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Jason Stum

Jason Stum Director of Strategy

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Time To Change? How The Apple Watch Affects Email Marketing

Are you a tech-obsessed nerd like me? When it comes to the latest phone, tablet, computer, gizmo, gadget or wearable device – I want it and I want it now.

I began following the Apple rumor mill intensively back when everyone referred to the forthcoming smartwatch from Apple as the iWatch. And being the geek I am, I felt like I just had to have one of these shiny new watches that did so much more than tell me what time it was and remind me that I was late for a meeting…again.

How The Apple Watch Handles Email

Honestly because of my excitement, it never occurred to me just how the latest whizzbang-gizmo from Apple might affect human behavior, communication and personal interaction.

Now that the Apple Watch has launched and many of us eagerly await our smart-timepiece to arrive on our doorstep, it’s a good time to take a deeper look to see how this new device could impact our dealerships digital marketing in general and email marketing specifically.

Entirely new ways to stay in touch

One of Apple’s stated benefits of the Apple Watch is that it gives it’s users a new way to communicate:

Apple Watch makes all the ways you’re used to communicating more convenient. And because it sits right on your wrist, it can add a physical dimension to alerts and notifications. For example, you’ll feel a gentle tap with each incoming message…

Think about how this will work for a second. You send a customer a typical email, and if they’re wearing an Apple Watch they get a taptic notification letting them know that they have a new message.

The assumption is that the user could then view your email right on their watch and take action accordingly. Seems pretty straight forward, right?

On pixels yes, but perhaps not so much in the real world because it turns out the Apple Watch doesn’t handle email the way we might expect.

How The Apple Watch Handles Email

When a new email message comes in to an Apple Watch user, they feel a tap on their wrist to notify them of it’s arrival. That’s all well and good, but the question is what does the user see when they check that email on their watch?

Plain Text.

That’s right, plain old-fashioned unformatted text displayed on a watch face less than two inches wide. No images, no color, no bolditalicized or underlined text and most importantly no clickable links with two exceptions Addresses and Phone Numbers (addresses when tapped will open in the Maps app and tapping a phone number will initiate a call on the users iPhone).

Take a look at a sample of the emails your send your prospects and customers and imagine how they might be displayed on an Apple Watch.

Mentally strip out the images, logos and formatting and see what’s left. Is there actually a personal, compelling and easily consumable message behind all the fluff? If there’s not, then you may want to start thinking about the content you provide in your email communications now.

Another interesting side effect of how the Apple Watch handles email is that open rate tracking is not possible because the Apple Watch can’t load or display the 1×1 tracking pixel.

Understanding the Shift in Time

Now I know there are probably more than a few of you who are thinking “why on earth would I change anything about my email marketing just to satisfy what amounts to a small percentage of people using a smart watch?”. Without a doubt that’s a very valid question, but consider this….

During the first day of the Apple Watch becoming available online, over one million orders were placed. To put that in perspective, in all of 2014 there were approximately one million Android Wear devices ordered – meaning Apple effectively did in a day what it took Android Wear to do in a year.

And while there’s some doubt that once the early adopters and nerd types have their watches on their wrists that Apple Watch sales will flatten out, I wouldn’t count on it. On average, industry analysts are predicting Apple will sell over 22 million smart watches in 2015.

That’s a lot of wrists that will be wearing an Apple Watch in the very near future.

And let’s not forget what happened prior to Apple launching the iPad. There were plenty of people who questioned Apple’s entry in to a market segment that had a history of failed consumer products.

Conceptually, a tablet device is appealing…But given the saturation of mobile phones and laptop computers, particularly in the consumer market, is there a place for the tablet? Not many of us would want to lug a 10-inch tablet around all day — what benefits would it provide to the average user?

Jeff Bertolucci – PCWorld

250 million iPad’s later, I don’t think anyone is questioning Apple’s decision as they redefined and dominated the tablet space with the iPad.

The same thing can hold true for the Apple Watch. Sure they weren’t first to the market with a smart watch (or an MP3 player, or a smart phone) but Apple certainly looks to be on track to redefine and dominate the smart watch market going forward.

Watch or no Watch it’s Time to Change

Smart Watches aside, Apple or otherwise, I feel there’s an important lesson to be learned here about tailoring our email communications to align with consumer behavior in 2015 and beyond.

Keeping our messages simple, personal and to the point will probably get us a lot more traction with our customers regardless of which device they read our emails on.

Are you ready to rethink and redefine your email communications with your customers? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Adam Shiflett
Great article. Good points on the "no clickable links with two exceptions Addresses and Phone Numbers". I think this insight alone will drive more marketers to add phone numbers and addresses into their campaigns. It will have to change the way we gauge conversions from emails to include those as conversions instead of just landing page and forms.
Chris K Leslie
I'll go on the record and just say it. "Emails new trackable(s) are, Phone Calls and Fresh Ups. Digital lifts do not correlate to more actual opportunities. You can argue with me all day if you want and turn it all sorts of sideways but you will be hard pressed to close loops. Ultimately though, this is why we sift through complicated analytics and make attempts at creating some loose narrative. However, if you can increase the amount of either one of those tangible and qualitative metrics (phone calls and fresh ups) by reducing the clutter. We will have come full circle and much more focused on what's important (The Message) Vs. Whats Not (The Fluff)" Thanks for the awesome post Jason I really appreciate the work you put in to them.
Alex Lau
Most decent E-mail providers take all of these applications and gadgets into consideration. It knows how to serve text only and strips all the bells and whistles of CSS3, etc.
Chris K Leslie
I think its more than that though. Yes, there are things that can strip out links and such but what if your email is still 4 swipes tall. Is that to many swipes? Not enough swipes? Who knows. The bigger story here to me is the fact that we are all so busy that we are going to wear a notification device around all day on our wrists. So if your message isn't consumable on the smallest of interfaces / devices your message does not get consumed.
Arnold Tijerina
I have an Apple Watch. I don't know if e-mail formatting is going to effect anything. It essentially notifies me that I have an email and I can glance to see who it's from and the first 3-4 lines in the email. The watch wasn't meant to be a full-fledged e-mail application. If I look at my watch and the e-mail is something I need to address, I either pull out my iPhone or use my computer. I'm not sure that changing anything right now is necessary in terms of e-mail from dealerships. I'm not a huge fan of image-filled, HTML e-mails anyways and think text based emails are more efficient, easier to read on ANY device and cut through the BS. Yeah, it's cool to have your picture in your e-mail signature. It looks cool to have HTML images of your dealership's logo but what does it accomplish other than satisfy someone's vanity. Text messages are uber-popular. They don't have any HTML formatting. You can text an image, certainly but it would look kind of silly if you texted a customer then followed it up with an image of you smiling. The way I use my Apple Watch is to determine if the communication I'm receiving is important enough to merit my time RIGHT NOW. If it's not, I'll look at it later on a proper email client or on my iPhone. Besides, when you delete a notification from your watch, it doesn't delete the e-mail from the e-mail server so the customer is going to see it eventually. That being said, if you knew a customer had an Apple Watch, I would certainly send at least one e-mail that's just text and consumable in a few sentences. The likelihood of knowing this, however, is probably very small.

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