Apple Watch: Transforming Apple into a Luxury Fashion Retailer

apple-watch-stylesWhile most of the tech and business press focused on the functionality of the Apple Watch (digital crown, battery life, taptic engine, yadda yadda…) discreetly milling around the event were the fashion press, invited by Apple’s new fashion and design team. The fact that Apple Watch comes in three distinct collections — Apple Watch, Sport, and Apple Watch Edition — mirrors how fashion targets different demographics and tastes with separate lines.

To date, merely owning an Apple iPhone or iPad says something about who you are. With only a few choices on colors (black, white, neon, etc.), the only way you could customize Apple products to suit your style was to entomb their beauty with covers and cases. These items lived in the back of the store, hung up as general merchandise and an add-on to the core experience of the products.

But with Apple Watch, Apple now has to change the shopping experience as well — and not just sell a luxury product but also create a luxury fashion experience. When Apple Watch launches next year, look for former CEO Angela Ahrendts to make her mark as the new head of Apple Store. Here’s the challenge — Apple Watch will launch with 3 collections, 2 sizes, and 6 bands styles in 18 colors, 2 sizes = 108 permutations of Apple Watch. An entire section of the store will be dedicated to people not just looking at the watches, but also looking at it on themselves. New salespeople will have to be hired — people who understand both technology and fashion. If you get a chance, go visit a Burberry store and marvel at the level of attention and discretion that is paid to you as you shop. Part of the fashion buying experience is knowing when to step forward and help — and also when to step back and wait.

The breakthrough of Apple Watch isn’t in its form or function — but the fact that wearable technology for the first time is truly being treated as a fashion item. I’ve been buying alternative holders and bracelets for my FitBit on Etsy, in a desperate attempt to marry my fitness and fashion goals — and left wholly unsatisfied with the experience. I’m looking forward to buying the Apple Watch — the actual act of buying it as I would an expensive purse or pair of shoes. When would I wear it? What image do I want to be sending when I’m wearing the watch — or not wearing it?

The Apple Watch is still in its 1.0 origins and it has a long way to go before it becomes a beautiful, desired item. And that’s a good thing, because Apple will need time to transform itself into the truly luxury fashion retailer and brand that it wants to be. At stake is Apple’s business model — Android will always be the low-cost leader so Apple has to continually deliver a premium experience to deserve the premium price it demands. I look forward to parting with a serious chunk of cash next year — but only if Apple Watch matches my new spring wardrobe.

New Report: “Make An App For That: Mobile Strategies For Retailers”

When it comes to shopping, I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone. Some apps are actually helpful, letting me explore products or buy something immediate. But the vast majority of the retailer apps litter my screens, sitting unused after an initial, disappointing whirl.

My frustration is reflected in the findings of my colleague Chris Silva‘s new report, entitled “Make An App For That: Mobile Strategies For Retailers“. Of particular value is that Chris pivots the report around two major strategies retails can use when it comes to mobile:

  • Enrich: These strategies are focused on driving transactions and measured in total purchases, purchase size or frequency, and purchase-per-store metrics. The ROImodel is simple — engage mobile buyers and grow the business.
  • Engage: Engage strategies are not as transaction-centric as enrich strategies and are aimed at improving user interaction and brand affinity. Engage strategies can provide product information, post-purchase support, or help to provide a presence for retailersand brands with a fully online presence. The focus is on bringing shoppers closer to the brand to drive interaction, not just spend.

The problem is that most retailers approach mobile for mobile’s sake and miss the mark when it comes to delivering value for the mobile consumer. For example, Chris points out that Abercrombie & Fitch’s mobile app doesn’t actually show any of it’s clothing while Longhorn Restaurant’s app has a cool 3D app that lets me cook a steak — but I can’t directions to the nearest restaurant.

What’s Your Mobile App Strategy?

One of the things I love about this report is that it is jam packed with highly actionable advice. Below is an example of a decision matrix which maps our your mobile app strategy options based on type of product and your goals.

Make An App For That, Which Path To Take?

Chris lays out four types of mobile apps that retailers can build, and makes the call on when to use which by writing, “As a rule of thumb, informational applications and Buy/Ship applications are most oftendesigned to build interaction with users and engage new buyers. In some of the strategiesamong brands that have been successful, the winning ingredient in the application is theinformation source the user turns to, which builds trust and engagement with that user todevelop a “go-to” relationship. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, augmenting and, perhaps, fundamentally changing and improving the user’s buying experience can reap vastrewards for the company while solving a real user pain. Regardless of the application choice,the need for a novel tool that solves an actual user’s problem is key to driving customer use.”

Make An App For That, Maturity And Next Steps

But my favorite part is at the end, where there is 1) an assessment tool to help you determine your mobile app maturity, and 2) recommendations on what to do first, second, and next based on the findings from the maturity assessment. I’ve included the recommendation graphic here but you’ll need to link over to the report to see the assessment tool.

Want To Learn More?

Here are a few things to do:

  • Read the report. I’ve embedded it below and it’s also at http://bit.ly/zuMYZb.
  • Attend a webinar Chris is doing on the report on Friday, March 2nd at 10am PT. Here’s the link to register.
  • Follow Chris on Twitter at @802dotchris.
  • Read blog posts about the report from my Altimeter colleagues. I’ve included links to them below.
Chris Silva: New Altimeter Research: Make An App For That
Jeremiah Owyang: Hey Retailers! Refine That Mobile Marketing Strategy