In my last post, I touched on some of the big winners—and the likely soon-to-be-winners—in the wearable tech game. It’s already exploding in some pockets of the industry, such as activity trackers like the FitBit and Nike’s FuelBand, and with Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and the much-hyped iWatch, 2014 is primed to be a major year for the market as a whole.
So now, as marketers, you’ve got the goods—or will, soon—in the most granular way ever. With all of the personalized data soon to be available, marketers will be able to come along for the ride like never before if their brands can effectively tether themselves to these omnipresent wearables.
But what does that alignment look like today, and how will it take shape tomorrow? What is this next generation of deeply interactive marketing—and will consumers accept what could be seen as the ultimate invasion of privacy? With some of the advances in wearable tech about to hit the market, brands could literally be in consumers’ pants.
At first glance, the alignment with truly relevant, opt-in information seems like a natural entrance for brand marketers. Would consumers want high-value offers that are wholly relevant to their lifestyles? Perhaps. Because wearables typically sync with an app, brands could push content via that same app, through smartphone push alerts or, potentially, with a personalized email message. By using a more “traditional” marketing format and avoiding integration within the wearable itself, the brand still gains the value of talking to its precise target consumer without invading what seems like a safe space—the consumer’s watch, tracker, glasses, or garments.
At the next level, of course, is real-time shopping and the now-known consumer patterns. Google Glass, for example, measures where a wearer is looking. It knows when you enter the store, what aisles you’re visiting, and based on past search history, likely what you’re looking for. Big box stores like Walmart are already experimenting with the technology. Same goes for more advanced activity trackers and watches. You’ve clocked 300 miles in the last three months. Maybe it’s time for a new pair of sneakers, and here’s a 30 percent off promo code from a preferred brand. Or maybe it’s the opposite. You were doing great for weeks, but lately you’ve dropped off in your fitness regimen. What would it take to get you moving again? A free month at a local health club? A donation to a favorite charity for every 30 minutes of movement? You got it—sponsored by a brand partner, of course.
Coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, the wearables agenda seems almost set for 2014. It’s a pretty fashionable one. Kickstarter darling Pebble Steel got a chic metallic new look plus twice the memory and a host of new apps to roll out in the coming weeks and months. Intel announced a partnership with luxury retailer Barney’s and the tremendously influential Council of Fashion Designers of America, in hopes the organizations can align to combat the “it’s just not stylish enough” wearable naysayers. Not to be out-fashioned, FitBit officially launched its initiative with designer Tory Burch, set to fuse high fashion, innovative technology, and consumer necessity into a line of cutting-edge accessories rolling out in 2014. If this partnership can carve out even a fraction of the fervor surrounding Burch’s status-yielding apparel, footwear, and handbag collections, it could catapult wearables into another stratosphere entirely by year’s end.
Fashionable or not, the wearable tech market will provide metrics that will no doubt be the ultimate in consumer/brand connectivity. Gone are the days of reaching men who read fitness magazines or peruse at-home workout moves online, with substantial waste thanks to those who are just “window shopping” a healthier lifestyle. Now you can know who’s actually exerting themselves, whether they go through the traditional promotional motions or not. The context and the content are there, and the dots simply need to be connected. But, understandably, it’s not that simple. At the same time, the full-fledged wearable tech adoption will undoubtedly be faster than even insiders can anticipate.
Done right, tapping into unparalleled knowledge and insights coming out of wearables can drive long-lasting, meaningful relationships with core consumers beyond virtually any traditional marketing channel. Done wrong, it’s an instant turnoff with potential ethical murkiness bordering on Big Brother.