Is the Apple Watch a Push Notification Killer?

Today, Apple debuted its long-awaited watch, and while the product is both beautiful and utilitarian, most brands are going to have to get creative and move beyond push notifications and beacons if they want consumers to invite them onto their wrists.

At the Apple Watch launch, Apple chief executive (CEO) Tim Cook also showcased some of the new apps that brands like Uber and W Hotels have tailored to the device, assuring the crowd that “Developers have been creating thousands of new apps” for the Apple Watch. For example, an Uber app will allow users to order a car, track its progress, and identify their ride all from their Apple Watch. And W Hotels will let guests use their Apple Watch as a room key.

While the watch has limitless possibilities for both brands and users, brands have to be more aware than ever before of the value their apps offer. “Brands would be prudent to get their experience working on the watch,” says Niels Meersschaert, chief technology officer (CTO) at Qualia. “A great example of adding value to the consumer experience would be locating items within a store, like cereals in aisle four. Imagine your grocery list, seamlessly connected to the store you are in, directing you on where to find the items in the store.”

But one way that brands could make themselves a burden rather than a boon is by relying too heavily on iBeacons and push notifications, which have the potential to become more intrusive on a watch than they are on a phone.

“The abuse of useless push notifications, already at epidemic levels, is going to become even more of a danger with a device carried on the wrist,” says Tara Greer, executive vice president and executive creative director of platforms for Deutsch LA. “At the core, any intrusion or micro-interaction done on the wrist has to hold enormous utility for the user to be considered worthy of inclusion in any iWatch product. There will be a burden on designers and marketers to be very honest about what holds value to consumers and a renewed emphasis on putting user needs first.”

And while Thomas Ordahl, chief strategy officer at Landor, believes that most brands will have to find a way to live on the Apple Watch, he doesn’t see the transition coming easily, since brands will have to move away from the tried and true practices they’re already using on mobile.

“Some kind of marketing is going to have to live in that world on your wrist, to monetize it and make it economically viable for people to create apps,” Ordahl says. “But what works on an iPhone is not going to work on the Apple Watch. Marketers are going to have to figure out something different.”

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