Apple and Disney Launch and Learn with Wearables

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Apple has some work to do with the Apple Watch. Early adopters are criticizing the new wearable for a host of problems, including limited battery life. In other words, development is progressing on schedule. Apple is breaking into a nascent market with an imperfect product just as another huge brand, Disney, did two years ago with the launch of the MagicBand wearable that manages most facets of a guest stay at Walt Disney World. Disney faced criticisms for a new device, addressed them, and is seeing strong uptake two years later. Apple will, too. The biggest challenge Apple faces is investor expectation that every new Apple product will take hold immediately like the iPhone or iPad. The Apple Watch is different: it represents an entry into an evolving market, more akin to the first Model T automobiles. (By contrast, the iPhone cracked an already established telephony industry.) As I discuss in a recently published white paper, both Apple and Disney are acting on a vision to change the way we live. Following is an excerpt discussing why I believe they will succeed.

Ease of Use

Apple and Disney designed the Apple Watch and MagicBand to look good, and they need to look good. The devices are designed to be visible extensions of you, worn prominently on your wrist instead of being tucked away in your pocket. Disney wants Disney World patrons to use their MagicBands to manage their entire stays, including checking into their lodging, buying souvenirs, reserving their ride times via the FastPass+ system, and getting their meals served — akin to using a wristband to live in a city. Apple has even grander ambitions: your Apple Watch is the key to not only buying goods and services, but also handling myriad other aspects of your life, such as managing your fitness.

Apple and Disney need you to feel comfortable about wearing your devices, and for good reason: wearables have been marred by ugly design, and who wants to wear a device that embarrasses the owner? Appearance is so crucial that Apple has departed from its usual custom of providing simple product options and instead provides 38 different Apple Watch designs, ranging in price from $349 to $17,000. Similarly, the Disney MagicBands are available in many different colors (at prices ranging from $12.99 to $29.99), and Disney makes it possible for MagicBand owners to “show off your Disney side” by customizing its look with accessories such as an R2-D2 Magic Slider.

But what makes Apple Watch and MagicBand game changers are their ease of use. Both devices eliminate an action: digging through your belongings to conduct an action. Have you ever found yourself fumbling around for your iPhone to search for a restaurant on Yelp? Dropped your Disney room key while trying to lasso your kids as you dig through your backpack? Apple and Disney just eliminated those aggravating moments and replaced them with more fluid, graceful user interfaces such as swiping, glancing, and speaking.

Pervasiveness

For the products to take hold, they need to be more than user friendly; they need to be pervasive. As Austin Carr of Fast Company notes, Disney designed the MagicBands to support your visit to a metropolis spanning 25,000 acres, comprising four theme parks, 140 attractions, 300 dining locations, Continue reading

How SIM Partners and Vibes Are Changing Local Marketing

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Let’s pretend for a moment that you are in Manhattan on a business trip. Just before an important meeting, you spill coffee all over your shirt. You’re too far away from your hotel to grab another one. You pull out your mobile phone and Google “shirts near me.” Lo and behold, a clothing store a few blocks away not only shows up in your search results, but the store displays an offer for 10 percent off your next purchase, with the transaction made easy via your mobile wallet. Do you think you just might be tempted to accept the offer? SIM Partners (a client) and Vibes certainly believe you will. Today the two companies announced a relationship that will combine local search and mobile technology to make it possible for businesses to make offers to consumers based on their proximity to a business. I believe the SIM Partners relationship with Vibes is changing local search by closing the gap between marketing and sales.

SIM Partners provides a software automation platform that big enterprises use to make their digital marketing more effective at the local level. Vibes is a provider of mobile marketing expertise. Both companies have something in common: they want to help businesses figure out how to capitalize on the popularity of local search. According to Google, “near me” searches have increased by 34 times since 2011 and doubled since 2014. And it’s no coincidence that smart phone usage in the United States has soared. The majority of “near me” searches occur on mobile devices. Consumers are using our mobile devices to find what we want, and when we want it, at the local level. The challenge that both SIM Partners and Vibes are tackling: how to turn local searches into revenue.

SIM Partners and Vibes are addressing a compelling issue. Local searches indicate intent to purchase. According to comScore, 80 percent of local searches on mobile phones convert to purchase — a powerful piece of data that makes perfect sense when you think about it. If you Google “pizza” on your mobile phone when you are downtown Chicago, chances are that you are looking for a place to eat pizza rather than researching the history of pizza. Big companies that operate hundreds and thousands of outlets are working with local marketing experts like SIM Partners to make sure that their names appear prominently in your search results and to ensure that it’s easy for you to find and do business with them. As SIM Partners CMO Tari Haro recently noted in a blog post, such brands have an opportunity to go beyond “being found” in search results and instead entice consumers to conduct business with them. She challenges companies to own “the next moment” of search, or the action that occurs after a consumer finds your business.

SIM Partners and Vibes took a big step in making it possible for brands to own the next moment of search. As discussed in the press release, the two companies are integrating mobile wallet campaigns with the SIM Partners Velocity platform to help national brands create online and in-store offers that convert shoppers into buyers based on a customer’s search intent and proximity.

The following graphic demonstrates how the technology works from a consumer’s point of view. In the example, a consumer uses her mobile phone or Apple Watch to conduct a “shoes near me” search in New Orleans. A shoe retailer working with SIM Partners and Vibes not only show its location in the search results, but also:

  • Displays an offer (“Get instant savings on your next purchase at Shuuz New Orleans”).
  • Allows you to download a 20-percent-off offer in your mobile wallet after you tap a “save now” button on your screen.
  • Notifies you when you are within 100 meters of the store (“Welcome to Shuuz”).

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Once you are in the store, the merchant may also serve up more offers to cross-sell merchandise such as shoe cream. There is a lot more detail behind the scenes than I’ll explain here, but the press release contains more.

I believe the SIM Partners/Vibes relationship is a game changer for these reasons:

  • The two companies are helping brands tap into natural human behaviors such as search, mobile phone usage, and shopping. Enterprises provide the offer when it matters most to consumers, creating a more relevant experience.
  • The relationship is forward thinking, as it relies on iBeacon technology and accommodates the Apple Watch — which plays to the strategies adopted by major brands such as Macy’s (an early adopter of iBeacons) and Target (already embracing the Apple Watch to enrich the shopping experience).
  • SIM Partners and Vibes are closing the gap between marketing and sales. We’re not talking about creating targeted ads to serve up more relevant content based on your browsing history — rather, SIM Partners and Vibes are empowering companies to create a specific offer at the right place and time to drive foot traffic into a store when your purchase intent is strong.

The announcement also promises a win/win for brands and consumers. Consumers win because they not only find what they want, but they get rewarded. (Tari Haro noted in a blog post today that mobile wallet offers have a 64-percent higher conversion rate over static mobile Web coupons and a 26-percent increase in average order value over static mobile web offers.) And brands create more foot traffic and revenue at the location level. If you are a national enterprise with hundreds or thousands of locations, you win at scale, too.

Apple and Disney: Extensions of You

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Apple and Disney want more than your money. They want to influence your behavior. Disney’s MagicBand wearable is teaching hundreds of thousands of Walt Disney World visitors how easy it is to manage their vacations with a simple swipe of the wrist. The Apple Watch promises to empower consumers to use their wrists and voices to perform actions ranging from buying coffee to controlling the temperatures of their homes. I use the term “market maker” to refer to a person or business that shapes our lives and behaviors. Small, nimble businesses such as Airbnb and Uber are market makers because they have upended lodging and transportation by convincing people to share services with each other. But as Apple and Disney show, big brands can be market makers, too — and big brands wield more scale. The Apple Watch and MagicBand are imperfect devices that promise to get better as more people use them (the MagicBand, with a two-year head start on the Apple Watch, has already done so). But what makes Apple and Disney market makers isn’t their focus on making better products: it’s their vision to create an extension of you. My new white paper, Apple and Disney: Extensions of You, analyzes the three reasons why the MagicBand and Apple Watch are designed to succeed where other wearables have failed, and I provide tips for your business to embrace wearables successfully. I invite you to download a copy (no registration required) and let me know what you think of it.