By Kate Salkin, Senior Interactive Designer
April 15, 2015
Nearly all of us have been to tradeshows before. “Excuse me Ma’am,” says the overly confident man behind the booth. “Have you heard of [insert product here]”? You listen to the sales pitch. Your eyes browse the one sheet. But ultimately the experience can feel very monotonous. “Don’t forget to grab a keychain,” he notes as you slowly slither away.
But as I walked into this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) tradeshow, I instantly discovered that this was unlike any show I had been to before. This was a different song and dance. In fact, it was different because sales reps were coming out from behind the booth to sing and dance in an effort to show anxious tradeshow goers the capability of their wearable products. Everywhere I looked, someone was putting something on to demonstrate its technological capabilities.
As I walked out of the bustling Austin Convention Center that day, I instantly thought one thing: wearables are officially here.
Ultimately, this fact shouldn’t come as a surprise. Consumers are increasingly comfortable with technology making their everyday lives easier, better, more streamlined. In fact, according to Forrester Research VP and Principal Analyst Julie Ask, one-third of consumers are ready to buy wearables today. Additionally, 40 percent of people in the U.S. are tired of pulling out their smartphone. That’s right. That device that was once seen as instant access to the world in the palm of your hands is now considered a nuisance.
People want their tech more instantaneous. According to Business Insider, the Apple Watch is slated to sell 40 million units in the first calendar year of its release alone. We have reached an intersection where tech companies possess the capability to provide fascinating wearable products and consumers are ready and excited to consume them.
Now what does this mean for marketing?
The worst thing we can do for a brand is entertain the thought of developing something to cater to the technology itself. For example, just because Apple Watch is coming out soon doesn’t mean brands should be developing products for the Apple Watch. In other words, objective first, platform second.
If there is a particular problem that can be solved or an objective that can be met via the immediacy and intimacy that an Apple Watch can provide, then developing an app for the Apple Watch is something that should be explored. But if we focus on the idea that we should develop for a technology simply because it exists, we are setting ourselves up to fail.
And this same idea can be applied to brands that may want to adjust their existing technology for wearables. “Let’s push our mobile app to the Apple Watch,” says the misguided marketer. But it is important to remember how different a mobile experience is compared to the instantaneous experience one gets from a wearable device. What is a user’s motivation to use your app via a smartphone? How would this same user’s motivation differ for an app tied to a wearable product? And how should that motivation influence the user’s experience with your app in a wearable environment? These are all questions a marketer must consider as we dip our feet into these new technological opportunities.
If you are still skeptical of the potential of wearables, here is just a peek at some of the fascinating products that were trending at this year’s SXSW:
- Lechal Shoes: Haptic footwear for runners or bikers. These shoes sync with Google Maps to provide directions to you via foot vibrations while you’re on the move. Right shoe vibrating? Turn right at the next block.
- Kinetic: A waistband and watch duo that helps prevent workplace injury for manual laborers. Employers can instantly see an employee’s safety analytics and alert them if there is a concern that they are lifting items in a way that is physically harmful.
- WonderWoof: Wearables aren’t just for humans. This wearable comes in the form of a bowtie that is attached to a dog’s collar. Dog owners are able to track their dog’s location, behavior and activity or even set up a doggie play date with nearby WonderWoof users via the bowtie’s Bluetooth capabilities.
- MultiSense Memory Patch: A smart Band-Aid that measures vitals and sends results to your computer. Developed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, this Band-Aid can last for 7-10 days and is seen as a pivotal tool to help in the treatment of Ebola patients.
Pretty cool, huh? It is hard to deny how some of these products make someone’s life easier, better, more streamlined. And no longer is wearable technology exclusively for the likes of James Bond or the Jetsons. Technology is now more accessible and mobile than ever before; but for marketers, the challenge is making sure we are conscious of leveraging technology in the right way for our brands. With a strategic understanding of trending technologies, the rising capabilities in tech and the increasing consumer demand for wearables, the Internet of things presents a vast new world in providing intimate brand experiences for our product or service’s core audience.