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Wearable Tech for Mobile Marketing: Sci-fi or Future Science?

November 3, 2014 | Posted by Adam Graham

wearable_technology_2Marketing professionals know all too well that competition has become increasingly stiff over the past decade or two. This is especially true online -- the Internet has served to help "level the playing field," and even small enterprises can use technology to empower their marketing. In an attempt to not be left behind, companies feel pressured to make sure that their marketing efforts immediately include every new technology that appears. Although this is typically the wisest strategy, sometimes technology outpaces purpose.

One recent technology that is frequently under consideration for mobile marketing efforts is wearable tech. Over the last few years, tech has continued to move to smart devices. Wearable tech, many marketers reason, is just as necessary as websites optimized for phablets or smartphones, in-store kiosks or a presence on the social media sites.

The problem is that wearable tech has -- so far -- not been widely embraced. Part of this is due to its revolutionary nature; consumers need time to learn what wearable tech is and what it can do for them. In light of recent, highly publicized data breaches, consumers are uncertain how much security the new gadget offer. There is also the issue of when the collection or use of data constitutes an invasion of their privacy.

However, part of the problem is also that developers have yet to create products that use the technology in an effective manner. In its current state, wearable tech offers little to marketers who are seeking to deliver advertising messages and promotions. At the moment, such campaigns are probably best delivered via other mobile devices, such as smartphones.

However, wearable tech offers the potential for some intriguing marketing efforts in the future. Imagine this scenario: A customer enters a department store. According to the customer's wearable tech, she has just left the gym, where she engaged in a strenuous exercise routine. An offer for luxury chocolates is likely to be ignored, but an offer for nutritional supplements, at-home exercise equipment or workout clothes might be welcomed and immediately redeemed.

Wearable tech for store personnel will be able to offer a number of opportunities to personalize the shopping experience. When a customer enters the store, a clerk equipped with "smart eyewear" can quickly identify the customer and access all previous visits and purchases. The clerk then has a much better idea of what to suggest, while the system automatically generates discount offers that tie to the suggestions.

These two scenarios are still on the horizon, and although they are coming closer to reality every day, they remain tantalizingly just out of reach. This is not to say that there are currently no ways that marketers can enhance their brand using wearable tech. One excellent method involves the development of apps that will generate a "buzz" or free publicity. A European coffee brand, Paulig, developed a mug containing an e-ink display that was activated by hot liquids and linked to the user's smartphone so that selfies could be uploaded. The mugs generated a lot of publicity when they first became available, getting the company's name mentioned in the press frequently.

Furthermore, nothing stated here should imply that companies should not continue to look at wearable tech as a marketing tool. As more and more consumers embrace wearable tech -- the latest estimates project more than 170 million wearable tech devices will be sold by 2016 -- it will become vital for companies to develop for this medium. At this point, however, most companies will find that their marketing dollars will provide a greater return if spent in other areas.

Topics: Mobile Applications, Technology Strategy Consulting

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