Apple Watch Requires Mobile Engagement to Go From Good to Great

With the Apple Watch now available to consumers around the world, it’s more important than ever for brands to ensure that their mobile engagement strategy is Watch Ready.

With the Apple Watch now available to consumers around the world, it’s more important than ever for brands to ensure that their mobile engagement strategy is Watch Ready.

“Glanceable moments,” (think ‘the time it takes you to sneeze’) will become the new currency of mobile engagement as 40 percent of consumers are tired of pulling their phone out of pockets or purses to see what just happened—something they do 150-200 times per day.

This new world of actionable glances to the wrist will quickly take hold and with it, expectations will rise around what types of mobile engagement are Watch-Worthy.

It’s not just us that believe this to be true, according to Forrester Research, Watch apps “…require compelling ‘notification intelligence’ — something that most firms and, we fear, all marketers don’t yet fully understand. If customers turning off all notifications — the so-called nuclear opt-out option — is catastrophic on a phone, it’s suicide on a watch. A smartwatch without notifications is just a geeky clock.”

We know from our Mobile Engagement Benchmarks study that high-performing smartphone apps achieve average opt-in rates that are 45 percent higher than the rates medium-performing apps see. We also saw average opt-in rates slightly decline from 45% to 43% overall. With actionable notifications coming to Apple Watch as one of its two fundamental user experiences (Glances being the other), it is essential that brands think through how consumers want to engage on smartwatches and not simply port smartphone messaging strategies to the wrist.

Apple Watch introduces new levels of consumer control over notifications. People opting out of a brand’s smartphone notifications won’t receive them on Watch. Even if they do receive smartphone notifications, they can turn off a brand’s corresponding Watch notification through the Watch app.

So, what are the key takeaways that brands need to consider when developing for the Watch? How can they take customer engagement from good to great?

  1. Personalization is the heart of success

People are not content to let their mobile devices be a broadcast channel for brands; let alone for smartwatches, which are even more personal. To add value, brands need to tailor notifications to be as relevant as possible, capitalizing on explicit user preferences, implied needs based on behaviors, past and present location and proximity, and other contextual cues.

Highly targeted notifications get four to seven times the response rates of broadcast messages sent to most or all of an app’s users (Good Push Index: Targeting, May 2014). While your broadcast notifications may get higher response rates than your other marketing channels today, don’t be lulled into complacency as the channel is only becoming more competitive. Personalization is a critical first step in tipping the scales from good to great results.

  1. Look at the Watch as an interconnected device versus a standalone experience

Smartwatches are not islands and they were never meant to be. Rather, they will be integrated into the customer’s larger device ecosystem, acting as the gateway to more robust experiences across a brand’s app-based properties and its physical footprint.

It’s crucially important for brands to consider the interplay between consumers’ devices, designing not only quick and convenient interactions for mobile’s first “carry-on” screen, but deeper experiences that Watch can trigger on smartphones when consumers have the time to “de-board” their phone from their pocket or purse.

  1. Design for “glanceable moments”

The engagement sweet spot for wearables is about 3 seconds — not 30-second smartphone experiences according to Forrester Research. This shortened attention span demands content that is more relevant and immediately actionable. For example, presenting guests with a real-time check-in message upon entering a hotel.


VIP Check In Image


Preparing for these moments means brands should plan for hyper-shortened messaging — headlines, symbols, images, buttons and more — anything that helps the user digest information instantly.

  1. Embrace interactive, actionable messaging

Button-enabled notifications give consumers powerful controls to respond to messages, set their preferences, and execute actions within a brand’s app and other apps, all through simple taps on the Apple Watch face. Smartphones can stay in pockets or purses, offering greater convenience, while simple button taps give businesses a new way to learn what interests customers most.

Typically, brands gather consumer insight through preference centers (web or in-app), but these are limited due to the number of categories that can be included as well as consumers’ willingness to completely set them up. In-app behaviors are another great source of insight but they depend on in-app sessions and the majority of phone views are “micro mobile moments,” which don’t require the user to open an app.

In contrast, interactive notifications enable progressive profiling with button taps captured as customer attributes. For example, a retailer could send a promotion on its Father’s Day sale with buttons that include View Deals or No Thanks. Customers clicking “no thanks” would be added to a segment to avoid pestering them with additional sales details, while customer clicking View Deals could be directed to an in-app or mobile web experience displaying different product categories with subsequent clicks further informing their profile and fueling future marketing efforts.

  1. Use single-click navigation

People won’t tolerate browsing or searching on a tiny smartwatch screen. Use customer journey mapping to identify simple tasks that support both great customer experiences and your business objectives. Then deploy actionable notifications on smartwatches to simplify interactions, anticipate a user’s next steps and guide them through their next likely action.


With more Apple Watches being strapped to consumers’ wrists every day, these guidelines will help brands gain the privilege to tickle their customers’ wrists with actionable information, and, in doing so, learn more about what makes their most loyal and early-adopting customers tick.

Brent HieggelkeBrent Hieggelke is the Chief Mobile Evangelist of Urban Airship and is responsible driving the company’s market growth strategy, product demand and product marketing. Before Urban Airship, Brent spent over a decade helping brands optimize digital marketing initiatives in Marketing Executive positions at WebTrends, TouchClarity and Omniture.