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Should brands have a strategy for wearables?

With the advent of smartwatches, and personal fitness trackers becoming increasingly ubiquitous, should brands be seriously considering wearables as part of their marketing strategy?

The answer is: maybe. Marketers should of course go where their audiences are. In other words, if a significant proportion of your customers are using wearable tech, then there’s a case for taking it seriously as a target "channel". But for most brands, it would appear that they – and their customers – are not quite there yet.

Recent US wearable tech stats from market research organisation NPD Group reveal 74% awareness levels of fitness activity trackers – yet only 11% ownership. Smartwatch adoption is even less impressive. More people are aware of smartwatches than activity trackers (81%) but a mere 3% of the US population actually owns one.

Moreover, NPD points out that the single biggest challenge for wearable tech evangelists is that 50% of the US population doesn’t even wear a watch at all.

However, when we break down some of these percentages into figures, they’re worthy of a little more consideration. 30% of US broadband households own a connected health device, which includes 15 million households who own some form of fitness or wellness device. Within this group, 5% said they currently use a smartwatch with these functions built-in.

NPD forecasts a sure and steady growth in wearables in the coming months. In North America alone, around 7 million smartwatches are predicted to sell in 2015, with 8.5 million activity trackers predicted to fly off the shelves. By Q4 of 2016, global sales figures are forecasted to increase to more than 20 million smartwatches, and 30 million activity tracker devices.

Although wearables can still currently be considered an emerging tech, that can, and probably will, rapidly change. While formulating a full-blown wearables strategy might be a little premature at this stage, most brands would benefit greatly from diving in and experimenting with this new tech to better understand its potential for strengthening customer relationships.

This is an approach that's strongly advocated by the Content Marketing Institute, who recommend asking the following questions to help define the relevance of wearable tech to your audiences:

  • Where are the disconnects between your customers’ worlds (online vs. offline, work vs. home) causing them unwanted delays or other struggles?

  • What clicks and calls can you eliminate for your customer if you're 'with them' all of the time?

  • How might the always-on connection increase your customers’ expectations for a seamless experience, regardless of how or where they’re interacting with you?

Once again, it all comes back to understanding the people using emerging devices, as well as the devices themselves. In other words, you don’t need a strategy for wearables: you need a strategy for the people wearing them.