If that tipping point comes, surely critical mass will come in China first?
Wearable tech was always going to find a natural home in China, a nation that delights in the glamour and swagger of gadgets. After all, where else would you find a heart monitoring / air purifying bra and gloves or a motor-powered, photo-luminescent cocktail dress?
While not every Chinese consumer craves the cocktail dress, according to a Baidu study almost 75 per cent are interested in and willing to purchase a wearable tech device, with particular interest around bracelets and watches. Compare that number to only 29 per cent in the UK who said in an Accenture study that they are interested in buying a smartwatch, and the figure is even more revealing.
Through a macro lens, the key to wearable success is simple: does it add genuine value to people’s lives? This may seem obvious, but when it comes to shiny new bits of tech, we can all be easily bowled over and forget this simple fact. However, on a micro level, there are three key considerations that will need to be addressed prior to mass adoption:
- Killer application
- Battery life
- Personal privacy
The killer app for wearables is still to be discerned. Fitness bands proved themselves temporarily with the masses, the Nike FuelBand and Xiaomi Mi Band as cases in point. Both were affordable, with a long battery life, and both focused on counting steps and calculating calorie burn. But after a few months, their use tended to trail off. A recent CCS Insight research survey across the US and UK found that, of those that owned wearable tech, 40 per cent had stopped using it because they got bored with the idea, or simply forgot to put it on.
The current industry focus seems to be to consolidate more features into wearables. The same way that most would never leave their home without their phone (a phone, music player, camera, map and internet communicator), manufacturers seem to be focusing on adding functionality (notifications, fitness & health tracking and wireless payments) that will make this additional glass screen invaluable to you and your smartphone.
Battery life is another concern. 2015’s wearable devices (with all their additional functionality) look likely to need charging each and every night. Needless to say, as soon as the battery depletes, the device becomes useless. It’ll be interesting to see the balance that manufacturers make in the hardware and how consumers react.
Finally, there is the learning curve from consumer reaction. These are visible devices that people (in theory) will wear all day. Devices that become a form of personal expression, so standard functional design won’t cut it, and personalisation is a necessity.
Wearables are far and away the most personal of all tech devices, and not just visually. They collate health and fitness data, they’re attached to your body (not just tucked in a pocket) and they will be contextually aware. In this ever-connected world, no one wants their wrist buzzing continually.
This will be the most interesting area for marketers to watch in 2015—the trial and error of using this new channel successfully.
So will 2015 be the year that wearable tech reaches the tipping point? It seems unlikely that this year will see most of the concerns addressed, but much needs to be explored in 2015 as these devices come to market.
In the meantime, monitor ways the technology can add genuine value and remove friction from consumers daily lives.
For example my company recently worked with Google and captured biometric data from the wrists of guests at the IMS Asia-Pacific afterparty with DJ Paul Oakenfold. The devices provided real-time data from the guests and we used it to transform both the music and the space appropriate to the measurements. The bands provided a quantifiable metric, adding a whole new dimension to the experience.
So while there isn’t an immediate need to have a strategy for wearable tech right now, we do all need to continue to be inquisitive, responsive and creative to make sure that if and when consumers begin taking to these devices, we’re ready as an industry to help bring them extraordinary moments.
James Bennett is senior creative strategist at Jack Morton Worldwide