Will Apple Watch Bridge The Gender Divide?

By Julia Love
San Jose Mercury News.

CUPERTINO

Forget the Mickey Mouse face, the communication tricks and the steadfast timepiece, which ticks within mere milliseconds of the global standard.

Whether the new Apple Watch emerges from the smartwatch pack, analysts say, may hinge on its appeal to the 50 percent of the population who have been slower to embrace the gadgets: women.

Apple won’t comment on its marketing strategy, but its promotional ads and events so far seem to target the elusive female tech market.

Women, after all, make most of the purchasing decisions and account for a huge market when it comes to jewelry and consumer goods.

Whether living out boyhood fantasies of emulating Dick Tracy or angling to expand their collections of tech toys, men have been the chief buyers of early smartwatches, driving 61 percent of sales, according to a survey of U.S. consumers conducted last year by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, a consumer research firm.

Men tend to adopt new types of tech devices sooner than women, and the heft and industrial design of early smartwatches have limited their appeal, said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business at Kantar.

But some think that Apple’s timepiece, which heads to stores in April, may bridge the gender divide. The Apple Watch’s sleek design, dual sizing, and potential for customization with various colors and materials will appeal to fashion-minded shoppers — many of them female — who scoff at the thought of wearing a gadget that does not reflect their personal style, Milanesi said.

The Apple Watch, which starts at $349 and commands up to $17,000 for luxury gold models, comes in two sizes and three collections, with an array of interchangeable bands.

“(Apple is) doing a lot things that, in my view, are needed in the market,” she said. “The focus on design definitely helps open up a wider market than just the tech-savvy.”

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