Apple WatchI am the first to admit I’m a big Apple fan – our first family computer was a Macintosh Classic from the early 90’s – so I was eager to try out the new Apple Watch. Not just to see how my personal life would benefit from it but also to understand how it handles email marketing.

Whether this is a turning point for how people communicate isn’t yet clear and we currently don’t know how many people have invested in this technology so far. According to the Telegraph, “Apple has not revealed how many Watches have been sold, but market researcher Carl Howe from Think Big Analytics predicts that the initial run of Watches was more than 3 million units.” They continue, “While this figure is smaller than first weekend sales of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it dwarfs all other smartwatch sales to date and represents a milestone in wearable sales.”

So while it may not be replacing traditional communication methods it is clearly here for the time being.

So how different do emails look on the Apple Watch?

As many predicted, the Apple Watch renders emails as a text version (pictured). This happens because when the Watch notices an image loaded from a server in the email, it considers the HTML too complicated, so it shows the plain text version instead.

Even though links appear, unlike a traditional text version, it is not possible to open them on the Watch, this means there isn’t a way of tracking opens or clicks. Instead the user can access four options; flag, unread or delete and (when first viewing the email) there is also an option to dismiss which marks the email as read. These actions might encourage users to save emails for later when on a desktop or mobile device, but if dismissed or deleted there will be no results in the campaign report.

 

 

In absence of a plain text version

These images show how an email appears on the Watch when a text version isn’t included in the campaign. If the email is from an established brand and has a direct association to the reader, such as the NatWest example, then the user may be more inclined to save the email for later. However, if the email is sales orientated then seeing no content may cause readers or their mailboxes to think it is a spam email.

Our best advice is to ensure there is a text version accompanying all HTML emails in order to encourage the reader to save your email to read later. Here’s what we say about creating effective text versions.

Pushing the boundaries

Custom watch email

For the very technical, Litmus are already showing how to send a hidden version of your email only the Apple Watch will see. It may not be as pretty as a desktop or mobile version but by visiting PutsMail, an online platform that lets you send a test email to any address without an ESP (email service provider), you can send yourself a test of a Watch-optimised email using the handy code Litmus provide.I had a go at this myself to see how it worked. Using the rich text code that is supported I was able to add bold and italic styling to the heading and sub-header, create bullet point lists, include a styled quote and change the colour of the text. Overall, if you are able to apply this technique, it’s a good compromise between HTML and text versions, especially if your ESP is able to support it. Litmus will be introducing test screens for the Apple Watch in the near future too.

My personal experience

Some people experienced issues when setting the Watch up but I found it quite simple and easy to use once I got going. Most settings, including the application (app) layout, notifications, customisations and sounds, are configured on the iPhone through ‘My Watch’ (only available on iOS 8 and above).

The apps that are available on the Watch are simple versions of their iPhone equivalents. For example ASOS have developed theirs to only include products that are new in; you can then save your chosen products for later when you are at a desktop or on your phone. It’s great some companies have gone to the effort of developing a Watch version of their app, however with ASOS the screen is a bit too small to view the images.

As a fitness fan I have used the Workout and Activity apps more than the others. Even though I am a bit sceptical about how accurate it is, it has been useful knowing how many steps I’ve taken or how effective my workout was. Keeping records of these has helped me set goals and the notifications remind me of what I have left to achieve – even if it does frequently remind me to stand when sitting at my desk at work!

Activity screen shot

Being first generation there are some apps missing from the Watch; this can be slightly annoying, notifications from WhatsApp and Facebook come through but you are unable to act upon them other than dismiss the alert. You can respond to text messages, however it’s tricky as responses are limited to pre-defined phrases – my friends were confused when I started replying with, ‘Sure thing’ and, ‘Catch you later’!

Other than those limitations what stands out the most is that the Watch does drain my iPhone’s battery, luckily I carry around a portable charger but I can see this being an issue for many people.

 

 

To sum it all up

Generally I would say the Apple Watch is useful – I don’t feel the need to keep checking my phone as I am alerted on the Watch and I can filter the alerts I want to see, such as emails. I may have grown attached to it but it is something I can live without, I will however be digging out my actual watch as I have come accustomed to checking the time!

It will be interesting to see where Apple go with the future generations and if the number of people using them increases, but I think it is safe to say we won’t need to rush off and alter ways we communicate just yet. Maybe when it is more life changing I will consider purchasing one but for now I will sit back and see how the Watch develops over time.