Earlier this year, a number of major brands launched their smartwatch products, including Samsung, Motorola, LG and Asus. On September 9th, Apple also launched its own Apple Watch along with the iPhone 6.
Smartwatch is an idea that has been around for many years however it is usually only the tech lovers who get excited about these products and not the everyday consumers. The main challenge smartwatches face is low relevance: they still seem like a gimmicky technology that imitates a watch rather than a watch that has cool functionalities. The everyday consumer hasn’t formed the habit of taking calls, reading notifications and playing apps off a watch and many don’t feel it’s necessary.
However, Apple Watch is an interesting case, not only for tech savvy’s but also for brand marketers. Of course Apple plans to win market shares from its competitors, but the biggest objective is to grow the ‘smartwatch’ category itself. By branding and bringing the Apple Watch to the everyday consumers and increasing its relevance, there will be more room to grow and a higher profit to be made for Apple and other competitors alike. Here are a few steps that Apple is taking toward making smartwatches relevant.
DESIGN, AESTHETICS AND BUILD QUALITY
Design and quality are two undisputable factors that contribute to a good product in any category, and it is especially true for a watch. A watch is called a “timepiece” because people not only wear it to tell time, but also see it as a piece of art, an accessory that requires aesthetics and craftsmanship. Although a square digital watch face is still challenging for many, we can all agree that Apple offers one of the best-designed smartwatches. From build materials, mechanism to interface, every detail is meticulously designed and consistent with Apple’s overall identity.
Perhaps due to technical limitations, all of the competing square shaped smartwatches suffer from the thick black bezel, which greatly affects the aesthetics. Apple is able to reduce the bezel to the thinnest amongst all and smartly uses a black background most of the time to avoid the bezel from showing.
Another well-designed smartwatch is Motorola’s Moto 360. Moto 360 is the only round-faced smartwatch that looks almost like a traditional watch. In communication, Motorola takes the direction of introducing its smartwatch as a true timepiece of real craftsmanship. It is greatly emphasized that all the leather used for Moto 360 comes from American leather crafter Horween Leather.
HEALTH AND FITNESS FEATURE
Both Apple Watch and Android Wear (Android’s smartwatch system that Motorola, LG and Asus use) support heart rate monitoring. Android Wear can monitor your heart rate and the number of steps you take daily as well as track weekly exercise benchmarks. Apple however took it to another level by building in a workout app. Apple Watch can track your daily calories burn, exercise amount and stand time, even suggest weekly goals. You can also check your daily activity level over months.
As more and more people pay attention to physical fitness and work out regularly nowadays, smartwatch brands hope that this health and fitness feature will be a major attraction for modern everyday consumers. A competing category has even emerged in which smart bands focus on tracking workout progress by syncing with your smartphone.
FASHION/ LUXURY STYLED ADVERTISING
From Apple’s website, you may notice that Apple Watch’s advertisements convey a sense of fashion or luxury. Moreover, Apple for the first time in history invited fashion journalists around the world to the launch event on September 9th. This tells us that Apple wants Apple Watch to be seen as a fashionable or luxurious watch that everyone should wear instead of a cutting-edge technology that interests a much smaller community.
LG is also going this route but unfortunately didn’t execute as well as Apple did.
Last but not least, the most commendable effort Apple made is creating maximum room for customization. Apple Watch offers three versions (Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition) each with two colors, two sizes and an extensive selection of bands. Although other brands such as Motorola and LG also offer changeable straps, the selection is much more limited. Apple Watch makes changing straps easy and fun, just like changing cases for your iPhone.
The three versions cater to consumers with different needs: the standard Apple Watch is made of stainless steel and feels sophisticated; Apple Watch Sport, apparently tailored for sport lovers uses lighter-weighted aluminium and a strengthened glass screen; and the luxurious Apple Watch Edition features an 18-karat gold watch case.
It is also worth mentioning that Apple Watch is the only smartwatch that offers two sizes. The smaller size is a notable addition for females and Asian consumers who have a more petite figure, or those who prefer a more sophisticated look.
From health features to customizable bands and sizes, most of our observations above display how Apple Watch has increased its relevance, which the category lacks greatly. Aside from this, Apple already enjoys extremely high brand esteem and consumer loyalty. We therefore believe that Apple Watch will do well when it launches in early 2015. In fact, some of the Labbrandians here in the office are already itching to get one ;)