The wearable market has reached a new peak with the release, or at least, announcement of Apple’s new wearable device. With the arrival of the tech industry’s largest player, the market has now established, if it hadn’t before, a new segment in which fierce competition can be expected over the next several years.

But this announcement changes more than just a race for the best wearable device. It marks a significant alteration in the way mainstream consumers will think about watches – and whether or not they, like smartphones, are replaceable every few years.

This trend started with the rise in wearables beginning with the Pebble watch – introducing consumers to the idea that a watch doesn’t have to be a stationary, mechanical device, but something that can be changed in and upgraded over time.

This same change happened with the iPhone. In 2007, most consumers would have balked at the idea of changing in their phone every few years for a new model. The environment has changed. A “phone” is no longer something to make calls with, but instead a complete personal computer. Just watch what happens when an employee at a company loses their phone – the IT team springs into action to wipe it remotely straight away.

A similar trend is now beginning to occur with wearables. What we consider a watch is no longer a stationary, mechanical timepiece. It is now a personal digital assistant, providing us with easier ways to get work done on our main device. (This goes without mentioning the huge amounts of data now trackable through these devices – the health industry is in a prime position to take advantage of this).

This feeds into the notion of the “always on” customer – a customer who is constantly wanting to be able to interact with brands and companies whenever they see fit. Walking into a physical store, for instance, is a completely different experience when wearing a device that can contact you instantly on your wrist. (Especially with the rise of Apple’s iBeacon tech).

Businesses, specifically retailers, are in a key position to interact with customers in new and exciting ways. Particularly worth noting is the prolific use of virtual assistants on these devices – Google Now and Siri are at the heart of these gadgets. What this points to is a younger generation of users, (teens will most likely covet high-end wearables just as much as adults), who become used to speaking what they want rather than using touch screens. Information, for them, is provided automatically, and interacted with on a verbal basis. It’s easy, fluid and intuitive.

What, then, should retailers do to ensure wearable devices are integrated seamlessly into their brand experience?

The challenge will be to ensure these interactions focus on the “big picture” of wearables – the changing definition from mechanical timepiece to digital assistant. With that in mind, communication with the customer becomes a completely different game. How are you going to play?



John Riccio

John is a former partner at PwC Australia and the founder of Digital Pulse.

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