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Retailers Face Hurdles As Consumers Move To Wearable Technology

By David Richards | Wednesday | 22/01/2014

Several Australian retailers including Dick Smith and JB Hi Fi are set to introduce new categories this year spanning wearable fitness and health technology devices they are also facing new technology hurdles as consumers move to devices that allow offers to be made interactively.

Dick Smith executives at CES 2013 said that wearable technology is not only changing the way in which we interact with technology, it's also providing retailers with new marketing opportunities. 

Among the new products will be a new generation of watches that talk to applications housed in a smartphone along with health and fitness devices as well as intelligent glasses similar to what Google is marketing. 

Currently several Australian distributors are vying to get the rights to brands such as the Striiv Play pedometer, Striiv Smart pedometer, Rhythm by Scosche, Sync Burn and Fit, Sync GPS watches and heart-rate straps, and Sync Elite fitness bands, Pebble the maker of a new generation of smart watches.

In the US retailers such as Office Depot and Best Buy are already producing video's featuring fitness experts who will teach people how to remain fit and healthy while at work, using the new devices. 

Venture Beat said recently that retailers have to be responsive, quickly adapt to changes in the ways consumers communicate, and adopt technology driven strategies to engage consumers. As wearable technology gains popularity and becomes integrated into everyday life, retailers who take advantage of wearable technology's ability to make interactions effortless for shoppers can benefit in two ways.

The first benefit is the opportunity for retailers to establish a strong connection with shoppers. Wearable technology serves as a conduit for retailers to offer a more personalised experience than what is offered through mobile technology alone. It gives shoppers the convenience they demand, makes integration among their technologies seamless, and ultimately makes them feel understood.  Communication with shoppers is done directly at all levels of the shopping cycle and content is customized based on information gathered from omnichannel sources. This ultimately results in an enhanced shopping experience and as a means to increase sales to the retailer.

The second benefit is closely associated with the first and is derived from being able to provide a unique and improved shopping experience.  By synergizing the best of mobile technologies, online convenience, and the experience of in-store shopping, retailers will be able to create a revitalized in-store environment that incorporates multichannel resources and engages customers.

Venture Beat went on to say that taking direct communication one step further, retailers could soon benefit from hyper sensitive context-advertising. By tapping into the present-time activity customers partake in, retailers could offer targeted products at just the right time and without disrupting the consumer's behaviour. 

For example as consumers log into a watch app to track fitness goals, or check into the gym, an active gear retailer may generate a running shoe ad and choose to include a coupon to spark my interest.

According to Giovanni DeMeo vice president of Global Marketing and Analytics at Interactions these benefits pose one of the biggest challenges retailers face today. 

He said "It's slow to integrate new technologies with older legacy systems that most large retailers currently have in place. At the same time, it's not easy to replace or modernize current legacy systems. But newer cloud technologies like Platform-as-a Service and Mobile Backend-as-a-Service provide cost-effective ways to enable retailers to quickly build apps from the ground up, while still maintaining the older IT infrastructure".

He added "Switching over to something completely new may cause a few rollout headaches at first, but it really depends on the appetite for delivering a better technology experience for customers. Ultimately, retail systems built from the ground up will be the faster, more efficient way to get these new technologies out into the mainstream".

He said that retailers will not find benefits in the technology itself, but rather from embracing consumer's evolving mobile lifestyle and leveraging wearable technology to provide customers with a seamless technology integration that enhances their lives and makes shopping easier. Critics argue that there is no revenue benefit or new data that arises directly from wearable technology, and dwell on the limited opportunities consumers have to use it. The truth is that technology is constantly evolving and becoming a more integral part of everyday life; wearable technology is at the forefront of the next technology wave.

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