With the Apple Watch set to hit consumers’ wrists on April 24, brands are weighing the implications wearables will have on marketing. The problem is, no one seems to know what to make of these wearable devices. Most marketers and consumers alike acknowledge they want wearables to do more than simply act as a smartphone alternative. Text messages and push notifications are so 2014. Yet when it comes to adoption and content strategy, there are three schools of thought. The first school says to adopt rapidly. This perspective holds the sooner you and your team are comfortable with this technology, the sooner you can innovate, engage consumers and step ahead of the competition. The second school argues you should plan ahead. It might not make sense to spend three weeks of your life in a tent village waiting for the latest wearable to be released. But it’s smart to start thinking about tweaks to your strategy that might make it more wearable-friendly (and might capitalize on the significant troves of data wearables will generate). The third school suggests we proceed with caution. Not literally, of course, but in a very real sense there is concern among some consumers and privacy advocates that wearables represent the next phase in personal encroachment. In this post, we’ll briefly look at each framework and possible takeaways content marketers can use as they adapt strategy to this new generation of mobile devices.
Viewpoint #1: Adopt Rapidly for Contextual Delivery
The first school of thought on wearables holds the future is already here. In fact, a recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers confirms it: More than 20 percent of consumers already own a wearable device. Many are used to track how many steps we’ve taken or monitor our heartrate, but proponents of wearables say that’s only the beginning. As such, it’s crucial for marketers to think outside the box to connect with this engaged audience. That’s especially true considering three out of every four consumers also say new smart devices don’t render smartphones extinct by default. There will be opportunities to play in both spaces. In another report, digital forecasting firm Juniper Research argues global retail revenue for wearables will balloon to $53 billion by 2019, up from just about $4.5 billion in 2014. In light of these forecasts, some experts recommend marketers jump on the wearable bandwagon early. Assuming these predictions are correct, notes a recent post from FierceCMO, B2B chief marketing officers should “push creative and customized use of wearables for employees, deploying them to provide a competitive advantage behind the scenes by driving innovation in HR, operations and even R&D.” Consumers who see this type of rapid adoption might look more favorably on your brand as an innovator. What’s more, you’ll be able to speak their language as more people adopt watches and other devices. One of the greatest benefits of wearables is the ability to present information in a single consumer’s own environment, notes Dioni Wise ina post for communications firm Pace. Such contextual-driven marketing already has been tested by companies like Trulia, which once partnered with Google Glass (yes, we know it’s on hiatus, but it’s a good proof-of-concept for the purposes of this post) to help viewers see nearby houses for sale, view photos and obtain Realtor contact information. Also consider the information that wearables generate. If your target customer enjoys jogging, needs sleep or infrequently visits brick-and-mortar stores, notes social media firm Tint, you might target products or services based on these behavioral criteria. And discounts might be dispatched to buyers who hit a particular behavioral benchmark, such as taking 100,000 steps over the next week. Of course, all of these marketing possibilities sound pretty tame compared to what others envision for the future of wearables, which goes beyond interactive devices into the world of interactive universes. Just check out this article from EContent, which suggests marketers should take a look at wearable virtual-reality technology such as Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens for clues as to where the industry might be headed. “The mixed reality made possible by HoloLens and others allows brands to have a human presence in interactions and create play spaces where prospects and customers can explore a product or service on their own terms,” notes writer Andrew Martin. Possibilities include brands projecting virtual billboards inside those wearable devices, setting up person-to-person meetings in virtual spaces — a next-generation sort of video conference call– and analyzing Big Data sets in three dimensions, from any angle. Last thought here: It’s even possible to project virtual worlds and products onto existing spaces using augmented reality. As Gizmag notes, that makes it possible for consumers to see how a product will look in their home before it even gets shipped — a powerful sales tool, to be sure.
Viewpoint #2: Plan Ahead to Budget for Micro-Consumption
A second school of thought posits the best marketing strategy for wearables is a well-prepared one. Proponents simply advise having a plan you can actually execute, always a valid approach with content marketing. One article worth reading is this post at Adobe’s CMO.com, which synthesizes several recent reports to suggest we think about real-world applications. Wearables open up vast stores of untapped visual real estate—for example, virtual reality headsets create massive screens on which to view video games, movies and other entertainment—creating ample opportunities for visual marketers to connect with new audiences. Also think about creative yet simple ways to engage with audiences on wearables. Fashion company Kenneth Cole created a do-good app for Google Glass encouraging users to lend a helping hand in their community. Your audience doesn’t need to be a group of rocket scientists to build on wearable technology to create engaging and provocative new forms of storytelling. Finally, consider the fact that basic tasks such as searching the web and asking questions of Siri 2.0 aren’t going anywhere. Wearables simply create opportunity for your brands to make the routine new again, notes The Guardian. Remember you’ll no longer be functioning in a world of mouse clicks, pinches and swipes, though — new technology will require responsiveness to facial expressions, behavioral characteristics and our voices. Deliver information that is bite-sized and appropriate to the device, and you might just find a whole new fan base.
Viewpoint #3: Proceed With Caution
Finally, it should be said that a third group of wearable philosophers is more nervous than not about this technology. In a post for MLT Creative, writer Tracey Anderson provides tongue-in-cheek analysis of several recent brand campaigns with wearables. “When people become more aware of just how much data they’re providing and who has access to that data,” Anderson asks, “will they keep sharing? Or will they put on the brakes?” Meanwhile, Marketing Week references a survey from the 2015 Mobile World Congress stating more than one in three consumers “don’t see the need” for wearable technology. And half of Americans surveyed earlier by the Pew Research Center suggested wearable devices that constantly deliver information “could be a change for the worse.” As with any new information delivery system, adoption will take time. It will require a learning curve for content marketers and professionals in dozens of other industries.Yet with the future knocking on our door, the best course of action might just be to raise our wrists to eye level to see what lies on the other side. Photo via Flickr user TechStage