping experience isn’t limited to any one specific platform. Maybe a user sees something they want on Amazon and decides they’d like to buy that product today. Since they’re already making a trip to the mall, they decide to pick it up there instead. When they see the product in person, they cross-check the price from their mobile device to make sure there’s not a significant discrepancy.

These kinds of purchases happen all the time, with the online experience playing a huge role at every step of the process. And while Apple Pay might streamline the payment process, the Handoff feature will help shoppers to make the jump from desktop to mobile, making the entire experience much more seamless.

It’s hard to determine how this will move the needle on the constant battle between online storefronts and brick-and-mortar stores, but here are some ways that both types can benefit from Handoff:

apple-pay-checkoutThe Dream Shopping Session

For as much as people love buying things, it seems that a lot of them actually dread the shopping experience. Indeed, it can be annoying to make a trip to a crowded mall just to buy a pair of shoes, only to find they don’t actually have them in stock.

Now imagine the dream shopping situation: You organically stumble upon a dapper pair of boots on your favorite website. You decide that you really want them. They’re in stock at your nearby retailer, and they’re offering a flash discount. You “handoff” the deal to your iPhone, use Apple Pay to quickly make your purchase on the way to the store, and walk in and grab the pair of boots. With the discovery ability of the Web, the convenience of Apple Pay, and the seamless shift of Handoff all working in tandem, the shopping experience becomes much more palatable and exciting.

Promoting O2O in the U.S.

Earlier this year, the Chinese Internet behemoth Alibaba invested $692 million in a company called Intime, in a partnership which will seek to increase Alibaba’s O2O – “Online to Offline” – transactions. We’ve seen a light version of the O2O trend manifest itself in the U.S. with Groupon and Opentable, but Handoff will present the chance to take this shopping method to another level as described above.

In addition to working with Apple’s own apps, developers can use the Handoff API to create continuity between their OS X and iOS apps. This could be a huge payoff for larger brick-and-mortar retailers, who can dictate their own O2O offerings, allowing shoppers to customize the shopping experiences that work best for them.

apple-pay-releaseA More Persistent Shopping Experience

When a shopper adds items to their shopping cart on a website, all of that information is stored via cookies, and is completely lost if the customer attempts to make the jump across devices. While a persistent shopping cart was certainly possible before handouts, it required a user to log in. Handoff would allow for persistent, login-free shopping carts that can drive “Webroomers” out of the house and into your store.

groupon-email-addressBolstering the Boutique

While sites like Gilt, Groupon, and Rue La La have been great for bolstering the discovery of boutique stores, Apple Handoff will help to push their appeal even further into the spotlight. For many smaller independent boutiques, it’s just not realistic to start an e-commerce website for selling their goods. But if these stores can develop an online presence through social media or even a basic website, they can leverage calls to action and the portability of Handoff to drive more foot traffic to their stores.

While Apple’s Handoff feature is still in its early stages, it’s inevitable that others will eventually follow suit and start offering something similar for their own operating systems. As mobile and desktop experiences begin to blend using this technology, we’ll begin to see the shopping experience become more seamless as a result. Whether you’re a growing brick-and-mortar boutique or a larger business with a functioning e-commerce platform, this is one trend that’s definitely worth latching onto.

Images via Shutterstock.

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