3 minute read

Opinion: Should Retailers Give Apple Watch the Time of Day?

The Apple Watch is the tech giant’s latest development in wearable technology. Because of Apple’s enormous influence on consumers and industries alike, many retailers are left wondering what, if any, developments they should make to ensure they’re not missing opportunities that could drive significant impact. In addition, beginning this fall, third-party apps will be able to directly interact with sensors and controls within the watch, making it possible for outside parties to develop apps that work without the use of an iPhone.

I got my Apple Watch a few months ago and have had time to initially vet the technology as well as think through the opportunities available to the retail industry. Check out our Apple Watch breakdown below and be sure to share your thoughts on the product!

I’ve loved using Apple Watch for its basic features, such as telling time (obvious) and using notifications for meeting reminders. I find I use my Apple Watch most often for texting, time and push notification reminders.

Currently, I think the biggest opportunity for retailers interested in incorporating Apple Watch into the user experience is the integration of Apple Watch and Apple Pay. Retailers can make it easy for shoppers to pay with a flick of their wrist, streamlining the checkout process. Another potential opportunity for retailers is geo-fencing, or the ability to use push notifications based on location or app.

However, I still think there’s a long way to go for retailers to turn Apple Watch into a frequently leveraged device. While there are strides to be made in digital payment technology, geo-fencing technology still needs to undergo some advancements and the Apple Watch audience isn’t big enough yet to warrant significant investment.

As far as obstacles go, it can be cumbersome to use the type and search features on the watch, and technology hasn’t yet developed a completely accurate voice recognition feature. Hindered by the search functionality, such as the ability to match voice commands with product recognition, I don’t see an opportunity for the watch to be used in that aspect of mobile retail. The price point is another hurdle to conquer and is a major barrier to widespread adoption.

There are also some setbacks I’ve noticed in styles of common retail communication. If a retailer sends an image-heavy email campaign, users aren’t able to view it on the watch, but the retailer may still receive a misleading open tally. If your message details aren’t accessible on the watch, you’re losing visibility and hampering content with that customer, as most retailers have moved away from text-based messaging. In this sense, the watch could be detrimental to your image-focused email campaigns.

In reality, Apple Watch is neat technology that needs further and wider adoption before companies will invest in the market. Perhaps years down the road, when the Apple Watch has a lower price point and there is consistency among digital wallets and payment processing, there will be a big market share available for retailers. Currently, it has a bigger impact on email marketing campaigns because it eliminates images. Here are my top recommendations for retailers looking to incorporate the Apple Watch into their strategy:

  • Consider reinvesting in text-based versions of email campaigns to ensure shoppers are being reached.
  • I predict the next big area of play for retailers will be geo-fencing and push notifications. Make sure you have team members in place that understand the developments and technology in this space.
  • Don’t adjust 2015 advertising goals just yet. I wouldn’t expect the Apple Watch to be a source of income or revenue this year.
  • Incorporate mobile search capabilities and research into your three year plan and wait for widespread adoption of the Apple Watch to catch up.

There are still technology hurdles to overcome before shoppers can get the full digital experience on their Apple Watch. We’re in need of great searching technology that allows a shopper to talk to the device and turn it into a usable search for a product. Only then will retailers be able to leverage the watch as a strong candidate for digital sales.