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Walmart tests Apple Watch app, suggesting broad market appeal

Mass merchant giant Walmart has introduced an Apple Watch application, suggesting that the device could have a broad market appeal while cementing the retailer’s role as a leader in mobile retail.

While there has been no shortage of marketers jumping in with Apple Watch apps since the device, Walmart’s entry here is notable given the retailer’s value positioning, which is in stark contrast to the $349 starting price for the Apple Watch. Walmart’s app is an extension to the retailer’s iPhone app, enabling customers to use their Apple Watch to check items off their shopping list while they shop without having to take out their phone.

“Although there continues to be debate around the scale of adoption for wearables, there’s no doubt they’re here to stay,” said Tom Farrell, director of marketing at Swrve. “Walmart are cementing their reputation as innovative mobile marketers, and this is a textbook example of smart design with the device in mind – enabling consumers to manage shopping lists on the phone whilst interacting with them on the watch when in store.”

According to a Walmart spokesman, the Apple Watch app is a test.

Key tasks
Walmart is taking a similar approach with its Apple Watch to what other merchants have done, making it easier for iPhone app users to accomplish key tasks at a time when having to pull out a phone could be a hassle.

Walmart’s entry here is a good example of how digital technologies and devices are infiltrating the traditional grocery and shopping environment, and retailers need to keep up to stay relevant with customers.

“Retailers continually need to be aware of what is happening digitally and where their customers are,” said Rebecca Roose, senior product marketer manager at MyWebGrocer, Winooski, VT. “It doesn’t make sense to react to every new buzzworthy technology.

“Retailers needs to be strategic and make sure it fits their business goal, and not jump on the bandwagon and have a me-too mentality, because they lose their brand,” she said.

Early success
Walmart’s Apple Watch app is the latest suggestion that the device is delivering some early successes.

Last week, it was reported that Apple Watch has sold nearly 2.8 million devices since it was launched in April, a number that is significantly higher than how many Android Wear watches were shipped in 2014.

A number of big retailers, both bricks-and-mortar and online, have also jumped on board with Apple Watch apps, including eBay, Office Depot and American Eagle Outfitters.

The challenge for retailers has been in developing connected experiences that make sense for a small device worn n someone’s wrist.

Some early best practices include keeping experience simple and fast, ensuring the experience provides value – remembering that wearables are not smartphones – and keeping the user in mind.

“Everyone is curious on how it can be applied beyond text, calendar and payment and how it can provide a benefit with other phone apps where it would be easier for shoppers to not take their phone out of their pocket,” Ms. Roose said. “It’s got to be easier to use the watch than their phone.

“It needs to provide added value, and complement the app and user,” she said.

With Walmart and other big retailers jumping in with Apple Watch, it may make sense for other retailers to take a wait-and-see approach.

“Let Walmart do the heavy lifting, test and learn from them. Don’t let this be a QR code initiative where there is a lot of sizzle but not steak. Retailers need to “watch” to see what happens while also monitoring their own data and market to find out if they have their own sweet spot with Apple Watch and wearables in general.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York