The Apple Watch has been making a splash with consumers since its launch this spring, bringing tasks, messages, and other pieces of information closer to consumers than ever before. Alerts, messages, to-do lists, sports scores, activity goals, and more are now quite literally a part of the fabric of each consumer's daily life.
For brands, this is a key opportunity to make a very personal connection with customers.
However, wearables also present a significant challenge for brands. As the devices that people use to consume content become more immediate—worn constantly on our persons—they by definition become more intimate.
If I asked you to unlock your smartphone and hand it to a coworker to browse, I'm quite sure you'd balk. A wearable device is even more personal, so the stakes are higher for brands to get the engagement (timing, context, content, need) exactly right.
It's a fine line to walk: Getting engagement right could end up in an extremely valuable personal relationship with your customers; getting it wrong puts you at the highest level of risk for being labeled by customers as intrusive.
So how should marketers approach this high-risk, high-reward opportunity?
The first step is to ensure a brand's Apple Watch app is honed down to just the key features consumers would want at their fingertips (or on their wrist). For example, the PowerPoint app for the watch controls only slide advancement and keeps track of time—the two things you'd most want and need to do on such a small screen.
For a marketer, including the Watch in a broader brand experience while still treating the interactions that happen there distinct from interactions on other devices and touchpoints is a delicate balance.
Here are three tips for walking that tightrope.
1. Fit the Watch into the overall consumer journey
Not every brand should have an app for the Watch at this point. A journey-mapping exercise is an ideal place to start for finding out whether your brand is ready for the Apple Watch. It's a great way to look through the customer journeys of your most digitally advanced consumers and identify where there are "glanceable moments" for your brand.
Consumers will spend only three seconds looking at a smartwatch, so it's important to identify where your brand can communicate valuable information in a "glanceable" time frame. Doing so may not yet be possible for you. You will need to determine whether there are points throughout the consumer's life cycle—today and in the next 12 months—where you can offer a relevant Apple Watch experience.
Multiple airlines, for example, including JetBlue and American Airlines, are getting it right, integrating the Watch into the customer journey by providing boarding passes and up-to-the-minute notifications about travel.
2. Identify a Watch-specific utility to deliver
Once you've identified possible instances where a consumer might find value from a Watch interaction, you need to assess how your brand is positioned to deliver that utility.
To identify how to be contextually and personally relevant in this new capacity, look at your other digital touchpoints and learn from what your target consumers do at each of those points. Then, brainstorm possible adjacencies to your existing core digital footprint and interactions.
BMW and VW are good examples of companies that have identified Watch-specific functions that offer new utility. These companies are bringing control of their tech-loaded vehicles to Apple Watch, helping owners find their cars in a parking lot or roll the windows up if they forgot to.
Another good example is Target, which is enabling shoppers to create a list by speaking to the Watch as well as the ability to get guidance from the Watch about where to find items once in the store.
3. To nail individualization, get your data house in order
All the planning and designing in the world will be for naught if you don't have the architecture and processes in place to ensure that data is being collected and delivered at each customer touchpoint.
That should be true for all marketing activities, but with something like an Apple Watch the stakes are that much higher, as a person's patience with erroneous notifications or unhelpful functionality will be that much lower. For brand interactions via the Apple Watch to deliver the intimate and immediate value that customers will welcome, it is paramount that all actions be data-driven.
For instance, Chipotle is using the Apple Watch to allow consumers to order food in advance, and Starbucks is synthesizing its already best-in-class mobile app loyalty program for the wrist. If both brands flawlessly apply customer data to ensure the Apple Watch is part of a seamless experience, customers will be delighted with the added convenience.
However, it is critical that they deliver these services using reliable, accurate, and timely data. Imagine the backlash if customers started receiving the wrong burrito or rewards points earned on the Apple Watch weren't synching with points earned when using the iPhone.
Data is a prerequisite to any successful individualization initiative. Above all else, it is paramount that brands start with a strong data-based foundation.
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As the Apple Watch and similar devices become more entwined in consumers' everyday lives, the opportunity for marketers will continue to expand.
Cautions and considerations for marketers harnessing the Apple Watch apply to all wearable devices. The closer the technology gets to the customer—in both physical proximity and overall involvement in everyday life—the greater the risk of coming off as invasive and driving customers away.
However, if you succeed at engaging with consumers via wearables in a way that they perceive as personalized and helpful, the opportunity for fostering high-quality customer relationships is enormous.
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