Only a few years ago, the wearables technology industry barely existed, but today the trend of wearable tech gadgets is growing. The wearable industry is predicted to be a $12 billion market by 2018, with a compound annual growth rate of 78.4 percent. While consumer adoption of wearable tech is still a long way from 100 percent, it’s growing, with 40 percent of consumers interested in buying a smartwatch.
Another major indicator that wearables are really taking off is Apple’s entry into the market, with the Apple Watch set to debut in April. Though Apple isn’t the first to jump in to the smartwatch market, Apple’s clout in the tech marketplace is the sort of thing that could make the smartwatch, and wearable tech in general, go mainstream in a big way.
Are Wearables the New Mobile?
The path wearables seem to be headed down isn’t unlike the path mobile devices have traveled, and the social implications may be similar. The ubiquity of smartphones means that we have social networks in our pockets no matter where we are. We can check Twitter and Facebook while waiting in line at the store, Instagram images of the merchandise in the aisles, and leave reviews of businesses on our way out the door (or even sooner).
Smartphones have brought social media very close to our day to day lives, but wearable technology could bring social media even closer. Wearables will offer social information in an even more immediate way, visible with just a glance at your wrist or even right in front of your eyes. Though most wearables have limited display areas to keep their size down, they’re ideal spaces for straightforward notifications, and some businesses are already creating special apps that take advantage of having a direct channel to your wrist.
With the right wearable tech, you can dictate to Evernote, get directions from Google Maps, or check in on Facebook, all without fishing your phone out of your pocket.
What Are Wearables?
Beyond the ability to reach customers even more directly, there’s a potential wealth of new customer interactions that wearables open up. Many wearables aim to keep tabs on your health — tracking things like steps taken, exercise duration, or heart rate — which some fitness programs have already tapped into. Accessing the data wearables collect could be a boon for any marketer, but it’s the experiences third party businesses offer wearable users that really shines.
Consider feeding advertisements or notifications when a smartwatch user was in a certain location, like a shopping center. You might offer coupons on nearby items, directions to items on a shopping list, or even suggest shopping for new shoes if the customer has been jogging lately. Wearables offer marketers the chance to send personalized data to potential customers — and that’s only going to become more common as the wearable market grows.
The term “wearables” can mean a lot of things, so let’s take a look at the devices you’re likely to be working with and what companies are doing with them.
Health and Fitness Wearables
— Fitbit (@fitbit) December 18, 2014
Gadgets that help you keep track of your health are currently a very popular category, with companies like Fitbit and Jawbone creating trackers that you wear all the time to monitor your fitness goals. This kind of tech is particularly relevant to anyone in the health space. For instance, Fitbit interfaces with exercise app MyFitnessPal. But there’s room to create wearable-friendly experiences for all industries: Walgreens lets you earn in-store rewards points by walking or running.
The smartwatch sounds like something straight out of Dick Tracy: a wrist-worn gadget that not only tells the time, but also lets you control your music, check social notifications, view maps, look up reviews, and more. The specifics on what you see and what kind of interactions you have vary by model and software, but you can expect social followers with these devices to see notifications popping up on their wrists as well as on their phones.
There are several smartwatches already on the market from Pebble and Samsung, but the biggest smartwatch is yet to come: the Apple Watch is due out this April and brings the possibility of a mainstream “wearable” device with iPhone-level popularity — and having that kind of platform on everyone’s wrist will be an opportunity for marketers who want to connect with potential customers in a new and more immediate way.
Smart glasses are worn like prescription glasses, but they provide a visual display of information right before your eyes. These gadgets can take photos, record videos, and even provide immediate contextual information on things you’re seeing. However, the smart glasses market isn’t as advanced or as large as the market for health wearables or smartwatches.
Google made the most headway here with Google Glass, but recently pulled the product from virtual store shelves, promising new and improved versions of Glass “when they’re ready.” It’s interesting tech that will have big implications for social interaction when it becomes mainstream, but it’s not likely to reach high levels of adoption this year.
You’ll also see high-tech clothes and jewelry in the category of wearables, many serving as higher tech (and higher style) versions of fitness trackers, but some provide notifications or displays that could be used for social or marketing purposes. So far, these gadgets are less common than what’s been mentioned above, but if you have a tech-savvy audience, you should keep your eyes on the next big thing in wearables.
Social Messaging for Wearables
Though wearables are still a new frontier for social marketing, may of the strategies you use now will still be applicable to wearable tech with a little tweaking. Social platforms like Twitter have already taught us the need to be concise, which will be even more true with the limited notification space on most wearable devices. If you’re specifically targeting messaging to wearable users, you’ll want to be sure to keep it short and sweet for easy reading on a a small smartwatch screen.
If wearables do take off with the kind of explosive growth that’s being predicted, we may even see new networks arise to take advantage of them. It’s also likely that we’ll see tweaks to existing networks to improve ease of use on wearable devices, with their small screens and limited interface options. Small, micro-interactions are likely to come to social platforms to offer wearable users a way to participate rather than just passively receive information — for example, the ability to Like, Favorite, Share, or Retweet with the tap of a button, which are features some smartwatches are are already offering. Keep your eyes open for new, wearable-friendly interactions and take advantage of them when they arise.
Should Wearables Be Part of My Social Strategy?
Though the market is growing, wearables aren’t yet a technology that all of your customers are likely to have. Businesses targeting a tech-savvy audience are more likely to find their clients sporting wearables, but they’re not mainstream devices yet. Beyond an audience interest in wearables, it’s important to know which wearables your customers are focused on, as there’s little tech standardization from one to the next. Social media applications will work differently from platform to platform, so it’s important to know what your clients are interested in and how it works before you decide on a messaging plan.
Instead of rushing into the wearable craze, we recommend doing some homework on your customers. What kinds of technology and wearables are they talking about? What kinds of technology are they using to access their social channels? If your clients aren’t using wearables, then focusing on messaging to them won’t be a good use of your time. But if they start adopting the Apple Watch in droves, it’s time to take wearable messaging seriously.