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How Apple Will Sell a Watch That No One Really Needs

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There has been a lot of coverage lately of where and how Apple will sell the Apple Watch — through high-end luxury department stores in Paris, for example, or through special new displays inside of Apple Stores, guided into existence by fashion genius Angela Ahrendts. Finding new ways to present the watch is important, but how will Apple actually trigger a buy decision?

Sure, it’s easy enough for some rich dude to add a few new watches to his collection, and easy enough to convince the true Apple fans to give it a whirl…but how will Apple convince millions of regular humans to strap on a watch and wear it every day?

It’s a tough challenge because when you really think about it, in early 2015 the Apple Watch is a product that no one really needs. Never mind having the time on your wrist, how many people really need to track their heart rate? Of all the things that the Apple Watch does, none of them are critical to living a great life. For instance, does anyone really need to wave their Apple Watch in a retail environment to buy a pack of gum? To buy onboard amenities on a plane when it reaches cruising altitude?

How many people need a smart watch to tell them to get off their butt and move around? To count their steps or see how many stairs they climbed?

Or, to put this another way, how many people are going to say, “OK, I sit down too long. I ride the elevator. And I don’t walk around and exercise enough…so what do I need to change this? I need an Apple Watch. I need an Apple Watch to keep track of my brisk exercise so I will see it, and if I see it in a graph on my wrist, I’ll be more likely to do more exercise to close the cool green exercise ring when I reach the globally recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day. Wahoo! That’s my answer!”

That’s a psychological excuse to get an Apple Watch. It’s not a need. Not by a long shot. That’s a want.

The point is: Apple will use these psychological wants, desires and triggers to sell us millions of Apple Watches and make us insanely happy.

So let’s cover the core ways that Apple will use to help talk us into shelling out hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for a super smart wrist-worn device.

A Healthier You

The first way is by connecting the Apple Watch to a healthier life, by turning it into a catalyst for exercise, by acting like a miracle diet that psychologically appears to be the answer to a very common problem in certain parts of the world: sedentary humans.

If you’re having trouble getting enough exercise and living a healthy life — and you want to do better but can’t seem to do it yourself — buying an Apple Watch might change your life. This is hope and desire embodied by a product that is partially designed to use human nature to help you help yourself. But this doesn’t need to be a watch. This device could be a glowing orb made by Apple. Just put it in your pocket. The same principles of want and desire remain.

Apple will connect the Apple Watch to a healthier life, and that will spark a few million sales in the first year.

What About the Geeks and Fanboys?

Of course, Apple fans will buy an Apple Watch because it will extend their Apple life. Boom. A few million in sales, no problem. An Apple Watch that will turn on lights in a home, unlock doors, and use Siri to let you find a show on your new Apple TV. How cool is that? I’m in!

But there is also a segment of buyers who struggle with time management, who turn to technology to help them de-scatter their brains and give them shiny new tools to help them navigate their day. They’ll tell themselves that they are so busy and unfocused that they need notifications on their wrist to alert them to their next meeting, that they need directions to get there, and that it’s so cool to ask Siri on your wrist to text a colleague or buddy to ask if he wants iced or regular coffee — since you’re getting up from your chair to get some walking in anyway so you can meet your movement goals for the day.

None of this is particularly critical to anyone’s life. But for some, it will feel critical. For a handful of managers whose calendar is filled by an assistant, it might be genuinely useful. For most of the world? Not so much. Right now, a communication device on your wrist is more about vanity than reality, about self-importance and feeling effective — and those are the emotions that Apple will tap to help sell the Apple Watch to another few million people: The Apple Watch will make you more effective during your work day.

The Apple Watch Will Let You Express Your Personality

Most people don’t have the budget to buy multiple watches to match their different fashion needs. The Apple Watch promises to be the one watch that can rule them all, with easily swappable bands and multiple faces to choose from to fit your environment and dress. The Apple Watch is versatile enough to exercise with you in all your sweaty glory, timing your miles and wind sprints — and then cool enough to dress up for a dinner date out on the town, too.

This element of flexibility will be particularly effective because it will become a critical excuse for millions of people who have stopped wearing watches because now they don’t know which watch to buy. Can you imagine the Apple Watch commercials jauntily showing the transitions? They like the fashion element of a watch, like the old-school notion of time on their wrist, like the tradition of a watch, and they prefer to wear something that has a purpose, more than rock-star leather bracelets that just sort of seem cool.

I believe there are millions of people who want to wear a watch, but have gotten psychologically stuck in a rut over what kind of watch person they are. If a guy isn’t James Bond, which watch makes sense?

The Apple Watch will make sense in many contexts: for teenagers, for women, and for men — and that will help it sell, too.

The App Ecosystem Will Drive Sales

Of course, as developers imagine and create new apps, new reasons to buy the Apple Watch will emerge. Case in point? The iPad. When Steve Jobs first revealed it, most people didn’t understand why it was so cool and desirable. It wasn’t a necessary product. Super light and small notebook computers covered portability and the iPhone covered apps for super mobile needs. Yet, the iPad became a device of desire for well over 200 million people. Absolutely critical? Not really. Successful? Of course. Insanely so.

Meanwhile, the Apple Watch Will Get Intimate

Plenty of naysayers and doubting Debbie’s have pointed out that the Apple Watch doesn’t have a “killer app” or a single “killer feature” that will make it take off and sell like crazy. I think it does contain a killer feature: the Apple Taptic Engine, which uses vibration to create a physical sensory experience.

In addition to Apple’s understanding of sound and animation, the Apple Watch will seem and feel more alive than any other wearable device to date — which will feed and enhance all the other psychological points of entry into investing in an Apple Watch.

Why did the iPad succeed? I think it succeeded primarily because we could touch it, and because Apple worked so hard on nuances of the interface that few of us consciously notice. It became magical.

And what about intimacy? While the Apple Watch might feel alive, it’s greatest potential is how it might transform how we communicate with our loved ones. As we become scattered across the globe, maintaining human connection gets harder. There are plenty of people who travel a heckuva lot, and some of them miss their families. The Apple Watch will let you send your heartbeat to someone else, felt through the haptic vibration of the Apple Watch. If your spouse is in the hospital while you must be somewhere else — maybe even driving your kids to school — this will be a big deal.

Other types of vibration could be created — like special ring tones for certain contacts. The difference with the Apple Watch, though, will be its intimacy — physical feeling matters, and the Apple Watch will be the most important catalyst to remote contact since the invention of the smartphone. Just saying. In a couple of years, haptic feedback will be all over the place.

So how will Apple sell the Apple Watch? Apple will reach into your mind and nudge your buying triggers. And Apple’s secret weapon? Your heart. Apple will pull those strings, too.

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