Once upon a time not too far in the past, pedometers were considered your everyday wearable. They simply clipped onto users' clothes and recorded valuable information for them to check at their leisure. These days, the pedometer has grown up — a lot.
Now, they not only record the information, but they also evaluate it. They estimate the number of calories burned and distinguish "aerobic" steps from more casual ones. They allow people to track their data and share their progress via social media, sparking a sense of healthy competition among peers. They use GPS technology to map out walking, biking, or running routes. Some even provide a bit of a pep talk for those who need encouragement along the way.
Pedometers may have been one of the first and more prominent forms of wearable technology, but the trend has broken out of this limited box. According to eMarketer, wearable usage grew by nearly 60 percent from 2014 to 2015. And by 2018, it's estimated that more than 81 million Americans will use wearable technology in some form or fashion.
Mobile marketers everywhere have approached this trend with dollar signs in their eyes, but they're still deciding how to best use wearables to shape their strategies. Here are a few ways wearables are making an impact:
Fitness trackers continue to be the most commonly owned wearable device among Internet users worldwide. From Garmin to Jawbone to Fitbit to the Apple Watch, these devices can do just about anything users are looking for — whether that means continuously monitoring their heart rates or tracking their sleep patterns. The wristbands will often accept voice and motion commands that allow users to make phone calls, participate in social media, track nutrition, and stay ahead of the weather.
From a marketing standpoint, the wearable industry is creating new data sets that have never been collected before. However, few consumers are interested in using wearables to share health data, citing concerns about privacy. With wearables on the rise and the boundaries of privacy eroding, retailers and brands representing any number of industries can transform this data into information and knowledge to provide a more comprehensive customer experience — with the permission of the customer.
Biometrics is an electronic physiological tracking technology that's incorporated into accessories or clothing that analyze and store individual traits such as your heart rate, blood pressure, caloric intake, blood oxygen saturation, temperature, hydration, and physical activity. In conjunction with wearables, biometric and voice recognition features offer enhanced security and access. While vital biometrics are standard on wearables like the Apple Watch, they have untapped potential as authenticators.
As seen with Touch ID, biometrics offer the potential to streamline the authentication process, eliminating the need for password and payment hassles.
For example, Nymi, a wristband that measures cardiac biometrics, uses heart rate measurements to verify the user's identity. One quick touch confirms your ID and uses Bluetooth to unlock any device you own until you decide to take it off. Similar to the way Apple Watch locks when it leaves your wrist, Nymi deactivates when removed and can't be accessed until it identifies the original user's electrocardiogram.
- Right-Time Marketing
The trouble with many ads and coupons is their lack of relevancy. Potential customers may be exposed to your marketing messages while working, dining, or simply relaxing in front of the TV. But your message is pointless if it isn't relevant.
With wearables being constantly connected, marketers can fine-tune the timing of message delivery. This way, targets are exposed to marketing messages at the most relevant times. Let's say your wearable device senses you are in need of water. Marketers can send a targeted message leading you to a vending machine or kiosk where water is sold.
- Mobile Payments
Convenience is the reason wearable technology and mobile payments will work so well together. Not only will mobile payments allow consumers to dump their bulky wallets, but they will also reduce the likelihood of losing credit or debit cards. For some payment methods, it's up to the retailers to have a compatible reading device that will accept the payment, but app developers are stepping up their game, making it possible for users to communicate with their phones or wearables through already ubiquitous technology.
As time goes by, this practice can potentially become more valuable to mobile marketers. Not only is information available for the things that customers are searching for, but it also shows what they buy. When you're privy to this information, you can open the door to marketing complementary items.
For marketers, it's not about the device; it's about what can be done with the valuable data the device collects. The increased connectivity between different parts of our lives, with mobile as the hub, will begin to give marketers a more holistic view of the customer.
Since the days of the pedometer, wearables have taken many steps forward. And because of their potential to enhance marketing strategies, they'll certainly take a few more.
Ann Newland is a vice president at Mitchell, an award-winning public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement. The agency is headquartered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with offices in Chicago and New York City. Mitchell is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network and has more than 300 offices in 110 countries.