Apple is the company that, more than any other, prides itself on getting things right. Apple products “just work.” Its devices are “magical.” Its designs are “thoughtful” and “careful”.
What other company would reinvent gold just to make a gold watch chassis that’s slightly different from everyone else’s gold watch chassis?
So it has been really weird to watch Apple make a number of missteps around the launch of Apple Watch. Internally, the launch has caused “great concern” among management, according to a customer who complained directly to CEO Tim Cook and got a reply from the executive relations team at the company.
In the long run, the launch will be hailed as a massive success. More than 2 million watches have been ordered, analysts say. You can’t argue with that.
But a new note to staff from retail chief Angela Ahrendts, in which she does a U-turn on her previous instructions for product launches, gives us a glimpse into how the company has scurried to fix problems as they arose during the launch.
Here are those problems:
- Ahrendts previously told staff that big product launch days would no longer feature long lines of giddy customers waiting outside the store. She wanted customers to order products online instead, and come into the store later. ” The days of waiting in line and crossing fingers for a product are over for our customers,” she wrote.
- Her new note says those lines may be coming right back! “Are we going to launch every product this way [online only] from now on? No. We all love those blockbuster Apple product launch days — and there will be many more to come.”
- Without fanfare, Apple has removed the April 24 shipping date for Apple Watch from its web site. That date has turned out to be scotch mist.
- There are no watches available in stores in the entire UK, and none will be available by April 24, sources tell Business Insider.
- As soon as Apple took preorders for the watch, the shipping date was immediately pushed back as far as August for some watch models.
- According to an official response from Apple to a customer email sent to CEO Tim Cook, executives within the company had “great concern” over the way the launch was handled, and the fact that customers expected to get watches by April 24 (but won’t). “He mentioned that due to these points made, discussion surrounding in-store stock on launch day, as well as the marketing advertising the 04.24.15 date are being considered with ‘great concern’. He mentioned that Apple still cares deeply about the launch experience, saying that lines aren’t exactly a thing of the past like it’s been implied. They just hope to improve ‘how’ we wait in line (eg. new reservation system), eliminating a large number of the negatives associated with it. We know that many still like that experience,” the executive said, according to Andrew Turko on Macrumors.
- And it was just plain weird that any customer who had an appointment to buy the watch didn’t actually leave the store with the watch. They had to wait until it was shipped to their home. No watches were actually on sale in the store.
Karl Lagerfeld gets a watch. You do not.
In sum, to get a watch: you have to register online, come into the store, choose, go home, and wait. The company apparently picked a date that it believed the watches would ship, and then — for most people — failed to deliver.
Does any other company put so many barriers between its customers and the products they want?
The delays mean that “important” people, like designer Karl Lagerfeld, got their customised gold watches ahead of time — while you will not. That doesn’t seem cool.
468 watch combinations
Launching a new product is hard — you have to estimate demand versus supply. Historically, Apple has under-supplied demand and made people wait for new products. Factories can only crank out product so fast. The watch may have exacerbated that because it comes in as many as 468 different watch/strap combinations. That on its own is a stocking nightmare. So this was never going to be easy.
Apple has stumbled around launches before. Prior to the iPhone 6 launch, the company was grappling with the iCloud hack (which exposed hundreds of celebrities private nude photos), a major iTunes outage, and it rushed to fix to the Find My iPhone bug and make it harder for hackers.
None of this is a problem in the long run, of course. Two million watches is a huge success.
But, as the word “No” in Ahrendts’ memo indicates, this probably wasn’t exactly what the company wanted.
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