The iPhone 6 Announcement Through the Eyes of an E-Commerce Veteran

Earlier this month, you might have heard, Apple’s Tim Cook took the stage at the Flint Center in Cupertino, Calif., and announced the iPhone 6 (and iPhone 6 Plus). It was kind of a big deal in the tech community and, judging by the fact that Apple reportedly expects to sell 70 to 80 million of these things by the end of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal, it’s kind of a big deal to the everyday consumer, too.

Being in the e-commerce space, I had some interest in this — both professionally and personally.

Personally, I’ve been eligible for a new iPhone upgrade with my current mobile provider for about a year now. That means I’m a prime target for their iPhone promotional efforts for two reasons:

  • I should be, at least in theory, an easy customer to upsell to a new device (and a new contract).
  • If they can’t lock me with a new device (and a new contract), it’s easy for me to walk away from my relationship with them. In a sense, I’m a free agent.

(I am, by the way, an “Apple Guy.” I work on a MacBook Air and switched to an iPhone a few years ago for some extra efficiencies and functionalities. But I’m not a “fanboy.” I’m OK waiting a few months after a launch to get my hands on a new device.)

Professionally, I really wanted to know how Apple’s affiliates would treat the event. The company famously shuts down its online store the morning of the announcement, but what does its list of wireless service providers do? I was curious.

So, I went to my wireless provider’s website about an hour after the big (see what I did there?) announcement for the iPhone 6 to see when it would be available to buy. And what did I see?

Nothing about the new iPhone, that’s what.

In fact, in the hours after Apple’s announcement, none of the four major wireless providers featured the iPhone 6 on their homepages.

Instead of the day’s biggest consumer technology news, there were promotions for: a “best network” announcement, a four-lines deal, a “best deal in data” story for a family, and, finally, a “$100 bill credit” for a new line. Talk about a letdown.

Why does this matter?

Well, I was emotionally ready to learn about the product, and in the mood to make a purchase of considerable value. Normally, I’d say I have enhanced expectations of being delivered a relevant digital experience (given what I do and who I work for), but, on this day, I wasn’t an anomaly or a small segment; I was one of many with the same expectation.

Much of the world wanted to know about the new iPhone on DATE and a likely place to look for that information is on your wireless provider’s website. You want to know pre-order details, what deals or accommodations are being made for existing customers, and what accommodations are being made for new customers.

Think about that: This announcement forced a huge number of consumers into a re-evaluation of their typical two-year relationship with their wireless provider, a relationship that’s worth thousands of dollars. This is a gigantic acquisition and retention event for the big carriers. Yet, none took advantage of the opportunity. Each pushed a message they felt meant a lot to their brand.

But did it mean a lot to their customers?

I revisited each site the next day. Sure enough, each homepage had been updated, with the iPhone 6 promo taking the hero placement. But keep this mind: I was a ready-to-buy consumer who could have been taken out of the shopping cycle if my current wireless provider had responded to the day’s real-time events. Because they didn’t, though, I ended up visiting every carrier’s website to find what I was looking for.

And now, because I’m a “free agent” and not concerned with having the new iPhone on its official release date, I have the time to re-assess whether I should make a move to a new wireless provider.

There’s been so much talk recently about big data and personalization that, sometimes, we forget the basics, like staying nimble. The customer is always in market and how quickly we respond matters.

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