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Apple Watch sales plummeting? How do they know?

Barry Collins
8 Jul 2015
Apple Watch
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We investigate how an analyst firm calculates sales of the Apple Watch have fallen off a cliff

Sales of the Apple Watch have nosedived by 90% since the first week of sale, according to a US analyst. But with Apple yet to provide any official sales figures for its debut smartwatch, how do the number crunchers know precisely how many Watches have been sold? 

The claims are reported by MarketWatch, based on data collected by a Californian company called Slice Intelligence. The report claims that in the opening week of sale in April, Apple sold 1.5 million watches, or just over 200,000 per day. Now, the company is selling fewer than 20,000 per day, with the figure dipping under the 10,000 mark on some days. 

How can Slice Intelligence offer such precise sales data? The company monitors inboxes of millions of consumers, automatically extracting information from email sales receipts. According to the company's website, its technology "extracts every available data point about every purchase at the item level, normalises measurements across retailers and structures the data into an industry-wide taxonomy and catalog."

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How does the company get millions of consumers to part with this hugely valuable and sensitive data? By offering apps that ostensibly help them manage their shopping or email inboxes, whilst harvesting all this data in the background. The Slice Package Tracker, for example, helps customers monitor the deliveries from all their online shopping stores, take advantage of price adjustments, and monitor their own online shopping habits. To do this, the company of course needs access to your inbox to scan the sales receipts.

It's a similar story with one of Slice's other applications, the often recommended Unroll.me. This service identifies all those newsletters and special offers emails you get from online retailers and other websites, and condenses them into one daily email. Once again, it requires access to your inbox. 

Unroll.me's long-winded privacy policy says: "We may collect data from and about the 'commercial electronic mail messages' and 'transactional or relationship messages'... that are sent to your email accounts so that we can better understand the behaviour of the senders of such messages, and better understand our customer behaviour and improve our products, services, and advertising, and we may disclose, distribute, transfer, and sell such messages, and the data that we collect from or in connection with such messages, provided, however, if we do disclose such messages or data, all personal information will be removed prior to any such disclosure."

In other words, in exchange for using these helpful apps, Slice gets its hands on all your online shopping receipts and sells this enormously valuable data to its partners.

Slice certainly seems to have access to a rich seam of personal shopping data, even if its app users don't really know it, because they've never bothered to read the privacy policy. We'll have to wait for Apple's official sales figures to see if Watch sales really are as bleak as the data suggests. 

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