Brands should look at wearables not as a marketing platform, but rather a customer experience platform. That was the consensus at ad:tech San Francisco last week, where speakers also said these experiences include rewarding moments or providing services.
Despite recent buzz, wearables are not new. Kirk Drummond, CEO of engagement agency Drumroll, notes Nike’s Nike+ device launched in 2006, but now the Internet of Things is extending out further and connecting more and more devices, as well as to “us and the things we wear and potentially our bodies someday,” he says.
Examples of more recent wearable technology include shoes with insoles that connect to maps and vibrate when approaching a turn, as well as the Cur smart band-aid, which uses electrical stimulation and biosensors to cancel out pain.
“Do we want this extension onto us? Is this something that will ultimately be a welcome addition?” Drummond asks. “I think the answer is about how we approach the use of wearables.”
In fact, per Drummond, the term “wearables” is sort of backwards — and he even goes as far as calling the category a “bubble” because it’s “not about wearing technology, but technology infused in the products we wear” and he anticipates much more integration to come.
In addition, he notes looking at wearables as a customer experience platform gives marketers unique opportunities for leverage.
And even though wearables can help marketers reach consumers, there are limitations. Like, for example, the device must fulfill a customer need. In addition, there are only so many places on a body to put a wearable. And if consumers aren’t wearing the device it is “a useless piece of technology,” Drummond says.
He even likens the opportunity for marketers to track customers via wearables to law enforcement tracking individuals with shackles on their ankles. But unlike shackles, marketers can use wearables to drive brand love by enhancing the customer experience in some way.
And that includes:
Wearables can help brands provide customer-specific information that can then be used to make more informed purchasing decisions. Like, for example, Drummond notes smart insoles for runners can track foot impressions and integrate with sensors in shoes to tell consumers when it is time to order new shoes or if there’s a better shoe out there for them.
“The more we see brands looking at infusing technology to enhance the customer experience, the more [marketers will] get to enjoy the benefits of this,” Drummond says.
Another way wearables enhance customer experiences is via rewards.
For its part, Kiip, which calls itself a moments-based rewards platform, rewards achievements in apps, such as finishing a run or completing a recipe.
Or, as Kiip CEO Brian Wong puts it, Kiip offers technology for brands to reward consumers in a surprise and delight fashion in 3000 apps such as Mint, RunKeeper and Allrecipes.
In a partnership with connected car app Mojio, for example, Wong says Kiip helps identify moments like running out of gas, lingering to find parking or needing an oil change to create rewards with other partners like Exxon, BP and Shell.
Kiip has also partnered with smartphone breathalyzer Breathometer to reward users with Lyft or Uber credits if they have had too much to drink or even with gum if their breath could use freshening, Wong says.
“We’re adding value by looking from the customer standpoint. It’s a serendipitous reward to moments that indicate needs,” Wong says. “A reward is one very tactical way to address needs in a meaningful way.”
And, per Wong, one of the most compelling marketing opportunities with wearables like Apple Watch is in providing consumers with a service.
Younger Millennials didn’t grow up with wristwatches and so “what we think of as classic sort of sensitivity to intrusion of privacy and annoyance is quite different with Millennials and younger generations where we are in a notification economy,” Wong notes. “I believe it’s a simple concept. The notification economy is vying for attention…I get a tap on the wrist [with Apple Watch] before I get a visual notification, so whoever owns that becomes quite powerful.”
And, he notes, the branded apps on Apple Watch are primarily around services right now, or what he calls “an ad so good it feels like a service.”
“Movement toward service – that’s the goal we should all be moving toward,” Wong says. “I would welcome a tap on my wrist if United [Airlines] was telling me my gate has changed. That’s not an ad, but service-oriented.”
In addition, he notes customers are more willing to share information with service providers.
“You’re willing to tell a service more about yourself than an advertiser – it changes the dynamic entirely,” Wong says.
But brands have to be invited in first.
“Regardless of whether you think of yourself as a service brand, you have to recognize it does become a really important part of the marketing experience,” Drummond adds.
And while fitness brands are more established in this space, he sees a lot of opportunity for travel brands in particular to use wearables to ease some of the pain associated with flying and hotel stays.
And in offering services, marketers can identify moments that they can actually own, like an allergy moment, a dehydration moment or a diabetes moment, Wong says.
“These types of moments will need to be owned…the whole point is addressing your need,” he adds.
And, Wong says, as marketers make their offerings more about services, consumer privacy concerns start to fade.
“Add value, add value, add value,” he says. “Everything you do should strive to add value. Products do that, but ads don’t. But if you can’t add value through that experience, don’t bother.”
In addition, if the data devices collect enhances the consumer experience and makes users feel more like VIPs, they are more likely to be willing to share it, Drummond adds.
At the end of the day, Drummond’s best advice is for marketers to buy all available wearable devices and to start playing with them.
“When you research them and don’t own them, you look at them as an intrusion,” Drummond says. “But when you use them, you look at it as a moment that makes sense…and you really can’t identify opportunities when you don’t own them.”
What opportunities do you see for marketers with wearables?