Retail: Apple’s big wearable advantage

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At this point, it’s safe to say that Apple has a wearable product in its pipeline. From all the rumors, reports, hires and most recently trademarks, it appears almost certain that Apple will debut some sort of “iWatch” within the next 6 to 12 months.

Just as with the iPhone and iPad, Apple will not be the first to market a smartwatch. In the past year, we’ve seen smartwatches from Samsung, Sony, Qualcomm and many others. A month ago, Motorola and LG both announced plans to introduce their wearable smartwatches that will debut this summer. If you’re intrigued by the idea of a wearable computer on your wrist, this is an exciting time.

But there’s one major issue with all these companies that Apple has solved: Retail.

Think of the last time you bought a nice watch. Did you buy it blindly without spending a good 5 minutes with it on your wrist? Probably not. Personally, before I put any money down on a watch, I always, ALWAYS try it on to see how it looks and feels on my wrist. There are times when a watch looks great in my browser, but doesn’t feel right on my wrist. Maybe it’s my skin tone, maybe it’s too big, or maybe it’s the strap. Either way, buying a watch, even a smartwatch, is not like buying a laptop or a smartphone. You’re going to want to try it on first.

And this is where Apple has a huge advantage. In fact, Apple’s two big hires Paul Deneve of Yves Saint Laurent and Angela Ahrendts of Burberry – two fashion retail experts – suggest that they’re going to attack this in a way these other companies haven’t though of.

Think about people who aren’t tech nerds (hint: if you’re reading this, you probably are one). How many of them are really going to go out and buy a $200+ smartwatch without trying it on like they would at a department or watch store? My bet is very few. If I’m any of these other companies, I’m equally scared of Apple’s go to market strategy as I am of their rumored product.

I’m also willing to bet that Apple has been very working hard to create the best smartwatch-buying experience in the world. Just as they went to the Ritz Carlton to learn about customer service before opening their retail stores, they’re probably doing something similar before they sell their smartwatch. It’s not going to be another product that sits on a wooden table and has a security cable attached to it. They want this experience to be extra special. Remember, it’s fashion and you wear it on you wrist.

Years ago, Steve Jobs admitted that he didn’t think Apple would have been as successful without the presence of its retail stores. I believe this statement will ring more true with the debut of the “iWatch.” With 424 stores in 16 countries, Apple’s retail advantage is unmatched.

Funny, just 13 years ago pundits were saying Apple Stores wouldn’t work.

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