7M Apple Watch Orders & Counting. What’s the Potential Opportunity for Brands in Retail?

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Jun 02 2015, Posted by Gary Lee

As we previously noted in our recent ebook on ebook on Retail Disruption, rapid adoption of technology by consumers has dramatically disrupted and reshaped where, when and how they shop for goods and services through ecommerce. And, now with increasing Apple Watch shipments, we could be seeing another major revolution in consumer technology adoption—one that will further reshape and disrupt the $22T global retail market.

If news over the last 24 hours is correct, Apple may have just had its most successful product debut in its history with the Apple Watch. According to Global Equities Research, Apple has received 7 million total orders since April 10, and shipped 2.5 million watches to date, with the potential to ship 5 million watches this quarter. If true, this exceeds financial analyst predictions, and makes this the fastest growing new category of consumer electronics in Apple’s history. By comparison:

  • the first iPod sold 125,000 units in the first quarter of availability in 2001
  • the first iPhone sold 1.1 million units in the first quarter of availability in 2007
  • the first iPad sold 3.3 million units during the first three months of availability in 2010

It’s worth noting that the Apple Watch is the first product to be launched by Apple in more than one country on the same day, giving consumers in nine countries access to place orders at launch. While this has certainly contributed to the initial success, it’s still incredible to see the demand for this product after just 7 weeks of taking orders.

That said, the impact of the Apple Watch for brands and marketers could be incredible. Our latest research shows that 75% of all shoppers in physical retail have used their mobile device in store to research products, compare prices, share information on their shopping experience with others, or even purchase online. The Apple Watch not only could be a valuable accessory for mobile use in store, it could eventually even offer additional benefits for shoppers in store such as:

  • Easier in-store navigation/wayfinding to easily find products on one’s shopping list
  • Easier price lookup in store and even price comparisons with other retailers online and in store
  • Easier in-store order placement for out-of-stock merchandise, with shipment to one’s home or store for each pickup
  • Easier delivery of in-store marketing messages alerting customers to deals, additional products or other items to consider
  • Alerts when out-of-stock merchandise is back in-store, or orders placed online are delivered to the store or home
  • Easier navigation of purchase history for improved product selection and enhanced loyalty programs
  • Simpler in-store purchasing, by bypassing any cash register/tills and allowing purchases from the Watch and Apple Pay

Our own testing here at InReality shows that the watch is an excellent conduit for Apple Pay. And, we believe that brands, where feasible, should consider an Apple Pay strategy for how their products can be easily sold in retail using this platform. McDonald’s, Disney, Panera Bread, Macy’s, Walgreens, Subway and many other retailers are already supporting Apple Pay at their registers, gas stations, restaurants, etc., and other retailers are following suit. As shoppers become more and more accustomed to using Apple Pay as a simple, convenient and highly secure way to pay, they may soon expect merchants and brands to adopt the solution and remove any friction points at the time of purchase.

We also believe that the Apple Watch has great potential for ties to smart Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a.k.a iBeacon, strategies as well by allowing the watch to be an easy-to-use conduit to reach shoppers with contextually-relevant information along their path to purchase.

We further believe that next generations of the Apple Watch will continue to improve the user interface, feature sets and may eventually pull away from their present tight-interdependency on the iPhone. We’ve been around technology long enough to remember the first iPhone had some pretty serious limitations, which were fixed in later releases. And, we believe Apple will continue its proven course of constant improvement with its Watch.

The question for brand and marketing professionals is when to adopt an Apple Watch strategy, and how best to incorporate the Watch into the overall customer experience in store. There is no single right or wrong answer for this, as it’s first critical to understand the customer path to purchase. However, it is evident that wearables like the Apple Watch are going to be a major point of influence for shoppers, as they become more and more accustomed to being attached to the network 24/7, and using technology to shop where, when and how they wish.

We’ll keep testing in our labs here, and working with our leading brand customers to explore best-uses of the Apple Watch and other wearables. But, one thing is quickly becoming clear—this consumer technology has the potential to be a major disruptive force. Retailers and brands have an opportunity to be a positive part of that disruption or be left behind.

What’s your brand’s experience with the Apple Watch so far? What are your plans for supporting this new technology as part of the customer experience with your brand? Do you see this opening new opportunities for your brand in retail?

Image Copyright: adrianhancu / 123RF Stock Photo

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