Of all the connected objects available in the world today, the one that represents our futuristic fantasies more than any other is probably the smart watch. Part jewellery, part computer, part camera and phone, we tend to visualise them as the ideal smart companion.
The truth is, however, that although smart-watches have been around for quite some time, their use has not yet exploded the way that smartphones have.
If you perform a quick search on Gumtree, you will see a very clear pattern: There are lots and lots of new or barely used Pebbles, Samsung Gears, and other smart watches sitting on the second-hand cyber shelves. And why are they being sold? Always the same answer: “I bought it on impulse, but I have no use for it”. “It just sits at home gathering dust”, “I always forget to take it with me”, “it is too bulky and not practical”, “it does all my phone does, but on a smaller screen”… Much more realistic feedback than the sales pitches you would get in a hardware (tech) shop, obviously.
Also, let’s be honest, one also thinks twice before dishing out an extra £100 to £1000 for yet another gadget that then has to be paired up with a sophisticated and even more expensive smartphone anyway.
It is legitimate, then, to wonder if smartwatches really are just another fancy brilliant concept with very little practicality or use in the real world.
We do not think so.
Adoption is pretty obvious for the retail industry. QR codes, NFC labels and beacons are slowly but surely becoming common place. Supermarkets are building shopping list apps that calculate the best route for the customer to go from aisle to aisle and not forget anything, fashion retail outlets can identify the best clothes for your size, and automatically order out of stock items for home delivery, and soon, most retailers will be able to push location-based vouchers according to customers’ purchasing history, and the wearable loyalty card is now a reality.
As well as this, In terms of customer experience, we can see delivery services pushing parcel tracking updates to their customers, travel companies sending auto updates of train delays, platform or gate last minute changes, and even advice on the best route to avoid traffic jams and road works on the way to the airport.
However, the biggest game changer to date is with no doubt Apple pay, allowing customers to make contactless payments from their mobile device, without sharing any card information with the vendor. Contactless payment facilities are blooming, Samsung pay is well on the way, and it is forecasted that, by 2020, wearable payments will have reached $501.1 billion per year.
The benefits? They’re simple: making the customer’s life easy, shortening waiting lines, lightening our heavy coin-filled wallets and pockets, and avoiding those annoying (and sometimes embarrassing) moments when we’re just 5 pence short… the little things alone, but little things that matter.
For that, of course, retailers will need to adapt, and offer multi-channel solutions in order to give their consumers choice. Not everyone will use Apple pay, but after all, not everyone who listens to MP3s has ever owned an IPod.
All in all, the smart watch alone can’t change the way brands and customers interact. Of course, its price will drop as the offer broadens, and its use will increase. But they are merely a fancy tool, and the real change will come from those who dare to create and develop life changing uses for it.