Why 2017 is the Year for Wearables

by Jay Selig, Marketing & PR Manager

Are we still talking about virtual reality? Yeah, I guess that won’t be stopping anytime soon. However, there’s another technology that is ready to make waves in the experiential marketing arena—wearables.

I know wearables are nothing new to the technology space, let alone the casual consumer, but it’s only recently that they’ve earned themselves a prime spot at the experiential table. In 2015, the number of wearable users in the US was 39.5M. That number is projected more than double by 2018 to 81.7M.

So what does that mean? It means it’s time for brands to embrace wearable technology and make it a more prominent feature in experiential activations, as well as everyday experiences. How might they do that?

Here are some ideas to get started.
 

Fitness

Most of us are familiar with wearable fitness devices. I used to wear a FitBit (before it fell off my wrist one fateful Uber ride). Thousands of others wear them too and compete with other to motivate themselves to healthier lifestyles.

Fact is, people love tracking their habits—especially when it comes to fitness. Now, more than ever, people want to know exactly how far they’ve run, how many calories they’ve burned, and how fast their heart is beating (among other things). It’s fun on a personal level, and it provides a great way to track progress; but there’s far more that brands can do to take advantage of this.
 

Orange Theory

Take a look at Orange Theory, for example. They took a simple heart monitor and transformed an ordinary fitness class into a gamified fitness competition. Those taking the class try to keep their heart rate in the desired color levels in order to maximize their output. The results are displayed on screen so you know where you are in relation to the rest of the class.

Now imagine adding a wearable device that does even more than that. Rather than looking up to the leaderboard for motivation, you could receive pulses reminding you how close or far you are from your desired level. You could get quick messages displayed on your screen, updating you on your progress and how much longer you have to go.

Wearable fitness pieces are all about motivation and seeing your progress in real time. As long as you’re using your Apple Watch to benefit your workout—rather than answering texts in the middle of it—I’ve got no problem with it.
 

Obstacle Runs

There are plenty of other opportunities to tie wearables into fitness activities—one of the biggest ones being obstacle runs. I don’t fancy myself an expert, but I have completed a Spartan Race and can say from experience that there are plenty of ways for wearables to enhance the experience.

 

  1. Check Points. These obstacles courses are long, winding, and often tough to follow. Not only could you use your wearable device to check into beacons, but you could get updates on your pace relative to friends or leading competitors.
  2. Create an Obstacle. One of the obstacles I faced that was particularly challenging was the memory game. You had to remember a series of letters and numbers and recite it at a later time to complete the task. Rather than line up and recite your code to a representative, you could be prompted to type it on your wearable and speed up the process.
  3. GPS Course Map. Competitors don’t like to leave things to chance, so having a map to follow on your wrist would be a great way to keep things in perspective. Not only could you see how far you’ve come, but you could mentally prepare for the obstacles that lie ahead.

 
With fitness continuing to become a priority for consumers, brands have a unique opportunity to capitalize on this captive, yet active, audience.
 

Experiential Marketing

Brands are looking for any avenue possible to connect with consumers, and none are more visible than a wearable device. Now, instead of sticking your hand inside your pocket to retrieve an update, you can simply raise your wrist.

So how can this improve brand experiences? Well, it may not be in the way you’d think. Let’s take a look at a couple marketing applications of wearables and see how valuable they can actually be in this space.
 

Traffic Generators

Oftentimes, building the activation is the easy part; it’s getting the bodies in the footprint that proves far more difficult. One way to attract those unaware consumers is through geo-fencing. If you’re not familiar with geo-fencing, it’s actually quite simple. Here’s how you do it:
 

  • Create a virtual boundary for a specific area
  • Wait for consumers to enter your selected location
  • Send a push notification to alert the consumer of a deal or special event that they may be interested in

 
The problem with this practice is that consumers don’t always take action after receiving the notification. One reason for this could be that consumers don’t respond well to push notifications. Valid, but consumers can always opt out if they really want to.

Another possibility is that, despite consumers’ addiction to checking their phone, they just aren’t seeing the message quickly enough to take the suggested action. Wearables can change all of that!

With consumers receiving messages directly on their wrist, they’re able to see everything in real time. I can tell you from experience that the vibration of the Apple Watch can’t be missed. When timing is everything, this method of marketing can make a huge impact on the foot traffic to your footprint.

 

Expedited Check-In

Say your geo-fencing campaign works and droves of people make their way over to your experience; you’d better have a bulletproof check-in system ready to keep all that traffic flowing smoothly. Well, we already solved one issue with wearables, so why not do the same here?

All the consumer needs to do is have their relevant personal information pre-loaded on their phone and, through the use of RFID, that information can easily be transferred to the check-in software. Now, consumers can enter the gate effortlessly and be on their way.

Not only that, but consumers will no longer have to log in to their social accounts when they want to collect shareable content from a footprint. The ability to extend your footprint through social media content is crucial; but until now, it’s been a relatively slow and cumbersome process.

Speed is everything, so when consumers can use Apple Pay to speed up a transaction, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to do the same to check in and out of a brand experience.
 


 

The way we experience things is always changing. What we used to accomplish with our phone can now be accomplished without our phone ever leaving our pocket. Things like basic health metrics and mobile payments we now expect to be at our fingertips instantly.

The emergence of wearables may seem like a passing fad, but really it is just the beginning. Ultimately, consumers want to accomplish things as quickly as possible with as little hassle as possible. Wearables bring that level of ease and speed to brands and consumers alike. It really is true what they say—time is money…a whole lot of money.