Remember the Dick Tracy wristband radio? It was the stuff of comic book legend just over 50 years ago — and today, its offspring, the wearable technology device, has worked its way into the mainstream of mobile innovation. How quickly as a society we evolve from science fiction fantasy to adapted reality.
More development means more marketing opportunities
Clearly, “wearable tech” is as familiar now as any buzzword when it comes to the mobile-enriched experience. Throughout 2015, we can expect to see a lot more product development that will make the plethora of wearable technology — including smart watches, digital glasses, augment virtual reality headsets, and even interactive rings — a more conventional mobile communications tool. The entire concept of wearables has robust marketing implications — opening up a whole new realm of promotional and strategic opportunities for branders.
Retail: the natural evolution of the mobile experience
In general, mobile is experiencing a Renaissance of growth. The mobile experience is now literally transforming the way societies, consumers, and businesses connect and operate. And wearable technology, after all, is merely a micro sizing of that same mobile experience — just smaller, more succinct, and accessible on your arm, head, or hand. By the nature of their condensed size, wearables are more closely tied to the user experience — reflecting real time movements and actions by the user himself. Nowhere is this intuitive user experience more valuable than in the retail shopping arena. When it comes to brand adaptation of wearable devices, within the retail space, the technology is perched to take flight just like its smartphone predecessor nearly a decade ago.
How wearable technology will change the shopping experience
Here are a few key trends to watch:
- Adoption will increase by forward-thinking consumers attracted to them for their novelty. For this reason alone, the technology has disruptive appeal across the retail and marketing spectrum. The fact that wearable devices can be embedded directly into clothing makes them all the more attractive for the entire retail realm.
- Merchants can’t resist the data gathering and analysis aspects of wearable tech. Both the data collection and sensor-driven elements of the technology make it a Big Data dream with the ability to more closely track consumer spending and preferential shopping habits.
- With wearable technology, the notion of “omni-channel” buying evolves to an entirely new level. Because of the proximity of wearables to the fundamental movements, actions, and behavior of the consumer, the shopping experience becomes more closely knitted to the user’s overall experience than ever before, presenting myriad virtual purchasing “moments.”
- Because retail store personnel can also be outfitted with wearable devices, they can be more responsive — and in more consistent dialog — with in-store shoppers (assisting them, regardless of their other duties, to foster stronger buyer retention). According to Price Waterhouse Cooper, 72 percent of consumers will look to wearable tech to improve customer service.
- Millennials are especially drawn to wearable tech phenomenon. It’s tailor-made for a tech-raised generation and they have the spending power — to the tune of $2.45 trillion — of today and tomorrow.
What’s the real potential for the near term?
As enticing and sexy as wearables are, the technology is still maturing — and it won’t happen overnight. Payment processing will remain highly cumbersome. And, for mobile shopping app and tool users, wearable tech will present a browsing capacity to influence purchase, rather than enable the action transaction.
In terms of how brands will interact with consumers via the technology, in the end, it’s all about the message, not the device. Savvy brand marketers and retailers looking to more intuitively pinpoint and reach target consumers will be best advised to focus, not on the nuances of the delivery mechanism, but on building thoughtful, high ROI campaigns — optimizing the correct messages at the right time in the consumer dialog.
At least for the near term until wearable technology takes a quantum leap, it will serve as a loudspeaker for brand messages in the same capacity as other more mainstreamed forms of marketing communication. Wearable technology is certainly poised to amplify the volume of that brand conversation, creating a more enriched retail marketplace, but it’s the quality and contextual relevance of the message that will ultimately win shoppers’ hearts and minds.
Navneet Loiwal is the CEO and Co-Founder of Shopular.com, a mobile shopping app for Apple and Android.