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How Apple Watch is Changing the Shopping Experience

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Jason R. Rich takes a look at some of the online and retail shopping-related apps currently available for the Apple Watch and discusses ways to make your shopping experience more efficient, and potentially save you money in the process.
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Pretty much everyone who uses the Internet knows that it’s possible to shop online for just about any product whatsoever, and how to find lower prices online than what you’ll typically discover at retail stores. Fewer people, however, have truly mastered the art of online shopping by using their smartphone or tablet as a research and price comparison tool, as well as a convenient way to make purchases.

In fact, when it comes to saving money and time, an iPhone or iPad can be an extremely handy tool when shopping at local stores, malls, or mass-market retail superstores. These same tools for online and retail shopping are making their way onto the Apple Watch, and some of the shopping-related apps being released for the smartwatch are designed to change, and in some cases streamline, our shopping habits altogether.

There Are Three Steps to Shopping with a Smartphone, Tablet, or Smartwatch

Once you know what it is you’re shopping for, your online or retail shopping activities for mid-to-high priced items should be broken down into three main steps--research, price comparison, and purchase. Using any Internet-enabled device, including the Apple Watch, it’s possible to research products.

For example, if you’re looking for a major appliance, flat screen television, or just about anything else, you can easily compare similar products and choose the best one to meet your needs based on its features and/or functions. It’s then possible to quickly obtain star-based or more in-depth text based reviews of the product you’re interested in, and determine if it lives up to the expectations of previous customers.

Plus, if you’re shopping online, you can access ratings and reviews of vendors to see their customer service rankings, return policy, and whether or not they charge for shipping, for example. At the same time, you can determine which retail and online vendors have exactly what you’re looking for in stock.

Simply investing a few minutes using a specialized shopping or price comparison app on your smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch, you can save yourself a lot of potential hassle and aggravation by conducting research in order to choose the best product make and model, based on your needs, availability, and budget.

After determining exactly what you’re shopping for and narrowing down your decision to a specific product make, model, size, and/or color, for example, step two involves using a price comparison app or website to see which vendors are offering what you want, and at what price.

This is where shopping at retail stores or online vendors that offer a price match guarantee comes in handy. With just a few extra seconds of work using your mobile device, you can typically find what you’re looking for being offered by a competing vendor for less money--sometimes a lot less money, and then have your preferred vendor or retailer match that price on the spot.

The last step involves making your purchase, which can be done online or from a retail store, based on your personal preference, product availability, and convenience.

Using Your Apple Watch As a Shopping Tool

Many online and retail-based stores that have offered proprietary iPhone and/or iPad apps have begun offering an Apple Watch app as well to aid their customers. Yet, despite its smaller screen and lack of a keyboard (compared to other mobile devices), many companies have developed innovative ways to use the Apple Watch during the shopping experience, which in a growing number of situations can conclude by paying for your purchases using Apple Pay.

Using the Amazon.com Apple Watch App to Do Your Shopping

You probably know that Amazon.com sells just about everything you can possibly imagine, often at a discount, and the company typically offers one-day, two-day, or ground shipping for your order. Amazon’s Apple Watch app can be used to find what you’re looking for and then for making a purchase using Amazon’s 1-Click ordering feature.

When you launch the Amazon app on your watch, what you’ll see on the main screen is simply a Search icon (shown in Figure 1). Tap on this icon and use the watch’s dictation feature to say the exact item or type of product you’re shopping for. This works exactly the same way as the Search field of the Amazon.com iPhone/iPad app, so the more precise you are in your search, the more time you’ll save sorting through search results to find exactly what you’re shopping for.

Figure 1

Figure 1

In other words, describe the make and model of what you’re looking for, and if applicable, include the color, size, or any other pertinent details. If you’re doing some price comparison shopping while actually within a retail store, or have access to the product’s UPC barcode, simply say this number into the Amazon Apple Watch app to quickly find what you’re shopping for, and then tap on the search result to view basic product details and pricing.

As you can see from Figure 2, on the Apple Watch, a product listing typically includes the product’s name, a short text-based description, a color photo, and the product’s average star-based rating (between one and five stars).

Figure 2

Figure 2

By turning on the 1-Click setting within the iPhone version of the Amazon.com app, it’s then possible to use this feature to quickly place an online order directly from your watch using the shipping and billing address, as well as credit or debit card details that are already stored as part of your Amazon.com account.

For frequent Amazon.com shoppers, subscribing to the Amazon Prime service for $99.00 per year gives you unlimited, two-day free shipping at no additional charge, regardless of the size, weight, or quantity of qualifying items purchased. In some cities, Amazon.com has begun offering Sunday delivery as well on two-day orders.

While the Apple Watch version of the Amazon.com app does not display in-depth product descriptions or reviews, it does streamline the shopping process if you know exactly what you’re shopping for, or if you’re placing a repeat order for something you’ve purchased from Amazon.com in the past.

The Target App for Apple Watch Streamlines Your Shopping Experience

As one of the country’s leading mass-market retail superstores, when you visit any Target location, you’ll have access to a vast selection of products. The Target app for the Apple Watch is designed to help you create a detailed shopping list from home, place an order online (via Target.com), or quickly find what you’re shopping for when you get to the store.

The Target app’s List feature allows you to create multiple shopping lists, either from the iPhone or from the Apple Watch itself. Once a list is compiled (shown in Figure 3), the app auto sorts the items and groups them together based on the isle or department each can be found in. The app then tells you exactly where within your local Target store you’ll find each item.

Figure 3

Figure 3

When you launch the app on the Apple Watch, tap on the Add To List button to begin creating your shopping list from anywhere. To access or review a previously created list (that was created via the iPhone or Apple Watch app), tap on the Shopping List option. Or, to quickly find an item (when not within a Target store), use the iPhone app to select a default Target location, and then use the Search field of the Apple Watch app to find specific items. If you’re actually in a Target location, when you say your item into the Apple Watch, the app will direct you to the appropriate department and isle within the store.

Save Money Using Other Apple Watch Shopping Apps

Some Apple Watch apps can help you save money. For example, there’s the Groupon app. Once you set up a free Groupon account (which can be done from the iPhone version of the app), use the Apple Watch version of the app (shown in Figure 4) to seek out daily deals from local retail stores, restaurants, attractions, and services (such as dry cleaners, day spas, or salons), and then purchase those Groupon deals directly from your watch.

Figure 4

Figure 4

The Walgreens Apple Watch app works in conjunction with the iPhone app to manage your prescription medications and refills. The main feature of the watch app serves as a customizable alarm to remind you when to take each of your medications. In addition to an audible alarm, the app uses the watch’s Taptic engine to tap you on the wrist when it’s time to take your meds, plus the watch’s display shows you exactly which med(s) to take, as well as the dosage. You’re also able to add alarms for over-the-counter meds or vitamins you take on a regular basis.

One way some savvy online shoppers save money on items is to use eBay.com, either to find the best “Buy Now” deals, or by participating in real-time auctions for the items they want to purchase. The eBay app for Apple Watch allows you to monitor your eBay.com account and keep tabs on items you’re watching, buying, or selling. When necessary, it’s possible to update auction bids directly from the watch app.

A handful of online retailers that specialize in selling discounted “close out” items, ranging from high-end designer fashions to home goods and jewelry, for example, are releasing Apple Watch apps to work in conjunction with their proprietary iPhone apps. Tophatter Discount Shopping, Rue La La, Fancy, and Keep Shopping, for example, offer Apple Watch apps that allow you to peruse through the daily deals being offered and then quickly place online orders for featured items.

Meanwhile, the Find&Save app for iPhone and Apple Watch allows you to locate and take advantage of online coupons and special offers from more than 500 participating retailers. You’ll discover this app offers several ways to save money on items you typically buy, by using online coupons redeemable when making a purchase, or using rebates on qualified purchased items.

Retail sales, online coupons, and other money-saving offers from local stores can also be discovered using the Retale, Pocketly Coupons, or the BuyVia Coupons apps for the iPhone and Apple Watch. These apps utilize the GPS capabilities of your iPhone to pinpoint your location, and then display offers from nearby merchants. With a tap on the watch’s screen, you can see the merchant’s location and store hours, plus obtain turn-by-turn directions to the store from your current location. When you get to the participating store, the online coupon or barcode for the special offer is displayed on your iPhone’s display (or in some cases, your Apple Watch’s display) for use at checkout.

Do Price Comparison Shopping From Your Apple Watch

Using a price comparison app or website allows you to quickly select an item and view which merchants have it in stock and how much they’re selling it for. This is a quick way to find the lowest price on the items you’re shopping for, or if you’re in a retail store, find a lower price that the retailer is willing to price match, so you can save money on the spot.

The Price Scanner and Comparison Shopping app, as well as the ShopSavvy app (shown in Figure 5) for the iPhone and Apple Watch allow you to quickly locate a product and view pricing from online and nearby retail-based merchants. Using the iPhone’s built in camera, it’s possible to scan the UPC barcode for an item directly into the app, or using the Apple Watch app, you can say the barcode number using the app’s Search feature.

Figure 5

Figure 5

Final Thoughts...

Using the right combination of shopping apps, based on your shopping habits and goals, it’s possible to use the Apple Watch to save money, streamline your shopping experience in order to save time, and become a more educated consumer by researching products before making purchases. The Apple Watch apps featured in this article are all available now. Each currently works in conjunction with an iPhone-based companion application.

In Fall 2015, once Apple releases the WatchOS 2 operating system, you’ll begin seeing more standalone Apple Watch apps that can be used to handle the various steps in the online and retail shopping process. Plus, more popular merchants will release native Apple Watch apps, some of which will utilize Apple Pay functionality to make paying for purchases faster and more secure.

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