• April 1, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Will Apple's Smart Watch Boost Business?

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With the Apple Watch set to hit stores this month, the tech world is already abuzz with news of tracking features built into the wearable device to help marketers better target consumers nearby.

Apple CEO Tim Cook in September confirmed that the Apple Watch will be able to track its users via Bluetooth and iBeacon technology as they move around stores, shopping malls, or city streets, sharing the information with local retailers who can then send targeted offers to those in the area wearing the devices. Users who receive the targeted offers can even make their purchases with Apple Pay, a mobile wallet application that is standard on the Apple Watch.

But wireless technology industry analyst Jeff Kagan says Apple is sending conflicting messages. "Apple [has said] they have less interest in personal data and information than their competitor, Google," he says.

Now Kagan questions whether Apple will break its promises with the Apple Watch. "This confusion in the marketplace is a potential problem for Apple," he says. "This has the ability to cause brand damage for Apple and for retail stores connected to Apple."

How far that damage could go depends on Apple's marketing strategy. While Apple Watch is being marketed largely as a consumer device, it could be touted as a business tool as well, with dozens of apps either developed natively or by third-party providers, to make users more productive. For example, it offers a feature that buzzes every time an alert, notification, text message, email, or reminder is received on a user's paired smartphone.

But more important, perhaps, will be the third-party apps that come out. Apple has created a program called WatchKit for developers to create apps specifically built for the Apple Watch. These programs, when downloaded, will show up on the watch's main screen.

There are, as one might expect, Twitter and Facebook apps that enable users to manage their social media presence right from their wrists. American Airlines offers an app that enables passengers to check in with one tap. Starwood Hotels is creating an app that will let users check in and unlock their room doors with their watches. A Pinterest app can notify users when they approach places they've "pinned" and give walking directions to those sites. BMW has created an app that reminds people where they parked their cars. Honeywell and Lutron have created separate apps that let users control the temperature and lighting systems in their homes. And a Nike app will let users track the distances of their runs.

More directly tied to CRM applications, InMarket is looking to deepen the Apple Watch's integration with iBeacon and is developing an app that will enable the watch to work directly with its shopping app, List Ease. Also, TapSense is working on an app that will be able to send ads directly to the watches.

These kinds of apps will be part of the Apple Watch's long-term appeal, Kagan predicts. "This kind of device will likely grow in popularity over the next several years," he says. "I don't think...that they will be very interesting at first. However, over time, they will get more interesting and work with more partners in an increasing variety of ways."

The Apple Watch launch comes as smart watches in general are due to see 300 percent growth in 2015, according to ABI Research. Apple Watch is expected to take 50 percent of the total share of the smart watch category, the firm says.

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