Who will buy the Apple Watch and when?

rob marstonThe Apple Watch has gained a lot of attention since it was announced late last year. In this guest post Rob Marston unpacks who will buy it and what that means for marketers. 

Today Apple has again launched an oxymoron – a watch that is less about time-telling and more about communicating, just as the iPhone is less about calling and more about apps, taking selfies, texting with emoticons and snap chatting your latest latte. But the Apple Watch will change the humble watch and it will change tech gadgetry for a whole sweep of demographics over time.

This is by no means the first smart watch – Apple understands the first mouse doesn’t get the cheese, but it is the first mass-market appeal smart watch relying exclusively on subscribing to the Apple ecosytem.

The well-known Diffusion of Innovators Curve seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. Who will be the first to own depends on how this device serves their life – fashion, status or simply because they are a gadget nerd. Let’s look at who really will buy it. Who will drive this gadget past a fad and into future? And not just who, but why and how?

1. The first are the innovators, representing a tiny 2.5 per cent on the curve.

We have two subsets here, and sitting right there at the front of the queue are the iSheep. They make the news for how long they queue to be the first to get their gadgets (and hopefully with more success than this guy).

The watch speaks to these Apple fanboys for a whole new reason (as if they needed one): it is the first brand new post-Steve device.

This is monumental for the brand and therefore monumental for them, the brand’s strongest advocates, each an individual whose life is completely entangled in everything Apple. Of the one million Apple Watch orders made on the first day of pre-orders in the US, how many do you think were from the fanboys?

i-kettleHowever the innovators extend beyond these iSheep. The broader innovator gets every new device at first launch. They will have the watch synced with their calendars, emails and home entertainment systems before their i-kettle is boiled. For them the Apple Watch’s appeal is its gadgetry and its shiny new place among all their other gadgets, for which their arms simply aren’t long enough to sport them all.

These people give the new gadgets a good go at streamlining their uber-efficient lives – and streamline it, the Apple Watch will. This new device will spell goodbye for their Pebble, Fitbit, Jawbone, Samsung GEAR. It will fly the flag for their ‘high touch apps’ that, according to research from Flurry, are the 10 regularly used apps out of the average 65 installed on a person’s iPhone – think messaging, banking, navigation and soon buying.

Innovators will surely be among the first to pay via Apple Pay (currently only available in the US, but rumoured to be launching this year in Australia). It will be a casual press of the touch ID and they’ll have paid for lunch, dry cleaning, gym entry, car service and concert tickets. And while I’m on payments, the Apple Watch spells good news for owners of an iPhone5, 5c and 5s. By pairing this older phone with the Apple Watch, they too will be able to access Apple Pay via their wrist, keeping up now with all the cool cats holding the iPhone 6’s.

2. Hot on the heels of the innovators are the early adopters, Youth, sitting at about 13.5%.

Today’s youth are more connected than at any other time in history. These digital natives have grown up with unprecedented access to technology. They’ve never needed a watch to tell them the time – their phone has always been within reach and in sight! Their bare wrists, specifically, represent Apple’s green field opportunity.

A good friend of mine recently asked his daughter if he could by her an expensive watch for her 18th birthday. Her quiet reply: “Dad, a watch is a single-function device.” Good news Dad, not anymore.

This untapped category faces little competition from traditional watch brands – to them, a device needs to do everything, otherwise what’s the point.

They won’t care that it needs charging daily – their phones are charged, naturally, as part of their daily routine. But what makes this watch their friend is the convenience of connectivity and accessibility. Telling the time on a personalised screen is just a bonus.apple iwatch

They are already hooked into brands via apps and to them the watch is a natural extension of their apps – it’s also where the real opportunity for brands sits on the watch.

According to mobile analytics company, Flurry, we check our phones a phenomenal 150 times a day. So youth will save quantifiable time on pulling a phone from their pockets for SnapChat, Instagram, notifications and the gazillion other critical messenger variants they eat and sleep with. They will love having that instant access. Just imagine the stats for checking phones a year from now.

3. Keeping pace behind youth is the early majority, sitting at around 34% of our curve – the health and fitness brigade.

Swelling in numbers as obviously as their biceps, health and fitness nuts have grown gadgetry into a virtual second skin. They already wear devices to track heart rate, run times, GPS location, exercise time and distance. The Apple Watch will become their trainer, their tracker, their social sporting connection. They will love its ability to measure, analyse and report on health stats while being more intuitive, more capable, more social than what they wear to date. They’ll touch to share their heart rate with another Apple Watch wearer, they’ll share their instantly uploaded fitness stats with their running group, their slimming group, their physician.

Will the Apple Watch mean the end of devices like the Fitbit?

Will the Apple Watch mean the end of devices like the Fitbit?

The price of the Apple Watch is easily justifiable to them for its enormous potential to improve their fitness – all in one gadget that is just twice the price of the new Fitbit Surge and little more than the cost of a decent exercise watch. With this in mind, we’ll see this group move fast to jump on board.

4. The late majority then kick in another 34% of our audience. Welcome Enterprise.

When the Apple Watch is adopted by Enterprise and divvied up to completely new users, we know the technology has truly become part of the vernacular. Enterprise is a sweet spot for Apple, purely in terms of the massive number of units needed to kit out whole teams which in turn sees the entry of the critical mass into the Apple ecosystem.

The possibilities for streamlining, efficiency, tracking and communication using the Apple Watch and its associated ecosystem are incredible. What we foresee now is just the tip of an iceberg.

One massive opportunity here will be the ability to improve, manage and streamline proximity services. Think GPS tracking on vehicles to deliver on-road optimization of services, in a similar way to what UPS did using GPS. In 2008 it introduced sensors and GPS into its vehicles and after collecting data for three years, in 2011 the company introduced UPS’s own On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation software, ORION. This software gave drivers directions as well as calculating the most efficient route for an entire day’s deliveries in real time. UPS reckoned that one mile not travelled per day, per driver, could save US$50 million in one year. Then in 2013 it reported that the software shaved 32.8 million kilometres off routes and that in the same year the service delivered 350,000 more packages. Talk about number crunching.


Apple Watches will provide this kind of data collection and number-crunching for smaller-scale businesses that would not otherwise invest in scalable software development of that magnitude or cost.

In addition, the Apple Watch will deliver a better customer experience by being able to see your drivers ETA by a glance at your wrist and the same will happen for services on foot. Posties, delivery services, large warehouse pickers and packers, cleaning services on location. Anything that requires proximity awareness to deliver better, faster, more immediate customer response will potentially be improved by locational data available from Apple Watch wearers and used in conjunction with a (probably SaaS based) enterprise app.

Then think of what it offers team communications – connectivity and communications on steroids. Whole teams will be communicating via instant messaging, on a trackable device with facilities-sharing data feeding into one central system and therefore one view of its customer opportunity.

At this point, the groundswell will have turned into a flood. Enterprise will put the watch into the hands of everyday users who would otherwise have been slow to move into the category. Luddites in industries will be forced to use it for work. This mass change will be what brings us to the fifth major category on the curve:

6. Retirees and the aged, representing the laggards at 16%.

They will need it for their health, think again the vital health stats that can be fed straight into the hands of physicians without any effort on the part of the wearer. The watch may also represent a far more intuitive and effortless wearable emergency button, always on wrist, rarely forgotten.

For the very old, the dexterity question may be answered in time with the use of great UI and complete control via voice – Siri may finally find a friend in the aged. This would see it become a critical tool to many of our older citizens.

But for the younger subset here, the watch showcases some very neat, good-to-have features that would soon become essential. Think a grey nomad’s navigation system operating entirely from the wrist and connecting seamlessly with the SUV. From there, imagine the benefits this data could have for travel insurance operators etc. The device will also be a reliable social tool for staying in touch with family, volunteer groups, dragonboating and golfing groups. This group will already be using banking apps and the other essentials too, making it again the most convenient option for modern lifestyle administration.

So whether you’re of the opinion that you must have an Apple Watch now or that you will categorically never own an Apple Watch, I leave you with this: When I bought the first iPhone it was sold on its camera capabilities and to this day I remember brushing it off – as if I’d ever need a camera on my phone when I have my trusty SLR. Fast-forward to today – you bet that SLR just gathers the dust.

  • Rob Marston is founder of mobile agency Zeus Unwired 

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