Just two scant years ago, smartwatches were all the buzz, expectations were sky high and a gradual shift from mobile devices to wearables seemed to be inevitable.
But instead of gradual, the shift has been almost nonexistent.
According to the IDC, “The worldwide smart watch market experienced a round of growing pains in the third quarter of 2016 (3Q16), resulting in a year-over-year decline in shipment volumes . . . total smartwatch volumes reached 2.7 million units shipped in 3Q16, a decrease of 51.6% from the 5.6 million units shipped in 3Q15.”
Indeed, Microsoft Band is dead. Pebble’s caput. And Moto isn’t making a new version of its 360, at least for the time being.
What went wrong?
Well, a few things . . .
1. People don’t know they need them yet.It often takes time for new ideas to sink in (think clunky early 90s cell phones, television sets or even automobiles). As Henry Ford himself once said,“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
2. They weren’t stylish enough. Only the geekiest of geeks want to look like they’re wearing a small computer on their wrist.
3. The price wasn’t right. The average consumer still sees smartwatches as more of a “luxury buy.” Much like cellphones, though, cheaper options have begun to pop up and prices will continue to go down as wearables become more mainstream.
4. Timing is everything. One of the biggest value props of wearables is their ability to make contactless payments, but last year only 20% of U.S. retailers accepted Apple Pay. That’s starting to change though, as the current percentage is 36% and expected to rise to over 48% in the coming year.
Can wearables make a comeback?
They’re already starting to. While the popularity of Fitbit-type health-tracking watches (the only wearables to do well last year) is now on the decline, Apple Watch sales have nearly doubled since last year. Granted, doubling relatively low sales (for Apple, anyway) may not seem like a huge feat, but it does prove the Apple Watch is far from dead.
And companies like Fossil, TAG Heuer, Martian and Frederique Constant are working (and succeeding) at making the smartwatch more mainstream by producing fashion-forward smart/analogue hybrids.
As the number of merchants who offer contactless payment continues to rise, along with improvements in smartwatch capabilities and performance, it shouldn’t seem so far-fetched to prefer attractive, wearable technology to something that needs to be carried around and, therefore, has chronic loss potential.
Not only will we be able to pay bills with a turn of the wrist, but imagine this scenario from Wired:
“Imagine approaching your home’s door with groceries in hand, and the heartbeat signature via your wearable signals the door’s smartlock to unlock. While crossing your living room, a sensor on your wrist wearable notices your core body temperature is above average and automatically interacts with Nest thermostat to trigger the air conditioning. Your wearable also includes a sensor to detect hydration levels, and it triggers your smart refrigerator to automatically pour a glass of water for you as you enter the kitchen to unload your groceries.”
Wearables are coming and digital marketers should start planning now.
When we say “planning,” we don’t mean full-scale, operational funnels and strategies that will be ready to go tomorrow.
We’re merely calling for a healthy awareness, light to moderate conceptualizing and, definitely, a real effort to stay on top of all stats and industry discussion related to this inevitable trend.
So for those of us who don’t like being caught with our pants down, here are some points to consider:
1. Content – We’ve already had to go to the trouble of optimizing content for smaller formats with the rise of mobile, so we’re no strangers to economizing. But just how small are we going to have to go, here?
Pretty small, of course, but there are ways around that. Websites may very well have been developed in three sizes (desktop, mobile, and wearable), but the wearable-friendly site will have much more than just “being small” up its sleeve.
Since a keyboard will be largely out of the question, wearable-friendly sites will likely rely on verbal cues and, in fact, voice technology will undoubtedly improve to meet the needs of wearable users who find it easier “conversing” with websites than scrolling and touching.
But lest we underestimate, or forget, the advantages consumers will still find in using mobile and desktop, wearable-friendly sites will most likely send push notifications (if an app’s not taking care of it) in order to invite people to interact, see more about the product and continue their purchase journeys on a larger device.
2. Apps!!! – In a world of wearables, it’s going to be all about the apps. According to Flurry, the app-to-browser ratio of time spent by mobile users is 9:1, so it pretty much already is all about the apps . . .
But apps will mean even more to wearable users, since they eliminate the need for search, take less time to load info and should be able to deliver enough basic information to users on-the-go.
And in those cases when an app can’t provide enough information, it can still go a long way in perpetuating the purchase journey by directing the consumer to their mobile, tablet or laptop and helping them easily access what they need there.
3. Beacon Technology – The practice of sending BlueTooth Low Energy messages over short distances to consumers is already under way in stores, airports, and stadiums as a way to communicate high-value information to on-premise consumers
For instance, say a consumer walks into their favorite grocery store and, based on where they’re at in the building, beacons send messages about what specials or sales happen to be going on immediately around them.
How much easier would it be to hear or see this information from our wrists while pushing carts? Or how about receiving flight information/deals while reading the paper and drinking coffee? Maybe a seat upgrade or specials on team merchandise while chowing down on a hot dog at the game?
The implications are as dizzying as they are exciting.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of this topic, but it’s something we’ve got our eye on and will continue to monitor.
In all honestly, I personally wasn’t that excited about wearables a few months ago. Though I’ve never doubted that they’ll someday be ubiquitous, I just didn’t approach the subject with the sense of urgency I do now.
Then, three months ago, something changed. My 15-year-old daughter started bugging me daily about the possibility of getting one. I have never known a better predictor of the next big thing than an über picky, tech-savvy teen.
If you have questions about this topic, mobile marketing or anything at all digital-marketing related, please don’t hesitate to reach out any time.