With next week’s Apple Watch event fast approaching, Apple has revealed its retail selling strategies to employees, including a focus on “three key features” and a plan to encourage Watch customers to upgrade or switch to new iPhones. According to selling guidelines provided by sources within Apple Retail, Apple believes that “many customers have already decided they want an Apple Watch,” and will use the Watch to “position the benefits” of purchasing a compatible iPhone model. Retail employees have been told to ask customers about their iPhone usage habits, their favorite feature in iOS 8, and if they use health and fitness software on their iPhone…
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One of the more striking elements of Apple’s sales strategy is a stated confidence that “many customers have already decided that they want an Apple Watch.” Operating under this assumption, Apple employees have been told to ask customers a series of soft questions in order to make the sale, rather than making a hard sales pitch. Salespeople are asked to “listen for cues that reveal what [the customer cares] about” so that they can make purchase recommendations. Questions include, “What interests you the most about Apple Watch?” and “How do you see yourself using Apple Watch?”, as well as asking the customer to explain who the Watch is for: “is it for yourself or someone else? Is there a special occasion?”, the script reads. This indicates that Apple believes Apple Watch may have special appeal as a high-end gift for other people, rather than the customer himself or herself, something Apple has not explicitly pushed for the cellular contract-dependent iPhone.
Using the Apple Watch as an opportunity to sell iPhones is another interesting element of Apple’s sales strategy. Apple CEO Tim Cook previously dedicated four-hour meetings with Apple Retail Store managers to discuss boosting sales within Apple’s own stores, and the Apple Watch launch will be another occasion to pitch customers on the high-margin smartphone. iOS 8 notably added the Health app and HealthKit, which aggregate fitness and health data, tying deeply into the Apple Watch experience. Given the Apple Watch’s dependence on an iPhone running iOS 8, Apple Retail employees are also specifically told to encourage customers “who don’t use iPhone to switch now so they’re ready for Apple Watch later.”
Although many people expect next week’s media event to focus on new selling points for the Apple Watch, the pitch interestingly focuses on promoting “3 Key Features” previously highlighted by Apple during the first Apple Watch reveal in September 2014. These features are “Health and Fitness,” “New Ways to Connect” [with people] and “Timekeeping.” Apple notably spotlights Health and Fitness first, and discusses it the most, saying much less about the communication and timekeeping features.
Yesterday, we reported that Cook teased a number of upcoming third-party Health and Fitness applications expected to launch alongside Apple Watch, and will likely be revealed at the March 9th “Spring Forward” event in San Francisco. The New Ways to Connect feature mentioned in the training materials references the sharing of heart beats between two Apple Watch users, while Timekeeping refers to the device’s clock faces with digital complications and information widgets.
Lastly, Apple asks employees to discuss personal style such as “customer needs, tastes, and material preferences” with customers. The Apple Watch comes in three styles, an aluminum sport version, a shiny stainless steel design, and a flashier 18-karat gold model, and this is where Apple will help determine which collection should be recommended to the customer. To narrow this down, Apple asks employees to ask the customer: “Are you looking for a watch that’s more casual or formal?” and “Do you prefer metal or leather bands?” The employee can use these questions to determine whether the customer is looking toward the entry-level Sport model or one of the two more premium options. Only the stainless steel and gold models are pre-sold with bands other than the plastic sports straps; the stainless model can be positioned by asking customers if they prefer metal bands.
Additionally, Apple tells employees to ask an accessory-related question: “Would you like different bands to suit different occasions?” On the surface, the question seems innocuous, but points to the fact that Apple is hoping that Apple Watch will simultaneously invigorate its accessories business, a point confirmed by Senior VP of Retail Angela Ahrendts last week in the first ever Town Hall meeting for Retail employees. According to people in attendance, the meeting for corporate retail employees took place in the Cupertino Flint Center, where the Watch was first unveiled. Among several topics, Ahrendts is said to have specifically named accessories as one of the three most critical facets of Apple retail going forward, alongside iPhones and sales in China. We reported last month that Apple would individually sell different Apple Watch band options in its stores at launch, meaning that a customer could buy a Watch from any collection with its included band, then buy separate bands to rotate styles to their liking.
During that Town Hall meeting, Ahrendts also discussed an upcoming revamp of the Apple Store sales experience, indicating that Apple will move to a model more personalized to individual customers. Apple has internally discussed new retail store layouts and sales methods in light of the Apple Watch. The company has installed safes inside of Apple Stores to house the more expensive device, while it is also planning to set up new glass-covered Apple Watch display tables similar to those at the device’s unveiling. For the gold model, employees are expected to use a special iPhone app to unlock the table, enabling customers to try on the more expensive watch. Apple is also considering a new “Special Reservation” program for customers to pre-reserve a custom Apple Watch casing and band combination before going into the store, trying it on, and completing the purchase.
While Apple has said that the Apple Watch will go on sale in April, the company has not officially indicated the launch countries. Besides the United States, Cook told retail employees in Germany that the device will be available in their country in April, while sources say that retail employees from Australia, France, and the United Kingdom have been trained in Cupertino about the Watch, indicating an April debut for those countries as well. The Apple Watch will start at $349 for the aluminum Sport model, with the stainless steel and gold models expected to be priced much higher.