Depending on what you’ve been reading lately, your answer could easily be any of the four I’ve provided. In the wake of this month’s Apple event, there’s been no shortage of opinions when it comes to the future of Apple’s latest device. Generally, predictions have been focused on the impact and applications for consumers – but I’d point to the massive presence of marketers at MWC (myself included) as evidence that there is tremendous interest in this device as a marketing platform.
Any time that a connected device is capable of monitoring activity and making payments, marketers will see value. As a marketer with experience in the mobile and retail spaces, I wanted to share my perspective on what makes the Apple Watch appealing from a retail marketing perspective.
Any retailer with an online presence is likely familiar with performance marketing, or personalized ads aimed at driving sales. To use the simplest example – a consumer might check out a pair of shoes on a retailers’ site, see those same shoes in a targeted ad the next day, and then click through to the checkout page where the conversion is completed.
Now, keep in mind what this example requires: a connected device capable of navigating the web and making purchases either via an app or browser. Based on this set of criteria, the Apple Watch doesn’t hold up as a viable digital marketing channel.
Of course, as with any new product launch, the Apple Watch’s true potential lies in uses that we’ve only just started to identify.
For example, Multichannel Merchant recently reported on the watch’s game-changing payment functionality, which is where I see the most marketing potential. Imagine if, after researching that pair of shoes in my example, the consumer received a location-triggered ad on her smartwatch as she walked past a retail location where she could then scan the watch to purchase the shoes (perhaps with a discount contained in the ad).
In this scenario, the consumer’s physical movement replaces the browsing function, and the watch serves as the digital payment mechanism. Retail marketers could then observe how a digital ad directly impacts physical behavior – a groundbreaking development with major implications.
To date, digital and physical marketing initiatives have existed in largely separate spaces. While there’s a lot of strategic overlap, it’s tough to get a solid idea of how one affects the other.
However, add in a device that can make payments in physical locations while tethered to a highly observable device, and we can now apply the same personalized targeting strategies we use online to the real world.
This not only has the benefit of functioning as essentially the physical version of personalized advertising, but provides marketers with a wealth of data that can be used for tweaking future marketing efforts. How and why consumers respond to a given ad is almost as important as the actual results of the ad campaign itself.
As retail marketers continue to ponder the implications of ibeacons and other location-based technologies, they should keep in mind that those techniques still lack total insight into whether the ads delivered are actually influencing consumers to make purchases.
A device like the Apple Watch has the potential to unlock the entire consumer path to purchase – allowing retailers to attribute in-store purchases to digital advertisements. This advancement alone is enough to revolutionize how retailers acquire and retain customers, but the biggest benefits likely still remain to be seen.
Mollie Spilman is Chief Revenue Officer at Criteo.