The value of wearables to marketers

As a slew of new smartwatches and wearables are launched, what value do they offer to brand marketers and their consumer targets?

Wearable technologies
Wearables at a glance

On the golf course at Scotland’s Gleneagles during last month’s Ryder Cup, fans were seen fiddling with wristbands as they watched Team USA and Team Europe compete for one of golf’s greatest tournaments.

Around 100,000 fans attending the event were given a specially created RFID (radio frequency identification) wristband, provided by cashless payments company Intellitix. Users were able to send virtual high fives to their chosen team, share
messages of support on leaderboards and post to their social media accounts.

Brands including BMW, Standard Life and Visit Scotland were involved in using the technology as part of sponsorships.

Visit Scotland’s Ryder Cup 2014 marketing manager Alan Grant explains: “It’s the first time [RFID] was used at a golf event. It raised the bar in terms of spectators’ engaging with events.”

Standard Life used the wristbands to allow attendees to score points, record their activity on social media and collect a souvenir photograph.

Meanwhile, BMW let users automatically request a test drive with a tap of the wristband; BMW owners were able to use their device to enter the brand’s ‘Owners’ Café’.

Visit Scotland ran a competition using the technology that gave visitors the chance to win a trip to the country next year.

It also promoted the Active Scotland initiative, working with Intellitix and Pro Vision Golf, by encouraging spectators to ‘Walk the Course’ and visit as much of the site as possible, with prizes for those who checked in at nine points on the site.

“It had a quirky factor and we got a lot more entries than we have in the past because it’s easy to do – it’s just a beep on a box rather than filling in various details and email addresses,” adds Grant.

The event considers its foray into wearables to be a success. Forty-six per cent of visitors pre-registered to use the wristbands, with a total 44,527 interactions. It also enabled the brands involved to capture data, recording 59,176 email accounts linked to wristbands.

Growth in consumer interest

It is not just the world of golf being transformed by wearables’ ability to offer social interaction and lifestyle tracking.

At present, 6.7 million people are using health and fitness wearable technology in the UK, according to new research from Kantar Media, but this is likely to rise rapidly.

An additional 6.5 million people are interested in buying this technology in the next 12 months, says the research.

The fitness and health sector is the most popular application for wearables, particularly the new smartwatches. Twenty-eight per cent use a smartwatch for this reason, higher than the 15% who use them for traditional watch functions, according to a GfK survey of 1,000 consumers.

Wearable activity trackers are more popular with the 18 to 34 age group – 19% have trackers, such as Fitbit or Nike FuelBand, compared to 10% of 35- to 54-year-olds.

Two out of five (40%) also record all or almost all of their exercise on an app, although men are more likely than women to say this at 48% versus 36%.

Diversity of consumer experience

US company Fitbit, which produces a health and fitness tracking wristband that is sold in 46 countries and 37,000 retailers worldwide, believes it is important to create devices with as many useful elements for consumers as possible.

Benoît Raimbault, EMEA marketing director at Fitbit Inc, says: “There is no ‘one size fits all’ option in fitness. Consumers have a wide range of needs and preferences, so we set out to create a diverse product family to help people reach their fitness goals.”

He adds: “It’s tempting to bloat a device with capabilities not part of its core mission, but we’ll stay focused for our next generation of sensors.”

Garmin launched its Vívofit health and fitness product earlier this year. The wristband gives customers a choice in how information is viewed.

Product manager Kirsty Quartley explains that the company has thought carefully about differing consumer needs among different audiences.

She says: “We have tried to make Vívofit really simple, so all of the information is on the wristband and customers have a choice. The mature market might not want to link the device to their smartphone so they have everything they need to look at their daily performance on their wrist.”

Quartley adds: “Younger people are more of the data-hungry type, they are used to using a smartphone and familiar with using information by looking at history and competing and connecting to friends.”

Raimbault at Fitbit says: “There have been devices that can do a thousand things at a basic level but we wanted to offer focused devices that could provide the user with actionable data to make healthier life choices.”

While the majority of wearables on the market focus on either social interactions – as seen at the Ryder Cup – or lifestyle tracking, the next evolution in the sector looks set to be in making devices transactional.

The Apple Watch, launched last month, is set to feature an NFC (near field communication) contactless payment service called Apple Pay. Barclaycard is also moving into similar territory with its wearable payment band bPay.

Garmin’s Quartley says that new rivals only make the sector’s fast evolution more interesting and important for marketers to understand. She says: “The more brands that are in the market, the more exciting and challenging it becomes.”

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