“Apple supposedly assumes most customers have ‘already decided they want an Apple Watch’”
– Lisa Eadicicco, Business Insider
“Sorry, Cynics: Apple Watch Might Be Company’s Biggest Launch Ever”
— Damon Beres, Huffington Post
What’s the difference between the tones of those two headlines? About one month and one hell of a strategy.
The Apple Watch launched on April 10th 2015, with the caveat that it would not ship until April 24th. Moreover, it launched under the edict that customers would only be able to try it on in-stores by appointment. That’s almost unheard of for a tech launch.
Without careful customer insight and branding strategy, either of those two tactics could have gone belly up — as the Business Insider article hints at, Apple made a bold assumption. But when launch day arrived, a few incredible things happened.
Among customers who made an appointment, the conversion rate was 85-90%.
By the weekend, pre-sales were between 1.5 and 5 million. That’s 2 days to hit the number of sales that the original iPad took 28 days to reach.
The Apple Watch sold out online in fewer than 6 hours.
What made the launch work? And is it repeatable for other brick-and-mortar retailers?
Maybe the most important tactic Apple took with this launch was the blending of tech and luxury. One-on-one appointments with knowledgeable salespeople is a far cry from queuing up by the “Electronics” aisle of your local department store, and Apple took care to heighten the customer experience by launching primarily in upscale malls and department stores.
Apple may be the first of the tech brands to try this approach, and its success banked in part on their long-standing, carefully cultivated brand image, but retailers should keep it in mind as they seek new verticals and approaches for age of mobile, millennial shoppers.
The second important takeaway is the customer knowledge. Apple knows its customer base — that’s how they make big bets and feel comfortable projecting the outcomes. They dared to assume that their customers would buy the Apple Watch if they tried it, and that data-driven gamble met with overwhelming success. Getting customer insight is critical to retail success, whether in day-to-day operations or for specific promotions. Luckily, finding that data is not that hard to do. People counting provides high-accuracy data for calculating conversion rates, and that paired with in-depth product insight like dwell and lift can help turn the tide of sales in positive directions.
What one retailer achieved with the Apple Watch launch was incredible — now, let’s make it repeatable.