by Alex Palmer | March 10, 2015
On Monday, Apple finally fully revealed its new Apple Watch. Starting at $349, and available beginning April 24, it marks the company's jump into the white-hot wearables market and a sure-to-be popular incentive reward. Members of the incentive industry were enthusiastic about the announcement and the Apple Watch's potential as a driver of performance in the corporate market.

"What's a hit in the retail world becomes a hit in the world of rewards," said Tim Houlihan, vice president of the reward systems group for BI Worldwide. "Apple Watch is beautifully designed, it has great marketing behind it, and it will be supported vigorously by one of the largest technology companies on the earth. Those factors will contribute to its likely success." 

He added that its higher price tag (with the sports watch going up to $399 for the larger watch face, and the non-sports watches ranging from $549 to as high as $10,000) will make it a strong fit for sales incentive programs, where potential earnings are higher than a standard recognition program.

"While it would certainly be worth saving for, people who earn points in sales incentives are probably going to be the early adopters," said Houlihan.

Steve Cummins, senior director of marketing and technology for Dittman Incentive Marketing, points out that Apple currently holds three of the top 10 spots in Dittman's TotalPRO Shopping Rewards Mall, making a new Apple product a welcome incentive offering.

"Although many commentators doubt the ubiquity of the product, similar objections were raised five years ago when the iPad was first launched," he said. "We fully expect the Apple Watch to quickly join iPads as one of the most sought-after reward items in points programs and incentive contests."

The product offers the additional advantage of fitting into several categories. It works as a fashion accessory, along with other watches on the market; a great gadget that appeals to technology fans; and a wellness product for those looking to track their physical activity. 

Houlihan expects the Apple Watch not only to eat into the market share of wearables like Fitbit, but to allow existing wearables "to increase their prices with additional features, narrowing the price gap between Apple Watch and their current offering." But since it is more expensive than existing wearables and only operates on Apple's iOS infrastructure, the product might not be embraced by organizations as the wearable of choice for their wellness programs.

Cummins added that he sees further possibility in the Apple Watch's application to travel programs.

"As event apps become ever more popular for travel programs, the ease of use with the wrist-display will make them more central to the overall guest experience," said Cummins. "I can imagine program managers finding creative ways to use the technology with electronic scavenger hunts, team challenges, and more."