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Wearable technology creates opportunities for retailers

Wearable technology allows taxis to offer commuters a ride when it is raining, and restaurants' to tailor their dishes to customers' weight-loss plans.

The proliferation of wearable devices such as smart watches and activity trackers is one of the significant technology trends of 2016.

With these innovations, organisations are collecting vast ranges of personal data, such as calorie intake, heart rate, exercise levels and location.

It is time for businesses to investigate how this data can be used to help them build stronger and more personal relationships with their customers.

First and foremost, organisations should focus on the potential of wearable technology in creating hyper-convenience for the consumer.

Streamlining the customer journey and cutting through the blanket marketing messages individuals encounter each day could be instrumental in winning business and securing a competitive advantage. 

For such personalisation to prove effective, businesses must work to understand their customer base, uncover what may deter people from buying, and work out when to intervene.

Personalisation

Personalisation can take many forms. For example, the collation of data on individuals’ regular walking routes and weather information could allow taxi firms to send through quotes for consumers’ journey to work during wet conditions.

Restaurants could recommend specific dishes to potential customers based on their levels of activity and weight-loss goals. In the development of such initiatives, sophisticated data analysis is essential.

Analysts must sift through large volumes of information, extracting specific insights which can be used to attract potential customers. 

The simplest communications are often the most effective. Some businesses may take to alerting consumers via a simple buzz or vibration of their wearable device, when an exclusive personalised offer has been emailed to their phone. They could guide them to their nearest store, using mobile data from Google maps. 

Improving customer experience

Although wearable technology is unlikely to ever become the primary information source for consumers, they can help companies integrate data across different sales channels – stores, the web and mobile apps – into a single customer database.

Many retailers are still grappling with the speed of innovation in technology, but it is only a matter of time before they use wearable technology to improve the in-store experience.

Their aim should be to focus on increasing convenience for the consumer. For example, wearable devices could vibrate to signal when the consumer has passed an item in the store on their electronic shopping list.

I-beacons could alert retailers to prepare click and collect orders when individuals enter the store, reducing waiting times.

Hyper-convenience, however, is unlikely to replace traditional retail tactics: Encouraging  impulse buying and up-selling.

As wearable technology takes off, retailers will still need to pay attention to the layout of stores.

Retailers will place checkouts and collection points at the back of the premises to encourage browsing, and personalised marketing messages and point of sale materials can be used to direct customers to different floors, departments or areas of the store.


 Andy Eaton is head of technology at print and marketing communications specialist Vital Communications.

This was last published in March 2016

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