Gekko MD Dan Todaro take a look at the wearable tech unveiled at CES and how this new sector will affect retailers.
Britain is a country with a passion for the latest technology. Consumption figures are huge with Britons spending £9billion on new tech devices. Clearly, this underlines just how present gizmos and gadgets are in our daily lives. What this figure also represents is a healthy sector that is ripe for the picking and one that technology and electronic retailers operate in. However, with the dawn of another year new tech trends are making themselves known and retailers must be abreast of them in order to get a slice of a lucrative market.
At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas many new devices made an appearance. One of this year's stars looks to be a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush from Kolibree, which will tell your phone how "efficiently" you've been brushing your teeth, and for how long.
Technology by its very nature is an ever evolving sector, with the new quickly replacing the old and all but the most tech-adverse consumers wanting to keep abreast of what is coming on to the market. This desire to have what’s hot and new is one of the reasons why 2014 looks like it will be the year of wearable technology products. Beyond the constraints of the typical mobile phone or tablet, wearable tech means products that are not only portable, but are hands-free. Think of Google’s Glass or Samsung’s smartwatch. Much more than a straightforward time keeping device, the smartwatch is a transportable tech hub giving users access to all their data points, conveniently located on their wrist. In essence, its convenient aspect complements the general rhythm of the wearer’s everyday life.
This lifestyle-based approach is often targeted towards the health conscious. Personal health and wellbeing will be important factors in all wearable devices as consumers try to rationalise buying 'gadget bling' under the pretext of it improving their health and fitness. Take the Fitbit Force, a newly released wristband that learns your daily activity, calories burned, your sleeping patterns and weight. The brand understands that to be successful, wearable tech must not only chime with consumers’ lifestyle needs but also present a level of desirability. The consumer must genuinely want to buy the product and that usually means presenting it more as a lifestyle item and less like a complicated piece of technological innovation. CES has also shown that wearable technology and the connected health category now even extends to your pets, with US tech firm Voyce announcing a smart collar for dogs.
There is also a significant trend to manufacture tech with a more obvious focus on fashion and style. There were clear examples at CES to demonstrate that tech companies are starting to think about fashion and design. The Netatmo June bracelet is made with Louis Vuitton and Camille Toupet-designed jewels that track your sun exposure. There was also the MetaWatch, designed by ex-Fossil engineers and made with expensive metals and classic leather wristbands. However, the most noteworthy wearable at CES was the Pebble Steel smartwatch. It’s designed to be worn with either a stainless steel band or a genuine leather strap, forgoing the ostentatious sportiness of the original for a modern, sleek look – essentially embedding a level of customisability to match its style nous. Its designer Steve Johns said that the new design was influenced by both traditional watches and modern technology like mobile phones. This is a balancing act that may prove difficult, but will ultimately be what the consumer is looking for.
But what does this mean for the retailer? Clearly the fashion-focused watches represent the apogee of interactive but stylish consumer technology. However, it also represents that the more accessible, wearable tech items are of primary interest to the retailer. These devices that have a strong consumer lifestyle element mean that retailers are in the privileged position of being able to sell big-ticket items that have an inherent level of desirability. This means that these products are relatively simple to sell; retailers just need a structured through-the-line approach with multiple touchpoints in order to exploit them. Get the execution right and this new trend could turn out to be very lucrative indeed.