How Do Wearables Work?
Quite simply, wearables are sensor devices that are worn on the body. In many cases the wearable is incorporated into the very fabric of one’s life – a computer in constant communication with its owner, an extension of the wearer’s own body. Many wearables operate using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which is a way to wirelessly transfer data between computing devices. RFID tags are already used in several ways, such as animal microchips and toll road EZ passes, and “human” wearables are being used in specialized cases right now, such as in surgical rooms so that doctors don’t have to take their eyes off the operating table to view things like blood pressure and temperature readings.
Where there’s a screen, the digital marketer will come. Early use cases for consumer wearables include fitness tracking, mobile payments and service scheduling. Consider entering a shopping complex – with the wave of your hand, you can book an appointment at the spa, reserve a table at the restaurant, buy a pair of jeans at the store and purchase movie tickets and popcorn for later.
Marketing responsively. Oh, the possibilities! Wearables will offer marketers previously unattainable insight into the user’s past and current behavior. Retailers may know what stores the consumer previously shopped at, and which aisles the consumer is browsing in their own stores. Armed with this data, marketers can predict what products the consumer is likely looking for – serving up product recommendations and offering a way to pay on the spot. Has someone been out shopping for the past three hours? Send them a coffee promotion to drive traffic into your coffee shop! The possibilities are endless.
Choosing the right vehicle. While wearables can be considered another screen to design for, it’s unlikely that people will effectively consume lots of information on such a small screen. But because wearables typically sync with apps, brands can push timely app, SMS or email content to the individual. By avoiding the wearable, a brand can enact present-tense marketing without invading someone’s “personal space.”
Extending the experience socially. Marketers in certain industries can use their wearables to drive deeper engagement with their brand and extend the voice of their customer across channels. Take the Basis sleep tracker, which on its website encourages users to share "war stories online to create a support system and foster a healthy sense of competition.”
These devices and their related apps could potentially store previously unknown details about a person – anything from medical conditions to driving patterns to daily routines. Will brands effectively leverage this data to target users with relevant offers, content and information? Is there an ethical debate? Or do the positives of enhancing the consumer experience outweigh the negatives? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.