Watch out for wearables

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I get a lot of questions about my new Apple Watch from friends and colleagues, primarily around what it actually does.

There’s always a sense that they care less about what it does, and more about what it doesn’t do – a sense of justification that they have made the right decision in not jumping on the Apple cart and that I have therefore made a poor decision in buying it.

To a certain extent they’d be right – it doesn’t do an awful lot. But therein lays one of the best things about the Apple Watch – that it is an incredibly useful piece of technology without actually doing very much.

Before buying it, I was concerned that I would be constantly checking my watch to read every notification. It is true that I probably am checking notifications on the watch more frequently than I might do on my iPhone, but (and to use a term which Apple uses), I am simply glancing at the watch. I check – and maybe respond to – a text message or an email, but that’s it; that’s all I do.

I don’t check Facebook, I don’t Snapchat, I don’t send a tweet – because I can’t. The watch won’t let me do these things, and in all honesty I wouldn’t want it to.

And so, as a result, I am using my phone less. I am able to focus on my tasks in hand more effectively and whilst despite being interrupted more frequently with the watch, I am being distracted far less than with my iPhone.

Wearables in store

This therefore presents quite an interesting opportunity for brands and retailers. With them now having quite a significant focus on personalised and targeted marketing, location-based offers and mobile push notifications, it is important for them to also consider the device that these messages are being delivered to.

Some are rooting for the phone to come out on top – everyone has one in their pocket already, so why not get them to use it throughout their shopping trip? But, is this really the most practical solution?

The customer either has to carry the phone all the time (making things awkward when trying to juggle the phone, shopping basket and products they want), or they shop somewhere that offers a shopping cart phone dock. In this latter scenario however, are people likely to leave their phone docked into a shopping cart while they move down the aisle for a specific product, or quickly run off to get something they forgot? I’m not convinced.

With regards to push notifications, the last thing a retailer would want to happen is to push a message about an in-store offer, only for me to get distracted by everything else on my phone and not pay attention to the offer – or worse, to forget what I came into the shop to buy in the first place and therefore decrease my overall basket spend.

Far more convenient for me as the shopper is to use the device that’s physically on me; I can still access my shopping list whilst carrying my basket in the same hand, and can still receive the offers you send to me, without getting distracted by the latest trending topics on Twitter. Plus, if the brand is so-inclined, it could make use of the watch’s other features such as the activity tracking monitor.

By placing a walking path through the store, customers can be challenged to walk a certain number of steps or burn a certain number of calories whilst doing their shopping, with retailers improving their chances of impulse buys taking place as the customer walks throughout the store.

With wearable technology only going to become more mainstream, and with all the big names such as Apple, Google, Samsung and even Tag Heuer and Swatch launching their own smart watches, they are devices that cannot be ignored.

Retailers should be future-proofing their shopping experiences so that they are prepared for when this technology does become mainstream. And in the case of wearables, this future is not too far away and retailers had better watch out.

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