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American Eagle Outfitters unveils Apple Watch features to drive in-store sales

American Eagle Outfitters has updated its mobile application in anticipation of the release of the Apple Watch, tailoring features such as a store locator and speedy access to deals to wearable-equipped shoppers.

A number of retailers and brands with apps on the iTunes App Store are upgrading to coincide with the launch of the Apple Watch on April 24. Retailers and brands want to have an all-access pass to consumers, and the Apple Watch is just one of the many ways to reach today’s tech-savvy consumers.

“It is important for brands keep up the communication channels with their customers in the ever evolving digital space,” said Alex Funk, senior director of paid media at iProspect, San Diego, CA. “It allows the retailers to provide the right information in the right amount of space in a well designed user experience.

“The Apple Watch is just the newest extent of that space where this can be done,” he said.

The features of the American Eagle Apple Watch app are a store locator and access to the customer rewards program. Users will have access to their purchase history, any rewards or deals and the digital card to easily swipe at checkout.

Watching for features
These are the only two features American Eagle Outfitters is offering for the Apple Watch, with good reason. As the screens of mobile phones increase in size, the release of the Apple Watch is a drastic decrease in screen size.

That means that retailers looking to foray into smartwatch app development must research and contemplate what will work best for consumers and the retailer to get the most out of the app.

Some may say that developing shopping and browsing features for smartwatches is a misstep. While smartphones and tablets are not going away, the watch is simply an addition to the collection of mobile devices consumers will turn to for browsing capabilities.

Releasing features that assist shoppers on-the-go, especially while in-store, can be very beneficial for sales. Customers will have access to their rewards program and may easily locate the nearest store with a touch of a few buttons on their wrist.

The smartwatch territory right now is unknown, as the technology is so new. After Apple releases its watch, everything will change again.

Therefore, American Eagle Outfitters’ decision to only release these two features is a good start to wading into the smartwatch pool.

These features will be effective in driving in-store sales, which are currently on the decline for many big name stores, particularly those that hope to resonate with millennial shoppers.

This is apart of American Eagle Outfitters’ plan to ramp up exclusive deals through mobile. It recently updated its app with a new “offers” tab for users to get better access to specials (see more).

The retailer has such a large focus on mobile due to its demographic skewing younger.

Be smart with watches
One of the big opportunities for brands on smartwatches is likely to be notifications, but the killer application that can drive mass adoption is yet to be built (see more).

Marketers’ advertising spend on smartwatches is expected to reach a total of $68.6 million in four years as the wearables sector becomes permeated by top technology brands such as Apple, as well as more fashion-friendly retail brands, according a report from Juniper Research (see more).

It is imperative for brands releasing smart watch apps that they develop appropriate content and American Eagle has the right idea with the elements it has update for the Apple Watch.

“These [features] are the two most important to get started with,” Mr. Funk said. “I do not think the size and form factor allows for the type of shopping and browsing you are accustomed to on the larger iPhones, tablets and desktops.

“The need to give them very quick information and location based services seems like a good first fit,” he said. “Payment cards, loyalty cards and coupons are another early application.

“The customer will still have an iPhone in their pocket and you are not tying to replace that, just add additional value on the wrist of the customer.”

Final Take
Brielle Jaekel is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, New York