How Using Wearables Data Can Strengthen Brands’ Outreach

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If you’re one of the millions of people who received a fitness tracker or smartwatch in the past year, can you honestly say – hand on heart – that you’re still using it? I’m going to take a wild guess that, rather than strapped to your wrist tracking your every waking (and sleeping) moment, it’s now buried among the clutter in a sock drawer.

Don’t feel guilty though, because you’re not alone. According to Gartner, 30 percent of fitness tracker wearers, and 29 percent of smart watch wearers abandon what was once expected to be ‘the next big thing.’

So why the flop? In short, we’re just not that into them.

Maybe we never really understood how to take full advantage of their capabilities, we found the design unfashionable, we had concerns about the privacy of our information, or we just didn’t feel we could do more with the tracker than we could with our smartphone or a basic running watch.

Whatever the reason, when it comes to wearables, “Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry,” says Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner. “The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate.”

Compare adoption rates of fitness trackers (19 percent) and smartwatches (10 percent) to smartphone usage, though, and the problem becomes clear. “To offer a compelling enough value proposition, “says Gartner’s Angela McIntyre, “the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide.” With smartphone penetration averaging 77 percent in the US, the question remains: What can a wearable offer me that my smartphone can’t? After all, if one or two apps on your smartphone monitor everything from your running distance to your hydration, why would you want to carry another device with you?

This is the question that marketers are struggling to answer, and what could be driving device abandonment faster than a long-forgotten New Year’s Resolution.

To find the answer, marketers need to first look at data. Think about the amount of data you generate through your wearable device: how you exercise, who with, at what time, in what location, at what intensity, with what results, towards what goal. Bryan Krzanich, CEO of Intel, said recently that the average person creates 650 Megabytes per day and by 2020 that will increase to 1.4 Gigabytes! If marketers used just a snapshot of this data, they would have access to contextual information that could be used in marketing efforts to individuals and not the masses.

Data is largely to credit for the success of smartphone marketing. By looking at a user’s usage information, location, frequented business, app downloads and more, marketers are able to send targeted promotions to consumers through SMS or app notifications, adding a level of accuracy and relevancy that wasn’t previously available with flip phones.

This same thought process can be applied to wearables by leveraging device data to generate personalized marketing outreach. For example, dietary information, food preferences and nutritional data can be pulled together to generate a profile, with personalized recipes and online grocery shopping orders to create those recipes. Motivational messages can be pushed out at times when the individual is most likely to need them, with location-based alerts to local groups: running groups meeting nearby, for instance, when a user is coming to the end of a training program and may need more motivation. Notifications of retailer sales on activity wear, specific to the user’s preferred sports, could be pushed to the device. Before long, abandon rates reduce, and adoption rises as the wearable transforms into a virtual personal trainer and lifestyle guru.

This type of contextual marketing becomes more of an ecosystem expanding beyond just the device itself, and reaches further than just the healthcare system. It opens up doors for additional touchpoints with a consumer that encompass many aspects in their life—food, social connections, shopping, finances, and so much more.

Since their introduction, smartphones have changed the way consumers interact with devices. The smartphone in particular has become much more than just a phone—it’s an extension of one’s self. And for businesses, a conduit to exciting new revenue streams.

Wearable devices have the ability to become just that, but it’s up to marketers to take advantage of the data these devices generate, and to create a marketing ecosystem that evolves through contextually-based experiences that matter to the consumer. Consumers are ready, and marketers must act quickly to make the most of this goldmine of information – otherwise they, like old wearable devices, may be relegated – figuratively speaking – to the sock drawer. 

Joe Francica is managing director, geospatial industry solutions for Pitney Bowes. He has been a leading proponent of location intelligence solutions for over 30 years. He is the past editor-in- chief and vice publisher of Directions Magazine, the former editor of Business Geographics Magazine.