Apple's In-Store Reservation System for Viewing and Purchasing a Simple Apple Watch is Complete Overkill
Last month we covered the topic of the Apple Watch a minimum of six times (01, 02, 03, 04, 05 and 06). The topics ranged from Apple winning the International Forum designer award for Apple Watch to co-inventor of Swatch saying that the Apple Watch could bring forth an Ice Age to Switzerland's watch market through to Piper Jaffray forecasting that Apple would sell only one million units of Apple Watch in the first weekend. While J.P. Morgan is forecasting that Apple will sell 26 million units of Apple Watch this year, Piper Jaffray sees it only being 14 million. That's a far cry from Taiwan's supply chain who originally forecasted 30-40 million units for 2015 back in November. Why are the forecasts dropping for Apple Watch?
While AppleInsider wrote an interesting story today about expectations of Apple Watch sales in the opening weekend and beyond, it looked like they were trying to downplay the Apple Watch forecasts of many for the opening weekend. In fact they went out of their way to downplay Apple Watch sales for the entire year and beyond with all kinds of examples to support their view. Yet once they brought in Apple TV as the Apple hobby product as one example, you knew that this was expressing an underlying fear that Apple Watch could actually be seen as a failure right out of the gate and perhaps for years to come. Perhaps they were hedging their bets on Apple Watch.
After reading that report I then read a PCMag report titled "Apple Confirms: No Walk-In Purchasing for Apple Watch." The report begins with this: "Well, we knew the Apple Watch was going to be sold in limited quantities on launch day—we just didn't know how limited, nor how long the limited supply might last. Apple has finally chimed in to give some additional details about the Apple Watch's big April 24 release date, and you might not be too thrilled if you're used to just waltzing in to your local Apple Store and doing whatever you want."
It appears that "all Apple Watch sales will require some kind of online reservation, period. You won't be able to just walk into a store, grab one off the shelf, and buy it day-of. And this isn't just a launch day peculiarity. Until Apple changes its mind—which it might not—all Apple Watch purchases will require you to make an online reservation …"
The Apple Store's fame was established quickly because it allowed consumers walking into their stores to actually touch and feel, point and click, and generally kick the tires of a cool Apple product that they heard about or seen in ads. Apple Stores ensure that every Mac, iPhone and iPad are connected to the net so consumers could check out speeds of a device using Safari. Over and above that, Apple Stores have well trained, friendly and mostly courteous sales reps to assist you with any questions that you might have about a product or service. For Christmas shoppers, Apple Stores are techland dream stores as the reps will even go out of their way to help a buyer set up a newly purchased device right in the store at no extra charge. The experience thus far really has no equal. But that friendliness won't extend to the experience of purchasing an Apple Watch unless you have an advanced reservation made online. It kills the whole flow of impulse buying.
Apple paid a pretty penny to bring Angela Ahrendts onboard to bring her high fashion experience as Burberry's CEO to Apple for the preparation of selling Apple Watch. Selling the Apple Watch in such an odd way through reservations makes sense if you're buying one of Apple smartwatches starting at $10,000. In fact, they better pamper someone who is willing to spend that kind of cash for a watch of any kind. Hell, roll out a glass of Champaign and make them feel like kings and queens.
But honestly, having to make a reservation for a Sports watch or even a standard Apple Watch is complete overkill, time consuming and something most won't bother with at Christmas as regular consumers. Apple fans are another matter of course and for obvious reasons.
When I buy a car, an iPhone, a fridge or most items over a thousand dollars I like shopping and comparing products and being able to go back and forth to see what's best. With the Apple Watch, that's just not going to be an option for anyone. For the Apple faithful and the one-percenters, it won't be a bother. Perhaps that's all that Apple cares about in round one. But for the first big product since Steve Jobs' passing, it's an odd way to get consumers excited. I'm sure many will flock to Apple Stores expecting to see them on display. They'll see them of course, on in-store advertising, but that's it.
Why couldn't Apple have at least the "Watch Sport" model on display and have some of the strap options behind a glass either on their shelves or on a custom stand that rotates? Why can't consumers at least have the ability to buy the simple Watch Sport model in the store instead of forcing them to go back home and fill out an order form?
The Apple Watch forecasts seem to be falling and I think in-part it's because of this narrowly restricted method of accessing the product is going to be.
As an Apple fan and blogger I'll likely make the reservation and go through the steps just to see what the experience is like. But if any other company would ever ask me to do that for anything as simple as a watch, I'd say pass, without thinking. I'd either see it as either a snobbish way to sell me a product or a way for a salesman to pressure me throughout the entire process to buy the product. Who needs or wants that? I'm not saying that Apple sales reps would ever entertain pressure sales tactics, because they won't. But the long process for just wanting to see and make a purchase for a simple "Watch Sport" is complete overkill. It almost makes me wonder about Apple's confidence in their product. There's no reasoning to justify this process for the lower end of the watch line.
If Apple would have sold their iPhone 6 Plus in this same manner, I would have gone to another store to purchase one. Yet with the Apple Watch, I'm not sure how that's going to play out. I'm not even sure that other retailers will even have the opportunity of selling Apple Watches of any kind. Will this option open up for Christmas? Only time will tell.
In the end, I think that Apple's in-store reservation system for viewing and purchasing a simple "Watch Sport" is overkill to say the least. If you have a different take on it, send in your comments below.