Why Capital One bought hundreds of Apple Watches and gave them to employees

Apple WatchYouTube/AppleA Capital One Cafe employee uses an Apple Watch to communicate with coworkers

When Apple reported its financial results earlier this week, its CFO Luca Maestri mentioned that the company had cut a deal with Capital One to buy Apple Watches for employees.

Apple has consistently said that Watch is selling well, and CEO Tim Cook indicated that Watch was part of a multi-billion “wearables” business at Apple (along with Beats headphones), but gave no specifics about it.

Still, there are indications that it’s not a hot product, and is perhaps a real dud. For instance, some big names quietly dropped support for their Watch apps in recent weeks including Google Maps, Amazon, and eBay. 

So if enterprises are becoming interested in the Watch for their employees that could be a real boon.

Capital One has been a showcase enterprise customer for Apple, and has outfitted some 30,000 of its 40,000-strong workforce with Macs and iPads, and developed a whopping 30 custom internal apps for employees to use to do their jobs.

Capital One did not exactly buy 30,000 Apple Watches. But it did buy watches for “hundreds” of them, the company told Business Insider.

The Watches were issued to all of the employees of its Capital One Café network, a combo coffee shop and bank, where people can learn about Capital One’s financial products while sipping on a latte.

The employees mostly use the Watches to communicate with one another. Each watch comes with its own phone. While all employees get their own Watch/iPhone combo, the devices are treated more like corporate PCs. They are left at the Cafe at the end of their shifts, and are not brought home or used by employees for personal purposes.

Capital One worked with Apple to set up the Watches with the apps, a spokesperson tells us, and employees use the Watches for things like:

  • Requesting help from different floors without leaving the customer
  • Changing work shifts with other associates
  • Motivational texts throughout the day to stay engaged
  • Helping to set appointments

“Before using the watches, the ambassador would either stand in line with the customer, hand the customer a free coffee card, or leave the customer’s side to order the coffee,” the spokesperson told us.

By using the Apple Watches, they can order coffee while chatting with customers anywhere in the cafe, and the drink is delivered.

It’s hard to say that this kind of restaurant/retail environment will be a breakthrough use for Watch, and lead to a large volume of sales. But it does generally showcase that a wearable device, instead of an iPad, could one day work in that market.

In this promo video shot by Apple last month about how Capital One is using its products, they briefly show the Watch and the Cafe at 2:28.

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