Apple Watch — a timely bridge for retailers?

Wristly Apple Watch Insider’s Report #31

Bernard Desarnauts
Dec 1, 2015 · 7 min read

December 1st , 2015

With the holiday shopping season kick-off right behind us, a lot has already been said on the continuous rise of the importance of mobile. Some of the most impressive stats this year include reports by Custora and IBM showing that mobile drove 35% to 40% of all e-commerce sales as well as 60% of all Internet traffic to retail sites in the last few days. Our questions to the panel this week were centered on this topic. More specifically, will Apple Watch become a new tool for retailers to further bridge online and offline and deliver a superior shopping experience?

Despite the holiday break, more than 1,250 of you took the time to participate. Thank you once again, we are very grateful.

40% report some change

Considering that Apple Watch is such a young product and that we have only seen thus far a limited investment by the majority of retailers to support it with best-of-breed native apps, it is very encouraging to see that more than a third of our panel is reporting some behavioral change.

When we analyze the panel preferences in terms of using an Apple Watch app or an iPhone app while in-store, we note striking differences across cohorts.

46% percent of those who have reported a change in behavior have a preference for an Apple Watch app compared to 36% for iPhone. The cohort of users who reported no change has essentially opposite preferences, with 27% preferring an Apple Watch app and 48% preferring an iPhone experience.

Half use the Internet regularly while in-store

The vast majority of our panel will at least try occasionally to use their devices while in store, and almost half state they will do so regularly. Before we turn to understanding what they would use their devices for, let’s assess the reasons why they don’t use their devices.

Connectivity is still a primary challenge

Besides the somewhat natural “no need/no reason to use it” cited by 61% of the panelists which is self-explained for many everyday and/or regular type purchases, a large 40% of the panel blames the poor indoor connectivity as the primary reason for not using the Internet. Providing an efficient, seamless WIFI bridge seems to be a valuable asset for retailers to deploy in store. And for the 29% who cite “do not think/forget about it”, the deployment over time of smarter, more contextual notifications should probably help.

Apple Pay reaches top spot in the blink of an eye

Considering about 20% of Wristly panelists live in regions where Apple Pay is not yet deployed, it is quite significant to see that using Apple Pay has already reached top position in “always” usage while in store. The runners up are more classic and expected for use of the Internet while in store, with “comparing prices” and “updating a shopping list” cited as # 2 and # 3 most often used.

In addition, when looking at the data by region, the results are even clearer with 51% of North American panelists stating that they are using Apple Pay “regularly” or “always,” with only 17% state that they “never” use Apple Pay (sometimes due to lack of support by their issuing financial institution).This new survey corroborates prior Wristly Apple Pay research published in the summer (read the report here).

Hyper-local and smart context rank at the top

The feedback from the Wristly panel of Apple Watch owners to the question of which feature they would value the most is very clear and straightforward. These capabilities are most likely already on the roadmap for most retailers looking at developing for Apple Watch.

The top 3 “feature requests” we highlight here are all characterized by integrating and leveraging core platform capabilities of Apple Watch including:

  • smart presence, the ability to detect in real time a very precise location of the shopper by triangulating GPS to beacons signals
  • smart context, augmenting the location data to the topic/context aware e.g. the user is within the shoes or the electronics section of the store.
  • Integration of cloud-based services and hands-free interaction e.g the re-sorting of a shopping list based on the physical location and potential “specials” on offer

The business case for retailers to invest building these capabilities seems very tangible with upwards of 20% of our respondents stating that they would visit retailers more often should these features be available. If you work in product management or marketing for a retailer and are interested in further data and insights, please do not hesitate to reach out to us as we begin to offer research consulting services. Details here.

Shopping List, Amazon & Google

When it comes to specific Internet resources or mobile apps, our panel reports that they primarily use a combination of a shopping list app, Amazon and Google search ahead of using the retailer’s own mobile app or other 3rd party resources including Pinterest or Facebook. The challenge and opportunity for retailers will be the ability to deliver unique value fostering consumer preferences for both download and use of their apps versus simply leveraging the Internet to gain shopping power.

Target takes top honor (after Apple)

Target takes top honor after Apple as the app most often used while in store by our panelists. If we factor out the 30%+ respondents who reside outside North America, just over 30% of the panel state that they use the Target mobile app while shopping in the store. Runners up Best Buy is at 24%, Walgreens at 21% and Home Depot at 19% (all percentages factoring out non US panelists).

More Apple Pay, convenience and smarter context

To finish we asked our panelists to suggest other ways Apple Watch would help enhance their offline shopping experience. Three themes resonated after sifting through several hundred suggestions:

  • Apple Pay — many are simply asking for Apple Pay to be available in their market or having more stores to use it at.
  • More convenience, for example making it easier and faster to locate specials and deals.
  • Smarter context — from hyper-local understanding of the user and their environment, for instance helping bridge contextual and spatial information to provide enhanced utility such as automatically sorting a shopping list.

Here is an assortment of some of these suggestions:

I like the idea of the watch and my iPhone guiding me in the store to the location of the product I’m looking for.

Making the iPhone app for the Amazon Echo (Alexa) compatible with the Watch. Have sent Amazon feedback on this a few times. ;-)

Please get Apple Pay into more stores. I love the ease and security.

Some sort of RFID notification where I get notified when I’m near an item on my shopping list. Like “need a measuring tape — added to list.” At Lowes passing the aisle and it taps me on the wrist to read “… item is right here for $X.”

Providing and directing a consumer to ‘Special Offers’ available in selected retail and online stores of choice.

I would really like to be able to use Apple Pay more. It only works with one of my credit cards — I wish it would work with my credit union debit card (which I use most frequently) as well as merchant branded credit cards (i.e. Target Red Card or Home Depot card).

Definitely the previous items suggested on the previous page that would improve the in-store shopping experience would go a long way. I can’t believe no store has tackled the ability to sort your shopping list by aisle. That alone would make me use a retailer’s app and shop there more often. I don’t even care for the ability to track me in-store as much, though that would be nice too.

Secure checkout without going to cashier or standing in line. Just grab item and go.

Love to see an interactive map of the store.

If you have an Apple Watch and are not yet part of our research project, please consider joining at It only takes a few minutes once a week and in return your contribution helps shape the collective understanding of this groundbreaking platform.

Introducing Wristly Pro

Do you enjoy these weekly reports? Now with Wristly Pro, you can access the essence of Apple Watch in one place every month. Wristly Pro features unique and unpublished insights from our analysis of Wristly data across multiple dimensions (demographic/geo/behavioral and more). Subscribers also gain access to exclusive previews of upcoming research and several other benefits.

$995/year special launch offer only for the first 25 subscribers. All the details here.

Wristly Research

Exclusive Watch Insights

Bernard Desarnauts

Written by

Tech Entrepreneur. 25+ years of Silicon Valley. Co-Founder @

Wristly Research

Exclusive Watch Insights

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade