Some might say wearable tech is already the next big thing, and looking at the figures that certainly seems to be the case. Approximately $350m was invested in wearable tech in Q2 2015[1] and in Western Europe there are approximately 19.5m wearable devices in circulation.[2]

Currently the growth in wearable tech is being fuelled by smartwatches and fitness trackers, but the possibilities are much greater than this:

  • Google has developed a smart contact lens prototype for monitoring blood glucose levels (for diabetes sufferers) via a person’s tears
  • Companies such as Ringly sell jewellery that notifies you of smartphone messages and alerts
  • Smart clothing involves having clothes made to measure by companies such as Like a Glove which send the measurements to an app so you can make your order online

There are some exciting ideas in here which could change the way we shop, interact and even improve our health.

But will it deliver on its potential?

Having recently got a smartwatch myself, I have to say I’m not that impressed with it.

Everyone is very interested and excited when they see it. It’s useful for checking emails on the go between meetings without having my head buried in my phone, and tracking my fitness/steps is useful. However, it still relies on my phone, as do many of the applications of wearable tech. For me that is where it falls down. The smartphone is something that works on its own; I don’t have to carry a desktop around with me for it to work. Much of the wearable tech currently available is dependent on something else, and you have to ask if the add-on of making wearable versions is actually necessary.

It rather calls to mind the Gartner Hype Cycle.

2000px-Gartner_Hype_Cycle

A new technology triggers a flood of activity, followed by a lot of hype and excitement, but very little of it aligns with our actual needs. Does it solve a problem or make something better? Out of that disillusionment, though, we gradually reach enlightenment, as someone comes along and does something different with that original piece of tech. That is when it becomes productive.

Wearable tech could be great, but there are a few more things to crack first: the use of it needs to be seamless and not dependent on another device, and to be more sensitive to the fact that anything which is wearable is highly personable and may not be worn all the time.

What does this mean for marketers?

One thing we can anticipate is that at some point users will be seeing your adverts on a wearable device. The intent, need and experience offered here will need to be specific to that environment, platform and context, even more so than we have achieved using mobile today.

Given the personalised nature of this and the move in digital towards the use of ad blockers, highly tailored and targeting messaging will have to be the norm from the outset. With the potential customer having even greater control over what and how they see marketing messages, getting personal while being genuinely useful so as to not invade privacy will be the mantra here. There are lots of things marketers can start doing now to get ahead: analysis of your CRM, segmenting your audience, building personas and creating those targeted messages. Not only will this help your existing digital campaigns but it means when wearable is ready, you can be first out of the starting blocks.

[1] CB insights 2015 http://raconteur.net/infographics/wearable-technology-global-market-outlook

[2] Cisco 2015 http://raconteur.net/infographics/wearable-technology-global-market-outlook