It’s always difficult to see what’s coming down the road. Few marketers at the turn of this century would have foreseen how the explosion of smartphone and tablet technology in the ensuing years would fundamentally change how brands interact with customers. We’re at a similar point now with wearable tech: the concept is out there and gaining traction, but its wider impact on the lives of the mass population remains to be seen.
CCS Insight thinks it has a good idea of where we’re heading. In a report published earlier this month, the mobile analysis firm forecast that sales of smart wearable devices will surge dramatically from 9.7 million in 2013 to 135 million in 2018. While the report acknowledges a number of challenges facing the wearables market, including concerns over whether devices are fashionable or socially acceptable, it foresees a rapid increase in consumer adoption. Wearable shipments in this year alone are predicted to rise by 129 per cent.
It’s not surprising then to see an increasing number of brands incorporating wearables into their marketing strategies. Examples include Barclaycard’s confirmation last week that it is looking to work with brands in the sports, leisure and entertainment industries that could take advantage of the behavioural data taken from its bPay wearable payment device. Fitness tracking app RunKeeper, meanwhile, is working with smartwatch maker Pebble and other brands like Quaker Oats and P&G’s Secret deodorant on a new rewards programme that engages users when they reach certain fitness goals.
Marketers must avoid bandwagon-jumping, of course, and ensure that their activations around wearable technology are appropriate to their brands’ wider strategies. They must act honestly and transparently too in order to assuage consumers’ concerns about privacy and the use of their personal data by brands.
If they can negotiate these challenges, though, it’s clear that ‘life tracking’ technology like smartbands and watches presents marketers with opportunities to target consumers on an unprecedented scale. Marketers who came late to the mobile party should remember how that felt and what it cost their business – and ensure they don’t make the same mistake when it comes to wearables.