Move over Google Glass, the arms (and ears, and neck, and head) race is on for wearable tech. Some will take off, others will flop. Which wearables will make their mark on ecommerce?
The appeal of smartwatches is they make checking app notifications quicker and more convenient - instead of rummaging for your phone in your purse or conspicuously checking your phone in a meeting, a slight twist of the wrist is all you need.
Though Pebble isn't new and not without its competitors, in addition to upgrading its silicone band to steel or leather, it's added an app store. Wearers can download third-party compatible apps directly from the Pebble app.
Ecommerce application: Pebble's is an example of an app store on a wearable -- in-product digital commerce. This isn't new (the iPhone broke the ice), but it reinforces the trend of many "ordinary" products becoming smart and customizable with value-added apps created by third party developers.
Of course, as a notification tool, pushing location-based offers and notices will also be embraced by marketers.
The market has exploded with fitness and lifestyle gadgets and apps, and Garmin's Vivofit fits right in. While these bands are primarily for tracking exercise, they may evolve to become smartwatch-like, with notifications and simple things like time. Unlike smartwatches, fitness bands have sensors, which collect lifestyle data and can share it with other apps.
Ecommerce application: It's possible smart marketers may create marketing alliances with brands like Garmin. For example, Foot Locker might offer loyalty rewards to Vivofit users that meet and exceed their goals. Sensors in-store could connect and communicate with the fitband, or the band could share data with the retailer's mobile app.
The takeaway is that the device is collecting data. How can that data be applied to a complementary brand?
Before you pass off Epson's tech as a Glass ripoff, understand Moverio has not one, but two lenses (that's one louder!) which better supports augmented reality with its ability to display semi-transparent full color images.
Another differentiator -- APX Labs has already developed a groovy hack that might have killer utility in-store. Its "Northstar" feature bakes interactive hotspots into the display.
Subscribers, can't see video? View this post on the Web
Ecommerce application: Individual businesses could create their own Northstar apps with interactive points. For example, hotspots in a department store could bring up digital assets about a brand like video, product reviews, social content, or "magic mirror" virtual try-on features. Like retail shops kitted with iPads, customers could pick up the store's Moverios and experience merchandise with augmented reality, without having to own the device.
In-store use has another advantage -- where a customer looks, how long they gaze and what they ultimately buy can be tracked and used to merchandise smarter and personalize experiences. Any device that collects this data has valuable application here. Share this data with store smartphone apps, and the mobile experience can be personalized when the user is not in the store, considering the context and behaviors occurring in-store and over time.
Intel's nicknamed Jarvis headset integrates with existing personal assistant applications, and serves as a hands-free Siri that's "always listening." While Google Glass may offer this same utility, a headset may be more appealing to many folks if all they want is this functionality.
Ecommerce application: Most ecommerce transactions begin with a search, and this type of technology offers hands-free, interfaceless search that could locate an item locally or online, and who's to say that voice commands couldn't complete a transaction for many products where the visual component is unnecessary (e.g. dictate your shopping list, have it ready to pick up at the store after work). Paired with a mobile wallet, payment could be verified by voice tone recognition or password.
Customers could also query knowledge bases about products, even quickly showroom ("is this cheaper on Amazon?")
The Zepp Sensor helps analyze your golf swing and improve your game, capturing 1,000 data points per second and sharing it with an app on your smartphone.
Ecommerce application: If sensor manufacturers provide APIs for developers to build complementary apps, golf equipment retailers could use Bluetooth Low Energy sensors to read data off the sensor's companion app, and personalize product recommendations based on playing habits, skill level or other profile data within the app. Essentially, these sensors can exist in any piece of equipment for any activity.
It's really not about what the product is -- it's about the sensor. Sony Core aims to be embedded in a number of different wearables, collecting data on virtually everything you do and posting it to a "Lifelog" within the Sony Experia phone. Should this gain traction and become mainstream, one can only imagine the type of personalization that can be experienced all around us -- including shopping experiences.
Smart jewelry, whether necklaces, bracelets, rings or earrings have the potential to deliver hands-free notifications, like smart watches, fitness bands and smart earbuds. The baubles unveiled at CES 2014 also change color to match your outfit (take that, mood rings).
Ecommerce application: This wearable has a very low potential for ecommerce and marketing compared to others listed in this post, unless fitted with something like Sony Core that would collect and share contextual lifestyle data.
Liquid Image Wearable Camera
The first wearable that can stream live via LTE, Liquid Image can capture context visually.
Ecommerce application: If this data can be tapped by other apps and sensors, much information on the owner's environment, tastes, habits and lifestyle can be gleaned and translated to personalized marketing and commerce.
Wearable commerce it's not about "mobile commerce" -- commerce taking place through the devices themselves. Thus limited or lack of user interface doesn't matter. It's all about the use context, the data it can collect and transmit about you and how it can interact with other apps and sensors that will make them part of consumers' daily lives. The potential for transforming physical, real-world business is huge, though not necessarily limited to it.
Which gadgets survive depends on how well these experiences can be delivered.
This is the brave, new world of contextual commerce. Get ready for it.