The belief that online and offline touchpoints exist on opposite sides of a spectrum is one of the most dangerous assumptions sparked by the digital revolution. In the retail world, the rise of online shopping has seen businesses hit the panic button without attempting to understand a customer journey that spans multiple channels and touchpoints.

Connected and Curated – Long Live the Store, a November 2014 report by PwC, deflates the notion that customers are drawing a line in the sand between bricks-and-mortar and digital spaces. The report found that 68 % of Australian consumers still frequent physical stores and a further 37 % believed that the inability to touch and feel a product discouraged them from online shopping, suggesting that a connected approach to retail is the basis for creating a compelling customer experience.

It’s no accident that the rise of wearables correlates with the demand for this kind of experience. From Apple’s Smartwatch, which is designed to receive push notifications from your smartphone to Topshop’s virtual reality headset, a device that transported customers visiting the brand’s flagship to the front row of London Fashion Week, wearable technology is tailor-made for bridging the gap between online, offline and mobile channels. Here are three instances of wearable tech that show connected retail in action – while reaping rewards for brands.

Apple Watch

In April 2014, a study by UK research firm IDC predicted that the wearables market is set for explosive growth, jumping at a compound annual growth rate of 78.4 % by 2018. But cynics have argued that the current wave of wearable tech devices lack the design values and aesthetic appeal that could see them embraced by customers at a significant rate.

The new Apple Watch offers a solution to this problem. According to a 2014 Macworld report, the tech giant has gone to serious lengths to make its smartwatch – which is tipped for release early next year – attractive to customers by offering a high-end 18 K gold edition as well as six different bands to reflect individual lifestyles and tastes. However, the potentially trailblazing feature of the Apple Watch is the way it seamlessly integrates with the Apple Pay system, enabling customers to pay for purchases from a wide range of retailers with a flick of their wrist.

Disneyland’s Magic Band

In an ideal world, wearables don’t just join the dots between online and offline touchpoints – they use real-time insight to add an element of delight to the customer journey while exceeding expectations and needs. If you think this sounds like an impossible premise, it’s worth taking cues from Disneyland. Last year, the iconic amusement park rolled out the MagicBand, an all-in-one device that allows users to unlock Disney Resort hotel rooms, gain entry into parks and pay for purchases swiping their wrist across a touchpoint. But the MagicBand isn’t just convenient, it also builds customer intimacy by fostering personalised interactions – the sensor-clad wristband uses the data it collects to send the customer offers based on preferences and behaviour and allows Disney characters to greet visitors by name.

Topshop’s Occulus Rift Headset

Topshop understand the relationship between wearables and customer loyalty. Earlier this year, the UK retailer partnered with tech firm Intion to design a headset that saw customers in its Oxford Street watch its show at London Fashion Week in virtual reality, an instance of connected retail that also introduced an exciting new dimension to the customer experience. By offering fans the chance to be part of a virtual front row, the brand also accelerated sales – the headsets, which incorporate Occulus Rift Virtual reality technology, invited uses to purchase the clothes, makeup and music playing on the catwalk by clicking a button.

As connected retail becomes central to survival, smart devices such as wearable technology will go from strength to strength. What would you list as the pros and cons of wearable technology and what brands do you think will lead the market?




John Riccio

John is PwC’s Global Design & Deploy, Experience Consulting partner.

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