If the recent barrage of headlines covering the Apple Watch announcements aren’t enough for your tastes, then you’re in for a real treat this week! Users who pre-ordered the new product are now reporting that tracking statuses have updated to “Preparing for Shipment”, meaning a handful of eager beavers may receive their much anticipated gadgets as early as this Friday, April 24 (the official launch date), with more batches arriving between then and May 8th. In the meantime, there will be no shortage of articles speculating all things Apple Watch–from its fate in an ailing market to Tim Cook’s commandeering Apple’s first new device launch without the late Steve Jobs.
Reaction to the launch announcement was one big internet shrug. Critics ranging from Wall street analysts to tech bloggers are skeptical of a product they’ve already deemed as unnecessary. While I won’t dive into the plenty long list of those who had previously (and wrongfully) predicted the downfall of Apple products at initial announcements, Yahoo Tech writer Aaron Pressman does highlight four reasons why Wall Street is actually underestimating the Apple Watch and Tim Cook.
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No one can deny that Apple’s financials are fundamentally sound under Cook’s leadership. Its stock has soared from a split-adjusted $54 to a recent $126 since Cook came on board, meaning a market capitalization well above $700 billion. Apple is the first company to cross that level, and one certainly can’t ridicule Cook for that type of accomplishment. The critical speculations actually stem from relatively controversial investments with outcomes that are still in the air. Cook has proven to his critics that he’s a far cry from Apple’s former leader. He has already acquired Beats, launched Apple Pay, and made social waves as the only openly gay CEO to a Fortune 500 company. The fate of Apple’s new investments are yet to be determined, and now tacked onto the list is the Apple Watch launch.
But all eyes remain on Tim Cook…and not necessarily the smartwatch.
He later asked five friends who’d liked the photo if they planned on testing out the watch. Three responded that they hadn’t planned on it originally, but changed their minds after seeing his post.
Every brand, Apple included, has fans like Lyle–fans who have the ability to engage their friends and convert around an action as simple as going in-store to check out a watch. Now if only there was a way to replicate this with multiple influencers to drive sales!
On second thought…I can think of 4:
4 Ways Apple Can Drive Sales with Their Most Influential Customers
1. Exclusive Edition Events
When Apple announced the Apple Watch Edition, the vision was to align the brand with iconic Swiss watchmakers. Plenty of critics responded that the Edition was barely worth its weight in gold, and carries the same hardware found in the Apple Watch and the Apple Watch Sport–neither of which comes close to the Edition’s $10K minimum. The industry Apple is trying to gain footing in is dominated by masters of a fine tuned craft and their loyal fanatics–fanatics who love Swiss watches for the mechanics, design, rarity, and status symbol.
Ironically, this is also where critics miss the possibilities for the Apple Watch Edition. Watch fanatics are collectors. If the Apple Watch Edition stays course as the first of a long line of exclusive and limited collectibles, an audience of collectors exist.
Critics are also wrong to assume Apple wants to compete with luxury makers like Rolex (at least for now). Watches are a statement piece to many of their owners. They go beyond an accessory to speak volumes about taste, style, and status. The Edition simply leaves the door open for Apple’s serious watch lovers who may still want Apple’s newest release, but are more used to the luxury and exclusivity that their favorite watch brands traditionally offer.
These were not the typical high-profile celebrities or frequent purchasers, but Rolex recognized the power behind individuals whose voices were trusted and respected in the watch community. While this doesn’t change the purchasing power of those who previously couldn’t afford them, it does reinstate the quality and desirability of the Rolex product for those who can.
Apple may be missing the final step in showing everyone the potential of the Apple Watch Edition, and really reassuring Edition considerers of the smartwatch’s collectors’ value. By welcoming an influential sect of Apple fans with serious watch IQ, Apple can reinforce the Edition’s potential and desirability.
2. Run a Contest
Skepticism surrounding the Apple Watch stems from uncertainty. It’s definitely more than just a watch, but consumers just aren’t sure what role the smartwatch plays in their daily lives and activities. It’s an amalgamation of everything they already have–a watch, a fitness tracker, a phone extension, and a bunch of other applications.
Instead of its versatility being detrimental to the product, Apple should have influencers show and embrace this exact aspect by hosting a contest that encourages user-generated content. In addition, Apple fans are constantly criticized for conforming, so why not host a contest that shows how they can be different–with the Apple Watch. Have fans submit videos or photos of how they use their Apple Watch. Consumers trust user generated content more than all other forms of media.
Example: Starbucks ran its White Cup Contest in 2014 and encouraged customers in the U.S. and Canada to decorate a Starbucks cup with customized art, take a photo of it, and submit the design through social media using the hashtag #WhiteCupContest.
Campaigns like this not only reassure fans that the brand cares and listens, but also inspires them to embrace the company’s belief behind their products.
3. Ask for Their Input
As it stands with other Apple products, users expect to see a consistent rollout of upgraded Apple watches. And just as it stands with other Apple products, users also expect finer tuned improvements and a clearer direction from each version. Since the Apple Watch’s first version covers the basics; time, apps, fitness, calls, etc., it’s the perfect opportunity to ask users what they love most or what they want to see more of. The smartwatch is supposed to be Apple’s most personal product–what better reason exists to get more personal with fans?
Example: Similar to Apple, Chobani competes in its own popular and crowded space. The brand asked loyal customers to submit videos and images sharing their love for Chobani Greek yogurt. Chobani then shared the content on their company website, billboards, and across other mediums. Chobani attributes the campaign to a 225.9% increase in revenue (2009 – 2010).
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4. Create a community
It’s always visibly obvious how popular Apple products are come Launch Day when fans line up and camp out by the hoards to be the first owners of the new product. Fanatics can look left or look right and immediately feel assured they’re a part of something everyone else loves too.
Apple Watch’s launch will not include this gathering. Come April 24th, when the smartwatches are officially in all stores, there will be none available for purchase. All purchases need to be made online while store versions are only meant for demos and testing. Customers also have to book a 15 minute appointment in order to try the smartwatch on. It’s meant to be a more efficient method, but also one that takes out the visible excitement of Launch Day.
A solution would be creating an online community for users. Communities breed engagement amongst users, generate valuable content, and encourage brand loyalty. It’s a place where fans can further research a product by interacting with others like them. And depending on how a brand chooses to interact with the community, fans can feel more connected and involved with the business. All without a mile-long line in the cold.
Example: Modcloth is a fine example. Modcloth saw its biggest years strictly as an ecommerce store with a loyal online community where users can submit creations, vote on ideas, upload photos of themselves wearing new pieces, and share suggestions. The brand fostered a community that in return grew Modcloth to one of the biggest ecommerce businesses in its hayday.
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