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The Apple Watch: 4 Things Marketers Need to Know

by: Keith Meade (@keithmeade)
14 July 2015

It's been a little more than two months since the launch of the Apple Watch. I’ve had mine more than half that time, and I thought I’d share some observations and related marketing takeaways. But first, a disclaimer: Like any new device, platform or channel, the Apple Watch is something you want to be aware of, but not something you want to re-architect your entire marketing strategy around today (unless your primary target audience is Apple Watch owners).

While I’m pretty sure the Apple Watch is poised for rapid growth and adoption, we’re still in the early stages. That said, here are four key things you need to know regarding Apple's latest innovation.

1) It’s time to revisit your mobile strategy.

The watch provides a great excuse for re-examining your entire mobile strategy. What value can you offer your customers via a mobile device? How does that differ from an app on a phone versus an app on the watch? Deciding to focus on just one touch point on your watch app, for example, may be a great way to begin supporting your watch-owning customers and help you stay top of mind.

I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I did elect to place the MLB "At Bat" app on my Apple watch, and the execution is flawless. The app knows my team and delivers on-time, relevant notifications each time my hometown Atlanta Braves get ready to take the field and whenever there’s a change in score:. 



While I may not be able to watch the game every day, this allows me to keep track of the action without being too distracted from what I’m doing. It’s an excellent example of providing just enough information to your audience at the right time. 

2) Email is different on the watch.

Apple is bringing text emails back, and of course in Apple style it’s got its own unique option for how text displays in your messages. Litmus, an IBM Marketing Cloud partner, provides the details in its blog post on how Apple uses a third mime-type specifically for the watch. This mime type allows you to specify font attributes and embed some images.

In addition to the mime-type option, here’s what you need to know regarding email on the Apple Watch:

  • HTML messages aren’t rendered, so you SHOULD include a text version of your emails
  • Links don’t work from the watch (There’s no Web browser.)
  • “From” name, subject line and preview text are the most important elements for reaching your recipients

Here's a screen shot from the watch to show how messages show up on the watch.

Email on Apple Watch


You can see you only have a few characters to use for “From” name, subject and preheader text. Be sure to avoid overlap on your messaging, such as a subject restating who the message is from or using the preheader for instructions on how to click to get the HTML version. Both items in this screen shot do an excellent job of avoiding those issues.

3) Message relevancy is even more important.

With notifications, your customers are in control. When users set up their watch for the first time, they get the choice to mirror notifications on their watch from their phone – or they can pick and choose what gets shown on their watch.

In the case of the Apple Watch, notifications can cause the watch to tap the user on their wrist. It's a subtle nudge, and a little less awkward than your entire phone vibrating. Still, when users are invited to look at their wrist for your message, it needs to be relevant.  

With that in mind, double down on making sure your messages are personalized, timely and provide value to your recipients.

Don’t overthink it, though — push notifications are great for delivering timely short messages to your audience, such as in this Amazon delivery notification for the (awesome!) Zing Storm Fire Tek Bow I purchased for my 8-year-old:



Consider, though, if Amazon only used push to let me know of new deals or products. It would be a completely different experience, and I’d likely opt out of notifications from them. How many irrelevant notifications can your recipients take?

4) Execution and attention to detail are key.

I’m happy to see Apple stepping up to offer developers more access to the watch, as it’s evident in the first watch OS release that the current SDK is the Achilles heel for many apps 

In short, the loading of the app screen and information from your phone to the watch can lead to a poor user experience. Even though this weakness is due to the SDK, your users may just get frustrated with your app.

Take the Weather Channel app. Being in Atlanta, afternoon thunderstorms – and related weather alerts – are common. In my experience, the alert notification transition from phone to watch delivered less-than-seamless performance:   

Weather 1

Weather 2

On the top is the Apple Watch notification from The Weather Channel. But when I tapped for details, it took a few seconds to load on the watch to just show the second screen, which rendered poorly.

However, while I was waiting I also received an SMS alert with the relevant details:



So even though the push notification experience wasn’t great – and it’s likely it will improve with the coming SDK enhancements — the Weather Channel's SMS alerts continue to work well, especially on the watch.

So, what have your Apple Watch experiences been like, and how has your company approached the Apple Watch? Feel free to drop me a note @keithmeade and keep the conversation going.

Related Resources:

1) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Getting Started with Mobile App Push Notifications

2) Blog: “3 Quick Ideas for Holiday Marketing Success in 2015

3) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Using Email to Drive Mobile Engagement — and Vice-Versa


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