Wearables seem to be everywhere these days from the far-out, like Nintendo’s Pokémon Go Plus band to the more obvious, Apple Watch 2. And don’t forget the fitness trackers, smart glasses, cameras, biometric tees, and yes, even connected collars for your pets.
It’s a new-ish mobile market category that’s taken off over the last few years. About 63.7 million Americans have a wearable device today, and according to eMarketer estimates, another roughly two million users could be added by 2019. Meanwhile, worldwide shipments of these devices are on track for a 29% hike this year over 2015, reports IDC.
Clearly, wearables don’t seem to be going away any time soon. Let’s take a look at some of the trends behind consumers’ attraction to these hands-free tech accessories, and weigh in on the implications for marketers.
Health and fitness-focused wearables appear to draw the most appeal. Roughly half of US device owners say they have a fitness band over a smart watch, glasses or others in a recent March survey from PwC.
Not surprisingly, Fitbit has been outranking the other wearable vendors. The activity tracker brand saw continued year-over-year growth in 2015, and maintained its No. 1 spot over China-based Xiaomi and Apple, according to a May report from IDC.
To stay ahead, Fitbit CEO James Park has said they’re looking to incorporate even more health-focused data soon.
"What I can say is that future sensors we develop will unlock more wellness and stress management functionality. We have a good idea of where sensors and machine learning technologies are heading."
Apple’s taken the cue, too. Its Apple Watch 2, which debuted last month, now has more predominant health-tracking features. The device has GPS and is water-resistant. There’s also a Nike-branded model, and integration with a new Nike+ Run Club app.
Beyond fitness, though, other brands have been taking the wearable plunge in rather unique ways.
Enter Snapchat (which goes by just Snap now). Last weekend, the popular self-destructing mobile video and messaging app maker announced Spectacles; connected sunglasses that allow users to record short videos from their eyeline, and then, post them. The smart glasses are slated to hit stores this fall, and already have both millennials salivating and industry likes touting the camera-embedded shades as the anti-Google Glass.
And let’s not forget the release of the Pokémon Go Plus band a couple of weeks ago. The location-based augmented reality game had a big summer this year, and Nintendo intends on keeping it that way.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for marketers is that wearables are tapping into consumers’ attraction to self-analysis. They’re looking to technology to gain knowledge about themselves while at the gym or elsewhere.
The upside for brand marketers is that they too can gain insights. With that comes an opportunity to create products and apps that are closely tied with their audience. And from there, they can provide relevant, tailored offers, services and even, advice.
I'll leave you with a few brands tapping into this notion:
Beyond clothing, Under Armour has gotten into the wearables game and has paired up with IBM Watson for a virtual fitness and health coach within its UA Record app.
So yea, there’s Google Glass. But there’s also Project Jacquard. The tech giant has paired up with Levi’s to make a smart denim jacket.
With an embedded NFC (or near-field communication) chip, Jawbone fitness band users are able to make payments in stores with the tap of a wrist.
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