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Wearable tech: what it means for e-commerce

Our key takeaways from the Consumer Electronics Show reveal why brands need to be thinking about the role wearable tech will play in their businesses.

It’s no secret that wearables are widely predicted to take off in a big way this year. Wrist wearables such as the Garmin Vivoactive, Pebble Steel, Sony Smartwatch 3 and the Apple Watch – widely reported to drop in March – are going to become commonplace.

The main e-commerce application of smartbands and smart watches will come from their ability to collect highly accurate and applicable data on individuals. But what might those opportunities be in the year ahead?

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the overarching theme was interconnectivity. Cultivating The Internet Of Things (IoT) is now a huge priority for brands worldwide and wearables promise to lead the way for eCommerce.

Wearable devices are at first being positioned as health and fitness enhancers. The GoBe HealBe knows your calorie intake, Gymwatch measures over 900 workouts and the Polar A300 boasts the most accurate heart rate monitor on the market.

But the big challenge will be making sense of all that data. Users want their data to be packaged as actionable insights. Until we can crack this, there will be limits to how wearables can be used to drive conversions.


Wearables will enable large scale personalisation

The conversation is beginning to move towards ‘The Internet Of Me’ – a tomorrow’s world where full personalisation is possible as a result of data gathered from interconnected devices. Wearables will be collecting highly intimate and personal data which, when analysed, will enable brands to provide next level consumer-centred experiences.

Major players already have in place advanced recommendation and personalisation algorithms communicating with users on desktop, mobile and tablet. Every Facebook user’s experience is tailored to their onsite behaviour. Google search results are influenced by individual’s browsing history. Netflix spend $150 million a year on maintaining and developing their content recommendation tool.

Clearly, personalisation is big business – and so is wearable tech. By 2018 the wearable market will be worth some $12.6 billion. Those who invest in their existing user journeys now will be best placed to lead commercial innovation with wearables as they proliferate the market.


Check out on the move will be transformed by wearables

Wearables will play a big role in how online interactions can be brought into an offline context. A huge benefit of a wrist wearable is the way it gives you efficient and swift access to notifications on a small, simple screen.

This will be big for e-commerce: you can easily imagine a lightning fast checkout process beginning with a time sensitive call to action, followed by a prompt to biometrically scan your fingerprint to complete a purchase. Or you will simply complete a transaction by scanning with the watch face itself.

Geo-targeting will also be instrumental here as bluetooth powered beacons will communicate with wearables to trigger deals when you are walking down the highstreet. And geo-fencing stores will enable wearables to provoke highly-targeted interactions for shoppers walking from aisle to aisle.


VR promises the next level for retail

Virtual Reality technology led by Oculus-powered 3D headsets have the potential to completely change the game for e-commerce. WIth now over 100,000 development kits in people’s hands, and Facebook and Sony already declared players in the ring, it isn’t too soon to be thinking seriously about the potential this technology has for eCommerce.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Oculus Rift acquisition announcement tells you a lot:

“Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face”

E-commerce using VR will only happen once these devices have a large scale install base – and this will inevitably take several years. However, we can be sure that “VR is going to become part of daily life for billions.”

Immersive gaming is the first use, but the next will be an enhanced retail experience. There is opportunity for ticketing and events industries. At a concert, you can sell one ticket per seat but with VR, you could make that same seat available unlimited times. In retail, VR will allow brands to showroom products in the living room. You could even encourage the purchase of a car online, cutting out the visit to a dealership by giving a prospective customer a virtual experience of the vehicle.


Wearables sales are predicted to increase by 129% this year

And 28m of those will be smartbands which interact with tablets and mobiles. Put simply, ignore the rise of wearables at your own risk. Harnessing these devices to present people with the kinds of buyer journey described above will blur the lines between channels like nothing else, making for true omnichannel experiences.

Smart marketing managers will invest in omnichannel now while paying attention to how they might leverage wearables to create the next generation of one-to-one user experiences in a future so close we can nearly touch it.

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