Should Retailers be ready for wearable tech?

Google Glass will allow easier showrooming

This is a subject we have been keeping a very close and excited eye on (no pun intended for the Glass wearers) – testing out the likes of smart watches in our everyday lives to see how useful they are and could be. Before that, let me give you some background to how wearables are trending…

Globally we’re seeing a huge demand for all wearable tech and according to the IDC (Global leading market intelligence firm) we can expect to see wearable smart device shipments top 19.2 million units by the end of 2014. It’s estimated for that number to swell to a staggering 112 million by 2018. Putting that in context against the leading smartphone and tablet provider – Apple sold 150.2 million iPhones last year and 71.1 million iPads.

The use of these devices range from simple to complex accessories (FuelBand, Fitbit and Nike+) operating partially when independent of a smartphone or other device and full when connected (usually via Bluetooth to smartphone, tablet, PC or other IP-capable device).
The middle segment of wearable tech has been noted to surpass shipments of Smart Accessories by 2018. These devices allow users to add third-party apps to boost features and functions. Examples include Samsung Galaxy Gear and Pebble Smartwatch – which we’re testing currently.
Smart Wearables such as Google Glass is not expected to reach the masses/millions till 2016 but the market is showing great interest and demand of the idea so being prepared for it is a smart move as it will no doubt come in to it’s own in retail environments with showrooming becoming even easier.

Now, consider that we Kiwis sit in the top 5 of early adopters (based on internet access penetration) and – where we might be slightly behind other countries in application of technology – once technology is accepted, it quickly becomes widely accepted! Therefore we can expect that within 12months our own market is likely to adopt the technology wholeheartedly and with the devices becoming cheaper to purchase and more personalized.

What should we do?
Smart Accessories are on their way and it’s all about personalization. Downloading apps to your smartwatch to suit your needs, interests & passions and have your smartphone or other smart wearable push information when relevant. This trend of personalization has shown itself to be highly desirable for consumers when online due to the great work done by the likes of Amazon, ebay, and Netflix.
People who once were concerned by the idea of a retailer knowing in advance what they may want and serving up that content, is now demanding it and growing frustrated if it’s not part of their interaction with an online or even offline store. Wide adoption of Smartphones today in New Zealand and soon to be wearbles, is seeing consumers utilize their devices within a bricks and mortar stores. And the best way to deliver to such a behavior and stay ahead of competition is for retailers to build in the ability to recognize that customer as they walk in to a store, and serve them up relevant information based on their interests or previous shopping behavior (offline and online). By doing so we will see happy customers showing loyalty to those retailers and brands and sharing that enjoyment with those close to them.

To achieve this is to offer up geo-targeted solution such as the cheap and very effective ‘beacons’ in-store, which can call on customer loyalty data and deliver relevant product information, reviews, offers and associated products. The information gathered online, at check-out and walking around store can not only deliver useful information and offers to the customer  (helping them get more of what they want from the store they’re in and taking an offensive position on showrooming), but also give retailers invaluable insights to their customer shopping behavior and the connection between online and offline buying.

Relevant links:
Beacon adoption within retail – Article
Personalised shopping – Article
Apple device sales – Article
IDC wearable forecast – Paper

Author: Colin Rebairo (Senior Digital Strategist)