Wearable technology is today's latest and greatest trend. Experts expect the market value to reach $12.6 billion USD by 2018, and it is easy to see why. Consumers lined up around the block to be the first to don the Apple Watch and Fitbit is experiencing huge success in the health and fitness industry. But with yet another connected technology, what does this mean for advertisers? Is wearable technology a gimmick to be ignored or is it a path to the sweet spot - unwavering attention from consumers?
Interestingly enough, a survey conducted by a US think tank found that more than half of American adults who owned a wearable device no longer used it. And as long as consumers are only able to use wearable technology for the basics such as reviewing notifications and receiving brief messages, there are not a lot of opportunities for advertisers. However, it is important to acknowledge that in terms of technology, consumer wearables is in its infancy. The true potential lies in what we have only just started to identify.
Outside the consumer space wearables have found increasing utility in healthcare, with many applications in development and several actually out on the market. One of the leading innovations currently occupying the space is Valedo's back pain therapy solution, where small sensors are attached to the lower back and users play interactive games where their body is the controller. Whilst this may sound similar to the Wii Fit franchise, the application has been developed in cooperation with leading physicians and physiotherapists, and has been very well received by patients and healthcare professionals alike. Moving into the R&D side, there are some incredibly innovative devices set to hit the marketplace within the next year or so. This includes the Quell Relief knee brace which intelligently applies pressure to relieve pain and the Helius smart pill which can record important health information from inside the patient's body, notifying doctors if there is a problem or how the patient is reacting to prescribed medication.
Whether it's to safeguard your health or just generally make your life easier wearables have the ability to incorporate your surroundings and digitally link it to your physical being, enabling users, healthcare professionals and even advertisers to measure and influence offline behaviour. Think about what it would mean if wearers received location triggered ads as they walked by shops, potentially even including special offers or discounts.
Or taking it further, imagine you're driving down the road when your smart car, noticing it is low on fuel, triggers a notification on your smart watch. Your smart watch automatically connects to your electronic wallet holding your money and loyalty card, while your GPS guides you to the nearest petrol station. At the same time an advertisement is triggered by your GPS searching and a fuel voucher is sent to your electronic wallet. You fill up (unfortunately this is still done manually!) and quickly tap your wrist to the NFC enabled machine next to the pump - complete and connected.
We are a long way from this becoming a reality and there is still a lot of consideration that must be given to the 'infiltration' of the wearer's space. Especially when we are talking about technology that has not traditionally been used as an advertising platform and where brands run the risk of turning innovation into a negative experience.
However, wearable technology such as the iWatch and Fitbit are becoming commonplace and challenger brands are popping up everywhere. This is not something that should be ignored lightly, so while they may only be useful for notification based apps at the moment, our job as marketers is to take what may appear as a gimmick now and start uncovering future use cases that we can start working towards today.