Ways Retailers Can Take Wearable Tech from Fashion Statement to Financial Statement

You've heard about wearable technology on the news, and perhaps even seen a photo or two of a celebrity wearing Google's new smart glasses — Google Glass. But what exactly is it like to use Glass? And why is it — along with its smart bracelet, ring, watch and other wearable tech counterparts — becoming such a big deal? Is it just another passing tech fad (remember those calculator watches from 1985?) or does it have real staying power? Wearable technology in some form or another may seem like a fad in the mainstream now, but within the next two to five years it will be integrated into all kinds of things that everyone uses and wears every day.

Strengthening the retailer-shopper bond
First and foremost, wearable tech offers retailers the opportunity to establish a strong connection with shoppers. It serves as a conduit for retailers to offer a truly hands-on (or body-on) experience, beyond what can be offered through mobile alone. Communication with shoppers can occur directly at all levels of the shopping cycle — while planning at home, shopping the aisles in-store and after leaving — and content can be customized based on information gathered from a variety of omnichannel sources. This not only provides shoppers with an enhanced retail experience, it also makes them feel more understood, and perhaps more loyal to retailers.

Personalized service
Similar to the retailer-shopper bond, wearable tech can also provide a unique and personalized shopping experience for consumers. By integrating the best of mobile technologies, online convenience and in-store experiences, retailers can create a revitalized in-store environment that incorporates multichannel resources and engages customers. For example, say a shopper's past purchase history indicates that he purchases steak every Friday. As he walks through the meat section one Friday night, the retailer could send a message through his smart watch to display a recipe for a complimentary steak side dish and wine pairing, along with photos of the exact product locations in the store.

By enhancing the retail experience and making routine shopping trips to the store more seamless and convenient in ways such as this, retailers can benefit from keeping customers engaged and driving conversion by expediting customer retail activities.

Targeted advertising
Taking personalization and direct communication one step further, retailers could soon use wearable tech to enable hyper sensitive context-advertising. By tapping into the present-time activity customers partake in, retailers could offer targeted products at just the right time throughout the shopping cycle and without disrupting the consumer's behavior. For example, as a consumer checks the face of her smart watch to view the progress of her fitness goals, an active gear retailer she has shopped with before could generate a running shoe ad and include a customized coupon to further spark her interest.

Improved engagement
In addition to catering to customers who are using wearable tech themselves, retailers may also benefit from equipping their own employees with these smart devices. This could allow front-line employees to deliver expanded services to in-store shoppers, both those who have their own wearable tech devices and those who don't. For example, if a shopper asks an associate in the meat department about how to prepare a certain cut of meat, the associate could use retailer-issued smart glasses to instantly look up cooking guidelines and recipes. The associate could share the information with the customer and even offer to email it to him or her for handy reference when he or she gets home — all the while increasing the likelihood of sales conversion.

Of course, integrating wearable technology into existing retail systems will not be without its challenges. The legacy systems most large retailers use are notorious for being difficult to adapt. Ultimately, retail systems built from the ground up will be the faster, more efficient way to get these new technologies out into the mainstream. Forward-thinking retailers who have an appetite for delivering a better technology experience for customers stand to benefit greatly.

In order to remain relevant to consumers, retailers will have to adapt to the demands for convenience, personalization and alternate engagement that wearable tech will surely prompt. The reality is that wearable technology is at the forefront of the next technology wave. Progressive retailers who are quick to react and embrace it will be first in line to benefit from creating novel retail experiences that engage their customers, optimize conversion and drive sales.

Giovanni DeMeo is vice president of global marketing and analytics for Interactions.
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