Apple Retail Visitor Ramp-Up – Over 15 Million Impressions Before the Apple Watch “Grand Opening”?

It might be well over 20 million, but I’m deliberately keeping the number in check.

Beyond 2 or so Million

Nothing all that profound in this post, even by my humble standards, but it’s still interesting to think about the numbers. The most obvious, the number of try-on appointment sessions available across Apple’s worldwide Retail Store network for the 2-week Apple Watch preview.

And so I (hardly the first or only, yes I know) did:

And then when 9to5Mac had some more info on this, I adjusted my napkin math from 1.1M to 2.2M:

Of course, there’s more to the Apple Watch retail preview numbers than the appointments and walk-ins. How many total visitors might Apple be expected to host?

Beyond 15 or so Million

Apple doesn’t give out the number 100% of the time, but here’s two recent data points we can work with (thanks to TheStreet for picking up on earnings call transcripts AND archived audio for FREE where others have stopped, or require registration). Take it away, Apple CFO Luca Maestri (FQ4 2014 conference call, around 16:20 into the archive, emphasis mine):

With an average of 432 stores opening in the September quarter, average revenue per store was $11.9 million compared to $10.9 million in the year-ago quarter. We hosted 102 million visitors to our stores during the quarter, which translates to over 18,000 visitors per store per week.

There’s also the Spring Forward keynote, where Tim Cook noted 453 retail stores and 120M visitors for FQ1 2015 (quarter ending Dec. 27, 2014)

Some simple math follows:

102M visitors / 432 stores = about 236,000 visitors per store in that interval (13 weeks), ~18,150 visitors per store per week

120M visitors / 453 stores = about 264,900 visitors per store, ~20,400 visitors per store per week (12% increase sequentially, though it was the holiday quarter + Huge Apple Product Turnover Season, so higher store traffic is to be expected).

Assuming 453 open stores for April 10-23 (just to keep it conservative), is it necessarily a simple as “picking a number” between 18,150 and 20,400 (say, 18,500), multiplying by # stores and # of weeks, and voila, around 16.8M total Apple Retail Store visitors (fairly conservative number) during the Apple Watch preview?

Much too low?

Not that I know anything about retail visitor tracking, but I’d assume Apple uses gold-standard tracking systems for its retail store network, and that said systems do a reasonable, industry-leading job at distinguishing unique visitors. And if there was some angle that “Apple puffs retail count by 30%” or whatever because of repeat visitors, we would’ve seen it by now, right?

Not all retail visitor weeks are created equal, either. Event weeks such as the iPhone 6 launch probably brought significantly more traffic to the Apple Store (for the specific purpose of seeing iPhone 6/Plus, not just buying), although much of the lines/crowds were attributable to order, purchase, and product setup.

So, about “impressions”. Millions of Apple customers visit Retail stores each week to not test out Apple’s hottest new product or service, and the same is technically true for April 10-23. But between the huge marketing push and Apple’s Retail refresh, it’ll be hard to miss the Watch display frontage, the floating watches with backlit panels on the sides, the watch displays, the crowds, the…Retail employees all wearing that distinctive-looking watch, maybe? 😀 I have a feeling close to 100% of Apple Store visitors will notice.

How many of those impressions will “convert” to opinions and reports, be it word of mouth or social media? We’ll see. I’d say “a fair amount” – whatever that ends up meaning.

Neo-Window Shopping Period, Apple Retail Employee “Marathon” or “Marathon Sprint” Preparation?

Apple Retail employees were hungry for empowerment and responsibility (and hopefully “combat pay” for their efforts)? Well, they’re about to get a big dose of the first two, at least.

Who knows, but it might not be completely out of line to project visitor count to be 1.5x, maybe 2x the norm during Apple Watch preview season. And employees will be bombarded with Watch questions which they will be expected (and trained) to answer.

While previous iPhone and iPad launches have had

 a mix of iPhone/iPad purchasers, some of whom just wanted to pickup-and-go, some of whom needed setup and accessory purchase assistance/advice,

 plus the usual customers,

 plus the influx of window shoppers testing the display models

the new, Apple Watch launch dynamic will include:

 appointments and pre-orders post-appointment

product advice for watch finishes and bands

iPhone 6/Plus “upselling” (or, outright switching) where applicable

before the “everyone else” element, which should include more than a few million of the aforementioned window shoppers.

One more quick thought – with Apple Watch available for demo pre-sale, will Retail employees be running a marathon or an extended sprint? Will the preview “smooth out” the Retail “demand curve” or just lengthen it?

With such a high-touch product, I’m leaning the latter…take typical iPhone-level launch craziness more or less, tack on additional personal attention required to setup/accessorize and maybe upgrade or conquest iPhone 6/Plus sales in the process, and add two weeks.

It promises to be quite the test of blueshirts’ mettle, and following the responses of the general public (from positive Apple Watch social media buzz to Vines and Meerkats and inevitable complaints about long waits and retail process hiccups) will be interesting to say the least.

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