Survey: Will the Apple Watch help retailers engage loyal customers?

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By: RickFerguson |

Posted on June 15, 2016

Apple may not wear of late the aura of invincibility it once displayed during the reign of the late Steve Jobs, but its mobile products still hold large appeal both for consumers and for the marketers trying to reach them. What about Apple's latest innovation, the Apple Watch? How likely will the watch achieve critical mass as a marketing platform for marketers to reach their best customers? According to a new survey from GPS Shopper, consumers are still wary of the Apple Watch. Nevertheless, retailers in particular are slowly embracing the watch as a platform to build loyalty and engagement.

The report, titled �Cracking the Mobile Code: The Apple Watch and Retail,� reveals that, while many Americans remain wary of the Apple Watch, about one in four are open to purchasing one. According to a summary of the report in Mobile Commerce Daily, "23% of Americans would consider purchasing the next incarnation of the Apple Watch, although nearly 24% of that group would refrain from buying products on it, due to concerns about making an impulsive purchase."

A few other key stats from the report:

  • 63% of consumers would not buy a product worth more than $100 on their Apple Watch.
  • Almost 25% of respondents claimed they would be interested in acquiring the next version of the smartwatch, but would hesitate to make purchases on it.
  • Only 22% of consumers equate making an Apple Watch purchase to the action of making a payment through their smartphone.
  • 41% of consumers want to receive coupons through a retailer�s Apple Watch app.
  • 31% of consumers want to check in-store product availability on the Apple Watch.
  • 32% of respondents would like to access their loyalty programme accounts through the Apple Watch.

According to Maya Mikhailov, co-founder and chief marketing officer of GPShopper, the most direct way for Apple to overcome Apple Watch resistance is to encourage retailers to leverage the technology to engage with their shoppers through loyalty programmes and incentives. Money quote #1 from the Mobile Commerce Daily article:

"Although the Apple Watch may not serve as the most lucrative primary purchasing channel, retailers can still leverage their wearable-friendly apps by making coupons and loyalty rewards easily accessible for individuals needing an incentive to make an in-store purchase...The Apple Watch can perhaps be leveraged best when deployed as a complementary purchasing channel. Its small screen may not be the most conducive for making purchases, but its omnipresent convenience makes the wearable an optimal medium for real-time coupons and loyalty pushes."

And here's money quote #2 from Maya Mikhailov:

�The Apple Watch presents retailers with the chance to inspire purchases with loyalty programmes, inventory alerts and, of course, coupons. Almost one in three consumers who would use a brand�s Apple Watch app want to access loyalty programmes through the device."

The Bullet Point: The risk of retailers pushing loyalty development costs onto the Apple Watch is that the watch may represent a solution in search of a problem - there's still no killer app that allows smart watches to do something that your trusty, old-fashioned iPhone or Galaxy can't already do. Outside early adopters and Apple fanboys, wearables have yet to make major inroads into consumer consciousness.

Still, retailers who appeal to the Apple Watch's core demographic of affluent, tech-oriented consumers would do well to leverage the watch to test and learn. Location-based offers that link the loyalty programme to in-store behavior through wearables may indeed change behavior - provided the offer is personalised, relevant, and of high perceived value. We'll be excited to see what retailers come up with.

-Rick Ferguson

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