Apple Watch launch: what marketers need to know
The long-awaited Apple Watch launched last night (9 March) at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center. Here are the key things marketers need to know about the Watch as well as Apple’s many other announcements during the event.
Apple eyes the luxury market
Although Apple’s smartwatches feature various price points and a range of looks, it is clear that the brand has worked hard to make the products ‘aspirational’ luxury items.
At the lowest price point, Apple’s ‘Sport’ watches will be priced between $300-400. These watches will feature a rubber strap but generally the same features within the product including the ability to interact with a range of apps, use voice recognition through Siri and set personal reminders throughout the day.
The Apple Watch ‘Edition’ watches, however, can cost up to $10k plus. These products feature 18-karat gold cases in yellow or rose and are the main product that has featured within ads in high-fashion magazines such as Vogue. While speaking at the event, Tim Cook, Apple CEO said that these watches will only be sold to a select few upmarket retailers.
Analysts believe that the move to create a highly priced variant of the watch is part of Apple’s attempts to become a technology-based luxury brand. This is something that Apple has been working on since its announcement of the watch in September 2014.
Apple initially signalled this strategy with the hiring of Angela Ahrendts from upmarket fashion house Burberry to transform Apple’s retail business. As a result of the appointment, the brand has consistently placed emphasis on design and style during the creation of the watch.
It is also clear from the launch that China is becoming a primary market for the Apple brand. The country is forecast to account for as much as half of global luxury goods sales by 2025.
Tim Cook spoke about the growth of Apple stores in the area saying that the brand now has 21 retail stores in China and has “big plans” to continue growth throughout Asia.
The Apple Watch introduction featured the opening of various stores around China, including the flagship Apple store in West Lake.
Apple Pay is growing
Cook mentioned during the launch that Apple Pay is now accepted at nearly 700,000 locations, with more locations and apps starting to accept the payment platform every day.
With more brands working towards creating a fluid consumer journey, quick pay, cardless, scanning technology is becoming an increasingly important feature.
The retailers that accept Apple Pay (see picture below) now include McDonald’s, Nike, Disney and Anthropologie. The service, meanwhile, will go on to work at over 2,500 banks.
The service has also stretched to vending machines in the US. Coca-Cola currently has 40,000 vending machines that accept the service, and it hopes to grow that number to 100,000.
The Apple Watch will also allow quick-payments with Apple Pay as highlighted by Kevin Lynch, the vice president of technology at Apple, during his demonstration, last night.
Major car brands are committed to using CarPlay
Cook said that every major car brand is now committed to using CarPlay- the Apple operating system that provides services within cars. CarPlay will be showing up on 40 new car models later this year.
CarPlay is going head-to-head in the marketplace with Google’s Android Auto. The devices plug into iOS or Android to make major phone features easier and safer to use while driving.
With the recent boom in driverless and more intuitive cars, this is clearly a trend that Apple wants to be a part of.
Apple TV is growing in momentum
Cook announced that 25 million people now use Apple TV for movies, TV shows and music after the service recovered from a slow start.
Apple has now partnered with HBO to create a new service ‘HBO Now’ which is a subscription service for the US market that will cost consumers around $14.99 a month. HBO will offer access to HBO’s entire library of original shows, including the likes of The Wire and The Sopranos, and also its large catalogue of feature films.
In an increasingly competitive TV streaming market the new partnership shows both brands attempting to stay ahead in the race for online TV content.
Apple TV offers programming from a range of content providers including Netflix, Huluplus, Fox and ABC. Cook said that Apple has now reduced the price of the Apple TV box to $69.
Connected TVs will be used on a regular basis in 67.9 million US households this year, according to eMarketer, representing 55.9% of all US households.
I believe Apple began to secure themselves as a luxury brand with the release of the iPhone, setting themselves apart with minimalistic, yet bold designs. It will be interesting to see how Apple pairs with designer brands, athletes, fashion figures, and celebrities in the future to further brand and market their products as they move in the the luxury goods industry. This type of expansion is also slightly tangential from the strict technology path that Apple has been following for so long. I have no doubts that their endeavors will be successful, but it will be interesting to see how wide they stretch as far as product offerings in the future.