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The time is right: Why Apple Watch will revolutionise in-store shopping

21st Apr 2015
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Everyone from fashionistas to tech geeks are eager to get their hands on the highly anticipated Apple Watch as the countdown to its availability approaches zero. Given Apple’s history of trailblazing the hottest trends in consumer tech, its new watch could be the product that makes wearables take off. If the Apple Watch does indeed turn out to be a game-changer, what will it mean for retailers?

Several retailers will be ready with apps for the Apple Watch it launches – Amazon’s app will allow users to make purchases with a single click and eBay’s app will issue bid alerts – but for the many retailers who are already having difficulty connecting the physical and digital shopping experiences, the idea of adding another platform is downright daunting.

From desktop websites to mobile platforms, retailers are going to have to take on a whole new playing field with the Apple Watch’s tiny interface. With its small screen size (less than two inches wide) and easy accessibility, the Apple Watch could have big implications for the way we shop as retailers consider how to integrate this new form factor into their overall digital strategy.

A smoother shopping experience

Have you ever tried to hold a crying baby while simultaneously pushing a shopping cart, reading your shopping list, searching for products and grabbing items from the shelves all at the same time? This sounds nearly impossible. Though smartphones are 'mobile' by nature, they can also be a handicap because they prevent people from using two hands while shopping. 

The hands-free accessibility of the Apple Watch makes it more practical for in-store shoppers than smartphone apps alone. There is vast potential for it to become the preferred channel for in-store shoppers. As people gravitate toward hands-free technologies, retailers will need to focus on creating an engaging in-store experience on the new devices. Smart retailers will consider the optimum user of the Watch, simplifying and streamlining the shopping experience to meet the needs of in-store shoppers.

For example, grocery stores like Woolworths and Marsh Supermarkets developed Apple Watch apps that will bring consumers’ shopping lists to the Watch. When consumers create a list in either of the grocers’ retail mobile apps it will automatically become available on the Watch in a simplified format that provides the most pertinent information based on where the consumer is in the store. Essentially the Watch could guide shoppers around the store, leading them to each item on their list.

The idea of having a digital personal shopping assistant once seemed like a far-off dream, but the Watch could make it a reality.

New Beacon-powered marketing opportunities

For the first time ever, shoppers won’t need to have their smartphones out to see notifications since they will be sent directly to their wrists. With the Apple Watch and Beacons, a form of micro-communication between retailers and shoppers via mobile applications, shoppers can remove this physical barrier of having to pull your phone out of your pocket but rather glance at their wrist and continue on.

Retailers who perfect this strategy on the Apple Watch will be able to significantly improve customer engagement and generate new types of micro-messaging campaigns. The key to leveraging this opportunity is to offer brief, specific messages that are truly helpful and fit on the Watch’s tiny screen. This could be as simple as offering the aisle number of the next item on a shopper’s list or a deal on his or her favorite brand just a few feet away.

More efficient store associates

The Apple Watch’s accessibility makes it beneficial to shoppers, but it will also offer many opportunities for store employees and employers. Store associates who wear the Watch will have both hands free to grab and sort items, for example, making them more efficient at carrying out a variety of operations.

Also, retailers who integrate the Watch into their production strategy will be able to send/receive instant, location-based task alerts on the watch to notify associates if a nearby shopper needs help. By increasing the productivity, and communication between employees, the Watch could not only save time and money, but also enable them to provide better customer service by becoming more alert and unified.

If the Apple Watch proves to be successful, it will be a game-changer for the retail industry. It will pave the way for other smartwatches and wearables to take hold in the industry, forcing retailers to think outside the box in order to engage with shoppers on a much tinier interface. If done right, retail apps on wearables could completely change the way we shop, making the shopping experience smoother, interactive, and more efficient.

Josh Marti is CEO and cofounder of Point Inside.

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