How Apple's 'Express' Stores Highlight Changing Shopping Trends

A quicker and safer Apple Store experience

Key Takeaways

  • Apple plans to open 50 more 'Express' stores in the U.S. and Europe by the end of the month.
  • The expansion of the 'Express' stores coincide with the release of the iPhone 12 models and the holiday shopping season. 
  • The express shopping model is here to stay, even after the pandemic is over.
Customers wait in line to shop at the Apple Store in George Street in Sydney, Australia.
 James D. Morgan / Getty Images

Apple is expanding its 'Express' shopping storefronts for the upcoming holiday shopping season, solidifying that the shopping trend is here to stay. 

This shift in product delivery offers a much different experience than your average Apple Store since customers order their products ahead of time and pick them up at the new Express storefront. The shopping option allows Apple Stores to remain open during the global pandemic while also offering customers different ways to get their latest Apple products. 

"For some customers, they do their research ahead of time by reading blogs about Apple devices or talking to people over social media," Katherine Cullen, the Senior Director of Industry & Consumer Insights at the National Retail Federation (NRF), told Lifewire in a phone interview. "These people are looking to complete those steps earlier in the process and then pick up their items seamlessly." 

A Different Take on the Apple Store

Apple Stores were built around the unique experience they offer to see and try out the latest Apple devices in person. The tech giant has taken pride in everything from the store’s employees to the design and layout of the stores themselves. 

The new move to 'Express' shopping throws away Apple’s old playbook to consider the coronavirus pandemic that has caused the company to shut down certain stores at the beginning of the summer even after reopening from the initial closures.

A customer from Sydney shops for his new Apple Watch Series 6 at the Apple Store.
 James D. Morgan / Getty Images

"It’s a swifter way for us to serve customers," Deirdre O’Brien, senior vice president of retail and people at Apple, told Reuters. "It allows us to maintain all the appropriate social distancing and maintain all of our health protocols within our stores."

According to Reuters, the Express stores are essentially mini-stores built in front of the main Apple store, featuring a wall with sales counters protected by plexiglass and shelves of products on display. Customers have to make an appointment ahead of time to shop in these Express stores to either pick up a product they already purchased online or interact with an Apple technician to decide on their final purchase. 

Apple plans to open 50 more Express stores in the U.S. and Europe by the end of the month for a total of 70 storefronts. 

For those looking forward to the November 13 release of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the Express stores will be a good option to get in, get your new phone, and get out. 

The Pandemic-Friendly Shopping Trend 

The 'buy online pick up in-store' (BOPIS) shopping model like the one Apple has adopted for its Express stores has been around for a few years to offer shoppers more choices in how they receive the items they want. However, the shopping trend has gained steam during the pandemic due to more people wanting to stay cautious and have as little interaction with others as possible. 

Customers socially distance as they queue for the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro on launch day in London, England.
Ming Yeung / Getty Images

Cullen told Lifewire that the shopping trend is here to stay even post-pandemic. 

"[BOPIS shopping] gives more customers more choices," she said. 

Cullen said another benefit to this way of shopping is that it lets customers get the items they want almost right away after purchasing online (usually within an hour or at least within that same day), and removes the shipping and delivery costs, which can add up. 

Of course, Apple isn’t the only store implementing this type of shopping experience: big-name retailers like Walmart, Target, and Macy’s all have some form of "curbside pickup" to offer customers. 

Despite the shopping trend’s popularity this year, Cullen says in-store shopping is far from dead. 

"People will want to return to stores once it’s safe to do so," she said. "There are aspects of in-store shopping that are really hard to replicate online." 

For Apple, having customers go in and try the different iPhone models or different MacBooks is part of the in-store shopping experience that makes Apple Stores unique. 

Cullen’s prediction for post-COVID shopping is that consumers will switch seamlessly between in-store and BOPIS. Especially for a brand like Apple that releases certain in-demand products that people line up for, having both shopping options will benefit customers.