What The Apple Watch Means For Market Research

What The Apple Watch Means For Market Research

Smart watches are nothing new. They even date back to as early as 1972. On Tuesday, Apple’s highly anticipated iPhone 6 launch party unveiled their “next big thing” – the Apple Watch. Other powerhouse companies such as Samsung, Sony, Motorola are already players in the smart watch space. So why are people flipping over cars in the streets with excitement over Apple’s latest announcement? Besides the fact that Apple has an incredible track record for creating products that revolutionize our daily lives, Apple’s latest release is exciting because it shows us that they still understand what it takes to make “magic” happen.

When the iPhone was first released it was not ‘great’ because it had a clean design, intuitive user interface, and new apps; but rather it furthered our ability to integrate and sync our lives together. Not only could we now automatically sync our phone’s treasured files seamlessly with our desktop computer but apps were now communicating with each other better than ever before. That’s where the magic happened. Apple gave us the ability to sync what were previously separate worlds into one, unified universe.

As I watched the recording of the unveiling of the Apple Watch, I started to wonder how this next evolution in smart watch technology would impact people on a day-to-day basis; and eventually how it might affect market research.

If you’re one who would stop me by saying, “Why are we even talking about this? The Apple Watch is a niche accessory at best”, let me first explain why I make the assumption that this will soon impact people’s daily lives on a large scale.

Yes, the known features of the Apple Watch are not a reason to jump for joy because those features are generally available through different wearables already on the market. What makes this different is Apple’s superior marketing and distributing power. They’ve already begun to leverage this by striking deals with some of the leading health systems, in an effort to diversify their HealthKit.

Apple has a history of defining a category. Forrester Research believes Apple will sell as many as 10m Apple Watches in its first year, which is more than all of the other leading manufacturers of wrist-based wearables have sold in totality.

All of this is to say that Apple has a good chance of making wearing a smart watch the next big cultural trend. As easy as it can be, let’s not assume this is just a niche product. Yes – the Apple Watch is limited to only iPhone users, but let’s not underestimate Apple.

Apple Watch’s Effect on Market Research

Let’s start by looking at what wearable computing means to the research industry. When scanner data was first available in the mid-1980’s, researchers were able to look at “real time” data (delayed by 60 days for aggregation, etc.) and see how behaviors changed. Correlating this data stream to marketing activities yielded a new wave of insights on how in-store promotion, pricing, merchandising, etc. worked. A new type of market research was born … and it didn’t have anything to do with surveys.

Let’s jump back into why I believe Apple created more ‘magic’ with the Apple Watch. As with the iPhone, the real magic was that it integrated multiple worlds. The same is true for the Apple Watch. Apple’s newest product is expected to be able to seamlessly sync data with your iPhone. The first few applications that come to mind are:

Health data – it is anticipated that the Apple Watch will include a range of sensors and sync with a patient’s health records. By monitoring and syncing health data like blood glucose levels and blood pressure, Apple may have the ability to predict heart attacks.

Marketing data – Geotargeting is already happening but an interesting twist to this would be adding health data into the mix. For example, maybe we can monitor not only the location of consumers but how their heart rate changes by location. Perhaps a specific store elicits certain emotions that cause the heart rate to rise or fall.

This reminds me of an excellent presentation I heard at IIEX NA in Atlanta in June. Rebeca Fucci from Fresh Intelligence spoke on the role of emotional engagement. Rebeca explained how emotional engagement relates to loyalty. Far too often we associate loyalty with frequency. She gave a simple example from her childhood to drive this point home. Rebeca grew up in a small town where the most convenient thrift store was a chain called Ames. She went to Ames almost every day when she was younger. If she were to ask one of the Ames employees if she was a loyal customer, they would have said, “yes” without hesitation. In reality, she despised the store, and by the time she was old enough to drive, it was worth it to her to drive 45 minutes to the nearest national department store.

Rebeca reminds us that if you want to look at true loyalty, you must look at emotions and not just behavior. It’s the emotional side of the decision making process that creates the immediate connection and interest.

”Perhaps we can combine our geotargeting data with our emotional/health data and become better at understanding loyalty and consumer behavior.”

As wearables become more mainstream, the data feeds available on consumer behavior (in REAL time and in REAL space) might trigger another revolution in marketing analysis (similar to scanner data in the mid-1980s). Maybe we can intercept the consumer and ask a question or two in real time and try to make “micro-survey “ data relevant!

On ABC’s Shark Tank, Mark Cuban often mentions that sensory technology is the future of user experience and research. Sensory technology is nothing new but anytime it’s intertwined into such a revolutionary brand like Apple we must start looking at the bigger picture.

The Apple Watch may add the emotional context we’ve always been looking for.

If you disagree or agree with me, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Let’s have a healthy discussion on what impact the Apple Watch will have on the industry, if any.

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