Business Technology

How Apple Watch will impact the founders of Love Home Swap, YPlan and other UK businesses

13 min read

24 April 2015

Former deputy editor

As of 24 April, the Apple Watch is officially on sale globally, but how will the device impact British business owners? We've investigated the effect the gadget is set to have for entrepreneurs and also other emerging technologies that could play a part in the future of UK SMEs.

The Apple Watch was rumoured for a number of years, yet nothing materialised.

Loathed South Korean rival Samsung, meanwhile, has released a number of Galaxy Gear smartwatches during rumours the iPhone maker was suffering from engineering problems – though none of them have truly generated the appeal of its Galaxy S smartphones.

Admittedly, wearable technology is still in its infancy, but could that all change with the official release of the Apple Watch?

After all, the company is praised for igniting today’s appetite for smartphones following the introduction of the original iPhone back in 2007. Similarly the iPad has also been a global success.

The week alone, it was revealed the iPhone would be even bigger than web giants Google and Yahoo if it was a company.

So with the track record of disrupting sectors and dominating them, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine Apple will strike gold with its debut smartwatch.

However, while the Watch may strike a chord with devout Apple fans, can the same be said of businesses?

Digital marketing agency Greenlight has found that a third of marketers are currently toying with the idea of developing an app for the device this year, though just eight per cent are actively making production plans.

A further showcase of what appears to be indifference is seen as 57 per cent admitted there are no plans to buy one, and just 19 per cent plan to buy or have ordered the tech.

Marketers are expecting that notifications, contactless payments and messaging will be the biggest attractions for consumers at 62 per cent, 56 per cent and 48 per cent.

But only 29 per cent believe consumers will use the watches to shop online and they’re probably not entirely wrong. A classic complaint from shoppers about using their smartphones to make purchases was that the screens are too small or that the process is too convoluted.

As such, that will undoubtedly rule out the Apple Watch as a primary vessel for retail therapy or ordering the week’s food shop.

In fact, as much as mobile payments continue to grow, Skrill Payments revealed on 23 April that only 14 per cent of Brits are comfortable ordering through apps on their phones and 30 per cent worry about data theft.

Debbie Wosskow, CEO and co-founder of Love Home Swap said she probably won’t be using an Apple Watch to manage her business, but added that it’s likely the company’s sharing economy-savvy customer base will adopt the tech which could result in wearable support.

“Our members tend to be early adopters, so this is very likely,” she said. “Our model is based around timely communication so we’re keeping a close eye on the space – meantime our focus is on building our native app suite.”

During the Budget 2015, George Osborne introduced a £40m fund to develop the Internet of Things and Smart Cities – an area of tech Wosskow is interested in. “As the Internet of Things within the home develops, we can see real benefit from technologies that will allow members to grant each other remote access to their homes securely,” she explained.

Meanwhile, Journolink founder Gemma Guise is eager to purchase Apple’s latest innovation, particularly as the wrist-based usage could free up the amount of time spent with a phone in her hand.

“I think the Apple Watch is an amazing product and I am really keen to buy one. I am not sure how beneficial it will be to my business though,” she admitted.

The Watch has three price points of £299, £479 and an outrageous £9,500, and cost is a factor that will impact the sales for Guise and many other SMEs and consumers alike.

She explained: “The reason I wont be first in the queue for the Watch is down to the price. Being an entrepreneur and running my own company, I watch the pennies closely. I would not be able to justify the price and I am certain the majority of my clients will feel the same.”

Mobile-centric events service YPlan has expanded from London to New York and San Francisco in just a couple of years since launching. With that in mind, CEO Rytis Vitkauskas thinks the watch could be a handy tool. “We move at a fast pace, so anything that helps keep our global team on top of emails, on track with meetings and in touch across different markets will certainly be useful to us.”

Like Love Home Swap’s audience, YPlan users are early adopters of new tech developments and Vitkauskas anticipates there will be demand, which is why there’s already a strategy on how a development would be managed.

“Rather than trying to squash our mobile app into a smaller screen, we’re instead thinking about the ways we can use Apple’s latest product to make people’s going out experience even more seamless,” he said. “Customers could browse, invite friends and book on their mobile, sync the ticket to their Watch, follow directions to the venue and access their event from their wrist.”

On 14 April, we looked at the five ways smartphones have changed retail for businesses like Ted Baker – one of which was integration with iBeacons. Vitkauskas said the location-based tech is a useful tool to “reshape the way people discover things to do and plan their night out.”

Continue reading on the next page to discover the benefit YPlan sees in virtual reality, how technology can help the childcare industry, and why all businesses need to be concerned about employees owning an Apple Watch.

Virtual reality is also an area of interest for the YPlan co-founder as he said: “The potential for VR to let customers experience an event before booking their ticket could also have a significant impact on the entertainment industry.

“We’re currently limited to photos, snippets of music and video clips, but if a venue could give customers an immersive taster of their forthcoming event it could make that sales pitch much more compelling.”

FieldHouse Associates MD Cordelia Meacher is unconvinced an Apple Watch would help to manage the business or provide company growth, but reckons there could be a side effect to boost the market.

“It will no doubt help progress the wearable/smartwatch market as a whole, which means that we’ll see a number of different startups trying to disrupt sectors using what the Apple Watch can offer,” she said.

“Being an agency working with companies on the bleeding edge of technology, we know that a few of our clients will be using the Apple Watch to look at how their customers could potentially use it. That said, it’s important we stay ahead of the curve on all the latest developments in tech, how people and companies are using them and trying to spot different opportunities.”

As for other emerging tech developments, the PR agency boss expects artificial intelligence and machine learning could support her particular industry in the future due to a “need to track and measure sentiment around clients.”

Angela Spencer, director of Angels at Play nurseries agreed with Guise’s comments about the Watch offering more freedom from the iPhone.

However, it’s wearable spectacles that would be of particular interest to Spencer, who said: “ In my profession I would love to develop an app for the staff to be able to use instantly to record children’s development without the issue of cameras. I am looking to trial video glasses called SunnyCam in the nurseries to record children’s interaction.”

Although the jury is still out on the Apple Watch from the UK’s entrepreneurs, some businesses have already introduced support.

Some 60 per cent of Just Eat orders are processed via mobile apps on Android, iOS and Windows at present, so the online takeaway ordering service has launched its app today. Users are able to check delivery ETA and review order details.

Additionally, video conferencing service Blue Jeans has launched an app for the Apple device, which will allow business users to track meetings and view schedules.

Explaining the decision behind the launch, David Maldow, founder and CEO of Let’s Do Video, said: “It’s much more natural — and discreet — to glance at your watch in the middle of a meeting than it is to dig out your phone. Blue Jeans for Apple Watch provides the kind of information and notifications that make sense on your wrist, while helping you gracefully move from one meeting to the next without navigating through calendar appointments or menus.”

Alessandro Porro, VP of International at Ipswitch reckons the device will be a success, even if it is initially a slow burner, and urged businesses to be prepared.

“The Apple Watch might seem like an overpriced gadget for some, but believe me, whether you want one now or not, it is just about to transform the way we stay connected, forever. This week signifies a real tipping point where wearable technology flips from being a niche or uber geek technology to the mainstream,” he said.

“This means it will enter workplaces as either a corporately owned device, or simply on the wrist of gadget loving employees. Whether the devices expected in the business are personally owned or corporately owned, tweaks to policy and infrastructure are a must.

“An increase in devices joining a corporate network has the potential to cause a drain on wireless bandwidth which can slow application performance. Organisations need to prepare for the snowball effect of the Watch.

“A smart business will already be planning ahead to ensure that it has the right tools in place to provide clear visibility of who is on the network, what they have access to and the bandwidth they consume. Wearables are the biggest revolution since the smartphone and the Apple Watch is just the beginning. Businesses need to be ready.”