6 Ways Wearable Tech Is Reshaping Retail

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This post is the latest in our “Connected Consumer” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of December, including topics like personal assistant apps, smart speakers, IoT and wearables. See the rest of the series here

Wearable technology goes beyond the Apple Watch. From “smart” rings and bracelets to body-mounted sensors, AR headsets, and clothing designed for health monitoring, connected devices are continuing to integrate more deeply into consumers’ everyday lives. As that integration deepens, retailers are finding new opportunities to capitalize on the possibilities and engage shoppers in innovative ways.

Smartwatches or other wearable tech have not been around that long yet have impacted and influenced the way our society works greatly. Blogger James Hampton-Smith publishes articles about these wearable gadgets o n his website SpotTheWatch.com. Athletes have now improve their condition and tracked their progress. Seniors have more options to monitor their health. Kids are using the technology for safety and communication with their parents. These are just some of the many features that wearable gadgets offer.

Rather than being spooked by these new retail engagement strategies, surveys show most consumers are excited by them. Sixty-seven percent of wearables owners say they find dynamic user experiences that vary based on location “useful and exciting.”

Here are six examples of strategies that retailers can employ to improve the shopping experience using wearable technology.

1. Deliver Relevant In-Store Offers
A buzzing phone might go unnoticed deep inside a shopper’s purse, but a ping on a smartwatch is far less likely to go ignored. Retailers are capitalizing on the increasing number of shoppers wearing smartwatches by sending real-time offers based on in-store locations. For example, a grocery shopper who is passing by a coffee display might receive an alert on her watch letting her know about a limited-time discount on the items in that display. Supermarkets can also send relevant offers that direct shoppers to add-on items, like sending a coupon for milk to a shopper standing in the cereal aisle.

2. Mobile Apps for Brand and Lifestyle Promotion
REI is one of a number of national retailers working to develop their own mobile apps. These mobile apps typically promote the retailer’s “lifestyle.” For example, in REI’s case, the retailer offers a number of free apps that consumers can use to find hiking and biking trails along with basic product information. When retailers adapt their mobile apps for smartwatch users, they open up even more opportunities for 24/7 connectivity and brand promotion.

3. Improving the In-Store Shopping Experience
Wearable technology can make it easier for retail workers to quickly answer customer questions without leaving the sales floor. How many units of a specific product are available in the warehouse? What sizes does a certain t-shirt come in? When is a new shipment of a popular item expected to arrive? Smart headsets and walkie-talkies from companies like Orion Labs are also being used to help store associates communicate with each other, without having to take time away from guests while they search for a phone or walk into back rooms to look for available products.

4. Speeding Up Checkout Lanes
Slow checkouts are frequently cited as one of the biggest reasons shoppers prefer to shop online versus in-store. One way that retailers can speed up the checkout process is accepting mobile payments via Apple Watch and other wearable products. Retailers can go about this a few different ways. The easiest option is to accept Apple Pay at the cash wrap. Another option is to develop a mobile app that shoppers can use to complete purchases with their smartwatches while they’re inside physical stores. This may allow shoppers to pay for purchases without waiting in any lines, and it significantly improves the overall customer experience.

5. Making Online Shopping More Personal
Some retailers are using wearable technology to make online shopping feel more like shopping inside a real-world store. Companies like Epson and Go Instore are making smart glasses and smart headsets that human sales associates wear when they’re engaging with online shoppers. Smart glasses give associates the ability to engage with shoppers who are online in the same way they would engage with shoppers in person, even demonstrating how products work using real-time video tools.

6. Keeping Store Associates Safe
The majority of wearable implementations within retail involve some aspect of marketing or customer experience, but retailers can also use wearable products from companies like Skyguard and Pinnacle Response to improve safety for their own employees. Wearable cameras can be set up to record interactions between shoppers and retail workers, which decreases instances of robberies in certain environments. These types of measures make the most sense for retail workers who accept deliveries late at night and employees who frequently work by themselves.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.
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