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Consumers may be ready for the Apple Watch, but are retailers?

Posted on May 14, 2015

BY APRIL DAHLQUIST Associate Editor, Mobile: Internet Retailer

Retailers need to develop a strategy before marketing to consumers on wearable devices, industry experts say.

As consumers begin fastening Apple Watches to their wrists, retailers need to arm themselves with a marketing strategy. 

And when it comes to the new Apple Watch retailers need to think in  micro-moments, Julie Ask, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., said in a recent webinar with m-commerce technology provider Branding Brand.

Micro-moments, Ask says, are times when consumers interact with mobile devices, including wearable devices, at a glance. Via a push notification a retailer can provide consumers with timely information, such as “Kate Spade launches her spring collection today.” And that promotion can appear on the screen of a smartwatch as well as a smartphone. In that way, wearable devices give retailers a direct path to communicate with a consumer via something on her body, rather than a phone that she may have to pull from a pocket or purse. Wearables, however, are much smaller than smartphones, which means retailers must keep their marketing messages concise.

Consumers may be ready to embrace the Apple Watch, which went on sale late last month, as 40% of online consumers are tired of pulling their phones out of their pockets and purses, according to Forrester’s 2014 North American Consumer Technographic Consumer Technology Survey. Glancing at a watch is more convenient than digging for a phone, Ask says.    

One reason Forrester predicts the Apple Watch will take off is simply because it is made by Apple Inc.

“It’s not that smartwatches are new, but we’ve all watched when Apple enters the market—as they did [April 24]—when the device hits the market, they have the ability to drive adoption and drive consumer interest in products that consumers had limited interest in in the past,” Ask says.

In the Forrester survey, 45% or 2,067 U.S. online adults said that they are intrigued by the prospect of getting a wearable device. Of the intrigued consumers, 53% said they would like to see information about products when they are shopping on a wearable device.

Ask adds that retailers need to use the proper analytics to offer the right “glanceable” moments to consumers. For example, if a shoe retailer wants to send a notification to consumers on the Apple Watch about a limited-time sale, the retailer should take into account that consumer’s gender. If the flash sale is only for women’s pumps, a male consumer could view the message as spam. Having the analytics to incorporate a consumer’s shoe size and nearby store inventory levels will also make the message more effective.

“It’s about delivering information in the moment they need it, regardless of where they are,” Ask says.

For a retailer to market to a consumer via push notifications on a wearable device, the shopper must already have the retailer’s app, Asks says. That means those consumers are already loyal and familiar with their brand, and retailers will likely have basic customer data on them that they should use in their marketing.

And, as with most new technologies, retailers should be prepared for a learning curve as they work out usability kinks, Chris Mason, CEO and co-founder at Branding Brand, said in the webinar. For example, Mason used his Apple Watch to scan his boarding pass at the airport, but he had to flip his wrist upside down to get it to scan properly.

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