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Apple has all the pieces to reshape the retail experience. That doesn't mean it will.

Apple has all the pieces to reshape the retail experience. That doesn't mean it will.

Is Apple sneaking into an SMB near you?

Apple's enterprise ambitions are well known at this point, with a big IBM deal to develop and support enterprise applications and better support for enterprise necessities in recent iOS versions.

But perhaps things are about to get a lot more interesting at the mid-market, where a few of Apple's core technologies are coming together to potentially reshape commerce.

That's the thesis Michael Boland, chief analyst and vice president of content at BIA/Kelsey, recently put forward at StreetFight, which covers local commerce. Boland says that Square's new NFC reader, in conjunction with Maps, Siri, and Spotlight Search, provides unrivaled peak into (and control of) the consumer experience from the first product search to the moment a customer walks out of a retail location with product in hand.

Back to Apple Pay and Square: altogether Apple has the pieces to assemble a holistic purchase path. That includes search, offline navigation and now SMB payments — all happening though its pipes.

Through all this, Apple can tap that point-of-sale Trojan horse to access unique SMB data and functionality. That could include real time inventory, and Starbucks-like “order & pay” capability.

Features like this will not only be mobile payments’ true adoption drivers, as argued above. They’ll also serve as an added utility to boost the appeal of Apple’s local search properties, such as Maps.

Spotlight search, Safari, Maps and Siri — all enjoying default positioning on iOS devices — could lead local searchers to SMB profile pages that include product details and order/schedule/pay features.

It's not hard to see iOS becoming a fully-fledged retail sales and marketing management solution down the road, especially given the number of establishment already using iOS (and Android) devices as their cash register already.

But before that possibility becomes a reality, there's two other major hurdles Apple has to deal with:

  • Square currently controls all the data in that payment flow.
  • Apple has historically had a very rough time getting into marketing and advertising services, recently disbanding its iAd sales team in favor of more automated solutions.

Just because you have all the pieces of a puzzle doesn't mean you can put it together.

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