Friday, April 10, 2015

Seven Reasons Apple's Watch Will Dominate

Apple Inc.
Change: +0.96 - +0.76%
4/10/2015 2:12am EST

It's possible critical factors about the Apple Watch have escaped Wall Street's attention.  Of one thing I am certain: the iWatch may not seem a great success today, but it will eventually change the way we use smart devices to communicate.

The Taptic Engine

Everyone knows the iPhone can be set to vibrate.  But many people are unaware they can create a custom vibration pattern for each person in their contact list.  The phone then vibrates that contact's unique signature upon receiving an incoming call.  Haptics allows subtle buzzes on the skin to serve as alerts. Apple calls its tactile haptic alert system taptic.

This technology never took off with the iPhone.  That's because people carry their phone in a pocket where vibrations are insulated by clothing.  When not on our person, the phone sits plugged in on a desk away from us where we're immune from its vibrations.  One of my aggravations is that I still occasionally miss important calls or alerts because I can't detect the phone when I'm at a noisy event or when I need it muted.

Imagine instead if you wore your iPhone next to your skin.  Every buzz or vibration would be instantly felt.  I know I would love having a unique signature for priority events I need to be alerted.  Because touch would instantly signal me, I'd be alerted even if the environment was noisy or I'd muted the device.

There are times that I've anxiously awaited a call and had my phone in my pocket where I can feel it through my skin.  Occasionally I've found myself recalling my call or alert and thought about the phone.  Startled, I suddenly realize that my phone is ringing!

I predict that over time we'll become attuned to these various interruption codes.  Early reports from reporters bear this out.  I also predict that as we become more comfortable with taptics, we'll relegate these alerts to our subconscious.  I'll sense an incoming alert and quickly glance at the watch to determine if it needs my attention.  If not, I'll never promote the task to my consciousness.  I foresee the time where I check my watch history and surprise myself that I received an alert I rightly ignored.

  1. Taptics.  Where the iPhone failed, the Watch nails it.  We'll receive every taptic alert whenever we wear our watch.  A wrist device buzzing or tapping us will easily break us out of our daily fog and tune us into a situation that demands our attention.  And we can use it regardless of the environment.  Taptics will become the new way we communicate. 
  2. Social proof.  The naysayers predict the Watch will be worn by geeks and tech first adopters.  But once it catches on with celebrities and trend setters, it will increasingly become a status symbol of the rich and famous.  
  3. The Veblen Effect.  As people buy more of certain products, they become more valuable to the market.  This is contrary to the laws of supply and demand and works only for extraordinarily coveted items.  However, the iPhone enjoys luxury status - the more iPhones sold, the more desirable they become.  I believe the Watch will attain a similar standing.
  4. Jewelry.  Apple is launching the Watch as a fashion accessory, not just a tech device.  One of the reasons the iPhone enjoys such phenomenal success is because of its elegant design.  It just looks sharp.  Where the iPhone is almost jewelry, the Watch actually is jewelry.  The device generated moderate acclaim among the fashionistas at the prelaunch in San Francisco earlier this month, and as it reaches mainstream acceptance it will transform geek into chic and benefit from the market forces of fashion with the early adopter appeal of technophiles. 
  5. Accessories.  The Watch will feature various bands, crystals, and cases allowing the look to be altered to suit all occasions and further cementing the device as an ever-present fashion accessory. 
  6. Software Watch Faces.  Wear a conservative watch to work, a chic tech style to a boys' night out, and an elegant analog style to dinner with a significant other.  The user can change the watch face based on personal taste and the occasion- from Mickey Mouse to a trendy Applesque version.
  7. Profit Potential.  Apple has introduced three lines: the Sport economy model; the Watch mid-line; and the luxury Edition.  The guts are identical inside.  What differs is the material the case is made out of.  As I show below, this positions Apple for a huge financial windfall.

Could Apple's stock hit $175 by the end of the year

(Ed. Note: It hit 182 by eoy and enjoyed a 5:1 split.  As of Mar 2021 it's at split-adjusted 600)

As of Thursday, April 9 2015, Apple closed at $126.56.  To hit $175 it would need to gain $50, a 40% increase.  This past year the stock has already risen 70% making Apple the world's largest company by revenue.  However, the stock has plateaued this last month, retreating from its previous high of $133, and many financial pundits believe we're heading into another recession.  Am I crazy making such a bold prediction? 

The iWatch is being viewed as the next step on the evolutionary path of miniaturization of the iPhone much like the Nano was a miniature evolved iPod.  It's stylish but we've come to expect elegance from Jonathan Ive's design team.  Most analysts I've talked to think the iWatch will suffer a lukewarm entry and then gradually gain market share.  They say its audience will have three attributes: the consumer must be an existing iPhone user, be tech savvy, and have disposable income.  They claim this triple-screen severely limits the reach of the iWatch and therefore its contribution to profit.  I disagree.

It's Apple's marketing strategy that could launch their financials into orbit.  Let me explain.

Apple is releasing three tiers of iWatch: the Sport for $350; the Watch for $550; and the Edition for $10,000 or $17,000 depending on whether one chooses gold or rose gold.  The watches are the same except for the materials used to manufacture the housings.  The most expensive Edition uses a gold composite; the mid-tier Watch uses stainless steel; and the economy Sport uses alloy.  The inner workings are identical as is all circuitry and firmware.  All three have the same functional capability.

Why is this significant?  Since the inner workings will be the same, the only cost difference is in the materials.  Adding just the difference in cost of raw materials to the economy model, we can quickly see how much profit Apple builds into the more expensive versions.

But gold costs a lot, you say.  Well, Apple isn't actually using what the rest of us call gold; it's a metal-ceramic composite the company patented last year that cuts the gold by more than half.  So whereas 55 grams of 18kt gold cost $2,115, the the composite drops it to as low as $872.

The Edition that carries a price tag of $10,000 costs $872 materials + the Sport iWatch at $350 = $1,222 that Apple is selling at 10K.  That's $8,788 of profit, a whopping 88% profit margin.

But wait.  Our calculations don't take into account the profit already embedded in the Sport version.  The company would only make 88% if the Sport is priced at breakeven.  In fact, Apple is routinely lauded for its sky high profit margins.  Analysts estimate 28% of that $350 is profit. So this boosts the margin on the Edition to over 90%.

The $17,000 rose gold version increases it even further to 95%+. And as scale ramps up, per unit costs shrink which further swell Apple's coffers.

The Bottom Line

The analyst's consensus of watch sales for 2015 is 22.5 million units.  However, the range varies so widely - from 8 to 41 million units - the results border on speculation and invalidate the survey.  If 10% of iPhone owners buy one, sales will be 30 million.  According to Nikkei, Apple is ramping up production for 36 to 60 million units per year.  Apple is confident of their new product and has historically undershot demand in a launch.  20% of people I've spoken with say they'll buy one so let's consider the figure of 10% to err on the safe side.  There are dozens of models with varying prices, so this is an oversimplification but here are the financial results:

  • Apple expects 50% of units will be Sport, 37% Watch, and 13% luxury Edition versions.  The respective sales on Sport, Watch, and Edition are 15M, 11.1M,and 3.9M.
  • At profit margins of 29%, 53%, and 89%, average price point without extras is $1,677.63
  • Gross revenue of 30 million units is gross profit of $39.4 billion on revenue of $50.4 billion
Apple’s revenue ending Q3 of 2014 was gross profit of $70.5 billion on revenue of $183 billion, a 39% gross profit margin.

Given our model, the Watch adds $39.4 billion gross profit, 80% of the profit the entire company generated in fiscal 2014.  This would also bring Apple’s gross margin up to 47% for the entire company.

If Apple hits these numbers, the stock would fundamentally be valued at another 60% of the current $125 price or $195.

It'll be interesting to see if Tim Cook announces the early numbers for the Watch and then see the stock price response if they forecast success.  In the meantime, I'm long Apple calls and Apple stock.  And I just preordered my Sport Watch.

Do you agree?  Gonna buy a watch or are you holding out?  Leave a comment and let me know.  Until then,

profitable business All!

Combat High Credit Card Fees

Recently I discussed how bad debt is a massive cash drain and why you should avoid granting credit whenever possible.  And I shared a way to do this while upholding the professionalism of your business.  Today I'd like to explore another expensive cost and a way to use it to your advantage.

Does your business accept credit cards?   Increasingly, consumers are paying with debit cards.  Do you accept these?  Between monthly fees and per item clearing charges merchant credit card fees eat up a significant chunk of your profit.  Do you find yourself grumbling when a customer hands you a card to pay for a $2 item? 

How Do You Combat this Charge?

Many companies set a minimum amount or charge customers a fee to accept a credit card.  Does your business do this or do you eat the cost and silently fume?  The first two options piss off the customer and the last one pisses you off.  So what do you do?

Did you know that your merchant card agreement prohibits assessing a surcharge?  You'll find it in your terms of service.  You risk being canceled and/or fined if they prove that you charge a higher price for customary goods and services.  Obviously they see a surcharge as devaluing their method of payment.  They don't often exercise this remedy.  But you can get around the restriction by using the following method.

Post a notice at the cash register and on your eCommerce page: "All charges include an automatic 3% discount for cash.  Other forms of payment will be charged accordingly." 

Instead of charging a premium for accepting a card, announce that your prices include an automatic cash discount.  This way you aren't technically charging more for accepting a card; you're eliminating an existing discount.  Consumers are much more receptive to losing a discount than being charged a premium.  A premium feels punitive.

This type of reframing is a strategy my consulting firm specializes in.  I write about a technique we called the Grandfather Discount on how to raise prices in a previous post that became an extremely popular post.

Turn an Expense into a Profit Center

Increase your discount to 5% for a charge that costs you 3% to turn this expense into a profit center.

Try it and comment to let me know how it works for you.  I appreciate the feedback.  Also, do you have a thorny problem?  I love helping.  Give me a crack at it.  I'll post it and credit you for the idea.

Next time I'll discuss why it's so important for companies to focus on cutting costs.  Increasing revenue is great but cutting costs do much, much more for you.  Until then,

profitable business All!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why Cuts Can Hurt Your Business and How to Turn it Around

Why is Downsizing So Popular?

It seems every day we hear about another corporation laying off employees.  Great firms thrive by selling more and introducing new products.  So why do so many companies embrace downsizing?

Out of sales revenue a company must pay to create the product, cover expenses, and settle taxes.  So a dollar of sales will yield less than a dollar of profit.

By contrast, a dollar saved drops straight to the bottom line and will yield exactly a dollar of profit.  So cutting costs $X produces a much greater impact on the bottom line than increasing sales $X.  Further, one can cut expenses immediately where sales are unpredictable and happen over time.  Viewed this way, one might sympathize with management and agree that downsizing is an easier and more certain method to grow profit than trying to boost sales.

In fact, firing a few dozen highly compensated employees and enacting sweeping budget cuts will almost certainly cause a spike in profit.   But that’s not the only impact.

From sales revenue, the company pays overhead and variable costs leaving the remainder as profit.  For additional sales, only variable costs - those that pay for creating and selling product - will increase.  Overhead has been paid so we can strip out this expense.  The company doesn't need to lease twice as much office space, for instance, to move twice as much product.

This allows us to calculate incremental profit on every dollar of new sales revenue.  

In our example below, profit increases three-fold by deducting overhead. Why is this significant?  Because every dollar of new revenue adds three times more profit.  So if the company grows sales simply at the rate of inflation it will yield 10% more profit.  That’s respectable growth for simply keeping pace with the cost of living index.

Other Disadvantages of Downsizing

When a company cuts, it targets the most highly-compensated personnel. These people are also the most senior.  As a result, they hold valuable institutional knowledge that the company dearly paid for over years of training and indoctrination.  When these people are forced out, the company loses this intellectual capital.

Further, layoffs tarnish a company's image, fostering resentment among former employees and prompting anxiety among remaining personnel.  The company loses its standing in the community as a just corporate citizen.  To make up lost ground, it invariably must resort later to costly PR campaigns and philanthropic efforts.

The True Bottom Line

Increasing revenue through innovation and solid strategy while retaining its key employees serves a company best in the long run.  Enacting sweeping cuts  to pacify Wall Street is reactive short-term thinking.  It's best to operate a lean enterprise customarily than trim the fat solely to meet Wall Street's expectations.

The Mathness Behind the Method: drilling down into the numbers

Our hypothetical company sold $1 Billion for the quarter.  Overhead was $200 Million.  On this first billion the cost to produce goods was $600 Million and variable expenses were $100 Million.  This yielded a profit margin on the first billion of 10%.  At this point, overhead is covered.  Only the cost of goods and variable expenses will increase with additional sales.

Out of each additional dollar of sales, the company pays 60¢ to create the product and 10¢ to sell it.  A total expense of 70¢ leaves 30¢ profit for every dollar of additional sales.  This is 30% margin on new revenue compared to the 10% on the first billion.

The original financials show $100 Million gross profit on $1 Billion.  A five percent increase of the original revenue is $50 Million.  At 30% margin, this yields $15 Million additional profit.  So the company will generate $1.05 Billion total sales revenue and earn $115 Million profit, a 10.95% combined profit margin.  This new overall margin is an increase over the original 10% margin of 9.5%.  So 5% new revenue growth will improve company profit by 9.5%.

Next time I'll share an easy way to pacify an irate customer.  And shortly I'll introduce an ingenious sales call method to bypass the dreaded gatekeeper so you get put right through to the decision maker.  It's all coming up in the next few days so stay tuned.  Until then,

profitable business All!
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