As We Enter Wearable Era, How Brands Can Try on the Trend

How long will it be until wearable tech is as ubiquitous as the smart phone?

It feels like we’re sitting on the cusp of the Wearable Era, and as prices continue to drop and applications continue to be developed the floodgates are bound to open up on the purchase and use of Wearables. Now, it’s time for marketers to jump into the game. With any emerging tech, we have to ask ourselves this fundamental question:how can we exploit this technology for our own evil gains?

The biggest impediment to sales of wearables to date has been the nebulous nature of them to consumers. So far, the average consumer seems to feel that the smartphone is satisfying their digital needs just fine, thank you very much. They don’t see the benefit of wearing the tech that they currently carry. As the reach of the Internet of Things expands, however, there is no doubt that the tech that you wear will come to outsmart your phone and fridge.

And here’s the good news, marketers: no less than 63% of 1,000 users interviewed by Juniper Research in April of this year say that they would make a purchase using a wearable device. Combine this with research by Avangate that shows that close to 70 million dollars will be spent on wearable advertising by 2018, and these elements could converge to create a firestorm of success.

Tread lightly though; there is a ton of room for error. If you’re a modern marketer, you may have been handed the keys to the wearables kingdom, but you can’t expect to be told how to find the door. Despite the huge potential for success within the wearable space, there is also a huge possibility of turning off potential consumers right away. This is a golden era of push notifications, but what consumers want from Wearables is perceived integration between their tech and their needs. What they do not want is an invasion of their digital space.

What does this integration look like? Imagine your watch vibrating to inform you that the UV index is dangerously high. The skies are cloud covered but the watch is not known to lie. The next thing you know the sun is blazing hot and you would be left unprepared if not for the next buzz of your watch that gives a list of places in the immediate vicinity that you would be able to pick up a brand new chapeau.

Form and functionality are key within the wearable market. Stores that sell hats would have only created ire by bombing users with push notifications about their unwanted product. Instead, with wearable tech they gave a user what they wanted when they wanted it. For the push notifications to be effective they need context. Location is everything.

Knowing who the user is will help to add to the user’s experience. Tell them after ordering a mint condition, original pressing Ziggy Stardust that his/her watch can inform them of every record store in their vicinity when they enter a new neighbourhood and they may be enticed to give that Wearable a go. And the record stores sure could use the help.

Let’s look at a few brands that are doing it right. When the airline Lufthansa decided to jump into the wearable scene they added some practical application to their free watch app. It takes care of everything that a traveller really cares about, such as flight reminders, boarding time, gate and seat number. What does Lufthansa get out of this? No less than a first class user experience. The user that goes through their wearable suite will undoubtedly tell their friends that Lufthansa is the Mercedes of the skies. And speaking of Mercedes…

Mercedes has integrated its wearable design with functionality. The notifications that the user gets with the Digital DriveStyle app are non-invasive and practical. Users can be notified about an upcoming traffic snafu by a gentle buzz on their wrist. Now that’s a function that every driver would want! So the incentive to buy the wearable is there and the Mercedes brand is propelled by the value that it provides.

Wearables don’t stop at the wrist, though. We have a tech that aims to give the blind sight and the disabled mobility. This is the stuff of miracles in its own right. It’s interesting to see how this technology can be cross-integrated as well. The SubPac is a great example. The device was developed for the deaf to ‘feel’ music. It has been cross purposed to allow DJs and producers the ability to get a sense for how their bass heavy beats would connect with an audience in a club environment. The device is eerily similar to the tech involved in the haptic suits that characters wear in Ready Player One to feel their virtual reality sensations. Sci-Fi becomes reality in the World of Wearables!

Arguably the biggest advantage that Wearables provide to marketers is a veritable wealth of data. As smart technology becomes inexorably integrated in to people’s lives marketers will be increasingly able to track users motives over their habits. It’s no longer when they choose to head to a restaurant as it is a question of what factors precipitated that decision.

For example, a user’s seemingly erratic trips to the coffee shop could be understandable when the data of their routine is collected by a device that they are constantly engaged with. As caloric intake is monitored on fitness tracking Wearables, it could be discovered that the user only goes to coffee shops on days when they are late for work. The wearable would track a restless sleep, then a high heart rate in the morning as the agitated user realizes that they’ve hit snooze one too many times, then the wearable would note a conspicuous lack of food in the morning as the user foregoes the kitchen for the front door. This, would be a good day to suggest that the user may want to pop on over to their favourite coffee shop. The ad would exist in the realm of the wanted. A rare thing in the ad world.

As the capabilities for Wearables continue to expand, the future of marketing with these devices is bright. Around the corner is a world of large scale, hands-free, non-stop user engagement. Hands-free wearables haven’t exactly reached a state of user universality, but the tech is getting there and public perception will catch up to its usefulness. And as this happens the time frame for marketers to jump in and deliver a directed and desirable message or experience to potential consumer has become more accessible than ever before. That is, if the marketer iable to play the game without making it our generation’s version of wearable spam.

This article was co-written with Nick Kewin a writer, filmmaker and cohost of Pound & Grain Toronto’s new podcast, The Poundcast.