The Apple Watch launched last week, to less fanfare than most Apple products. There’s got to be a little bit of trepidation around launching such an unknown product, as current wearable technology hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm. Sure, Steve Jobs’ brilliance was in how he got a phone in everyone’s pocket- but he also got a billboard and a cash register in there! The more cynical marketers among us might say that the Apple Watch is mainly designed to remove purchase friction, as it’s one less step to using your device to pay for something when you don’t have to take it out of your pocket. The less you have to physically do to spend money the easier it is for your brain to make the decision; consumers who opt in to a minimum $300 accessory for their minimum $600 smart phone will be able to do many of the things they can do now while leaving their phone in their pocket.
Only time will tell if this is something that Users actually want- or if it’s even more intrusive than the smart phone itself. The first widespread attempt at wearable technology from a major player, Google Glass, did not go over so well (Google is mothballing the program), and current smart watches are not exactly taking the world by storm- do you know anyone that wears one? So what does all this uncertainty mean for your Internet Marketing?
Considerations for Marketing with the Apple Watch
1. Apps- there are two main considerations when developing an app for the Apple Watch- screen size and intrusion. With the User wearing the device, it seems like it would be easy to notify them of things by Tapping (vibrating the device). However, with the ubiquitous amounts of programs on our phones eating up our battery and data, people are being very selective about which Push notifications they leave turned on. If the app is going to push notifications to the User’s wrist, they had better be useful, or they are going to get lost in the sea of noise.
The 2nd consideration is screen size- the Apple Watch has a tiny screen. Major publications such as the New York Times have already put out an app that optimize stories for reading on the Apple Watch- it reduces major stories to one sentence and one picture, that can be saved to read more in depth later. This app also features push notifications for breaking news- so the NYT has carefully considered what their Users want. How many times have you whipped out your phone for 30 seconds to read something, while waiting in line? Now you can do it on your wrist- so plan accordingly.
2. Taking Payments- While it hasn’t seen large scale adoption yet, between Apple Pay and Google Wallet, we’re all moving towards paying with things for our phones- it’s just one less piece of pocket litter, to not have to carry credit cards, and possibly not even a wallet. We’ve all seen those “tap-to-pay” POS terminals- they still require you to get a phone or card out of your pocket and scan it and enter a PIN. With the Apple Watch, you’ll be able to pay by waving your watch over a spot and clicking confirm. Picture a day when you go to the grocery store and fill your cart then take the groceries to your car without ever talking to another human- the RFID chips on the foods’ labels will total up your purchases as you walk out of the store, and the scanner will read your Apple Watch to process payment. Again, the theme here is “less friction, more ease of access.”
3. Social Media Marketing- Social media is one of the more obvious uses for the Apple Watch, it seems like a very natural match from someone already breaking two thumbs on texting and email every day. This is really the simplest way to take advantage of the Apple Watch as a marketing platform- if someone opts in to receive your social media marketing message on their wrist throughout the day, that’s a very well qualified customer. Again, though, beware of over using- social media for Apple Watch won’t be that much different than Social Media is now.
4. Geofencing/Beacons- This is the most promising and probably the most intrusive way to market on the watch- let’s say you owned a restaurant with a Bluetooth beacon broadcasting a coupon to people that walk by with an Apple Watch. They are already there, you are already there, so the marketing is very targeted- but it’s also a little bit creepy. People don’t like to be tracked, and if you’re going to do it surreptitiously on their watch, you’ve got to be very careful about the message you send. You could also use the GPS functionality to tie certain offers/deals/promotions to the User being in a certain physical location at a certain time- but that’s not that much different than on the existing technology. The main consideration here is again, privacy- much like remarketing, this technology could be seen as either “intrusive” or “creepy”. Marketing this way has to be opt-in; people won’t like getting unsolicited ads on their wrists.
5. Promotions tied to data the watch collects (for example, a 10% discount on a smoothie when you show your Apple Watch with 10,000 steps steps in a day!) People may not want to give up this data; they may not realize the ubiquity of the data the watch collects. The first time that someone gets an ad on their wrist for coffee because the sensors detected sluggishness is going to really freak them out, most likely. The battle we face here, as with all marketing platforms, is to get people to opt in to our message so that we aren’t being intrusive. This is the most promising use of the watch- companies could offer discounts on health insurance to workers who allow their health to be tracked- programs like this already exist for other fitness trackers such as FitBit and will be developed for this product as well.
Apple Watch early adopters are young, upscale, brand conscious, social media savvy- but also very sophisticated when it comes to advertising. It’s got to be a pull rather than a push approach. The other consideration is the impact that Apple has had on the senior market- many senior citizens that were terrified of computers have found solace in iPads and iPhones- with all of its health tracking capabilities, the Apple Watch seems in a prime position to capitalize on a demographic that’ll increasingly use technology to take care of their bodies and communicate with their health care providers. Look for Apple Watch to compete increasingly with health trackers such as FitBit, Nike Fuel, or the Jawbone Up. The most expensive upscale trackers are already $300, and they don’t offer the ability to interface with the iPhone like the watch does.
As with any new marketing channel, time will tell what the best strategies for marketing with the Apple Watch are. Keep in mind the ubiquity and personal experience of wearing one- and plan accordingly.