A few years ago, wearables would not be considered technology of the near-future. We had all witnessed such devices in science fiction movies and been ‘wow’-ed by them. Those were the days when even smartphones were clunky and slow. Fast-forward to today and wearables have become one of the fastest growing technologies of all time.
Wearables boosting businesses
While wearable technology has gotten the attention of the masses, even brands have begun to focus on these devices and the potential they might hold for their businesses. Waiters at restaurants were given smartwatches to help service tables. A glance would show them which table was ready to order and who was asking for the cheque. The advantage? The restaurants could service a lot more tables faster, with fewer staff!
Other industries have jumped aboard the wearable bandwagon as well. In massive logistics companies, workers use head gear similar to Google Glass to free up their hands. Instead of carrying around a barcode scanner, t he worker can simply look at the barcode and blink. Notifications appear in their field of view, informing them about details of the next shipment – without needing to put down the package they are carrying.
Are advertisers ready?
The potential that wearables offer has pricked up the ears of advertisers as well. Most wearables have a display, either a full-fledged screen or a display that augments reality. Advertisers can use these devices to create an ecosystem of ambient media for the customer. But what has stumped advertisers so far is – how?
Initially, advertisers had plastered the Internet with banner ads. Over the time, these have evolved to more sophisticated, dynamic ads, which are customized to the individual user based upon his browsing behavior. These ads still remain large and text-heavy. The vastly different screen types and device sizes make transporting existing web and mobile ads to these devices extremely difficult. If advertisers do attempt this, it will hamper the user experience of both -- the ads and the devices. That’s one of the main reasons wearable manufacturers have not opened up these platforms to advertisers.
No dearth of data
Wearable devices are loaded with sensors of different kinds, such as pedometers, altimeters, accurate GPS modules, accelerometers and gyroscopes. These sensors can provide endless amount of data to the smartphones linked to them. Apps on the smartphone log this data to help with fitness tracking.
For advertisers, this could be the jackpot. The problem with contextual advertising has always been lack of accurate data. Now with wearable devices supplying so much data to smartphones, advertisers can understand the customer’s context much better.
Wearable devices, which can augment reality, hold much more potential in the realm of advertising. In the real world, the billboard remains static and displays the same message to everyone who happens to glance at it. The message might resonate with some people, but not to the vast majority. Augmented reality (AR) brings advertisers to change boring static ads into dynamic ads that are customized to an individual.
It won’t take long time for these devices to become as ubiquitous as smartphones. Advertising has a long way to go before it can successfully tap into this vast potential. So advertisers, buckle-up!
This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (April 2016 Issue).