Folks who ordered the Apple Watch are starting to receive happy packages in the mail, and the excitement is palpable. Since the teaser video was launched at the Apple event last September, the speculation and anticipation has been non-stop. Much of it can be attributed to the classic marketing paragon that is Apple. But it’s not just that. The wearable tech market has been simmering for a while now. With applications in healthcare, fitness and much more, we’ve been hearing about everything from smart jewelry and Google Glass to smart contact lenses communicating directly with doctors. The impact on retail and shopping needs to be seen, but it will create a stir, to say the least.
According to a report published by the Business Insider, smartwatches are the breakout category that will finally ignite the wearables market this year. The report predicts that the market will grow at a compound annual rate of 35% over the next five years, reaching 148 million units shipped annually in 2019. The global wearables market is expected to grow to 578 million by 2019 and this is taking into account devices beyond the smartwatch, like glasses, rings, and others. They are growing into a force to be reckoned with.
The adoption curve for wearables is complicated as the utility isn’t blatantly obvious. It’s not like the smartphone where it acts as a mini computer, work station, GPS etc. all at the same time. For one, smartwatches are not independently functional. They need to interact with a smartphone. Even with the Apple Watch, there are several reviews floating out there talking about the bugs and issues in the current iteration. Perhaps people would see more utility if they functioned independently of the phone or any other device.
Glitches and shortcomings aside, it’s early days yet and the potential is endless, especially as the watch and other wearables learn to handle layered data to serve up relevant content for the user. Earlier this year, TapSense mobile ad exchange announced that it had developed an ad platform for the Apple Watch. When they made the announcement, the platform was still in beta. Now whether it comes to fruition or not, the fact that it exists is proof enough that the market sees the potential for wrist-based advertising.
The thing about wearable technology is just that – you can wear your technology. It’s not a phone that you need to remember to carry. It’s something that is already on you – an extension of your body so to speak. Something like a smartwatch could be a very effective tool for connecting people with the products that they care about. For instance, by combining your fitness data with your purchase and browsing history, your smartwatch could alert you on when it’s time to buy a new pair of running shoes, and even present you with offers for the same, showing products and brands that are tailored to your preferences. It is also a more effective portal for sending hyper-targeted and local push notifications. Instead of sending push notifications to a phone, it would be faster to get a customer’s attention by sending push notifications to their smartwatch. The catch here though, is that the offers will have to be highly targeted and personalized.
This will require a whole other level of sophistication in the application of Customer Intelligence and Product Intelligence. It will definitely add a whole new dimension to shopping, particularly in-store shopping. So, will you wear it?