Data is the secret sauce

The first piece of wearable technology was an arm watch worn by Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century. It wasn’t until the 20th century though that the wearing of wrist watches became normal practice for men and women.

The adoption curve of new technologies has become a lot faster since then. In the first 15 years of the 21st century, we have witnessed the introduction and mass uptake of connected technologies, such as smartphones, smart TVs, tablets and other connected devices, which are becoming available on the back of ubiquitous digital connectivity and cloud computing.

These days the term “wearable technology” is used to describe a range of sensor-based products including activity trackers, smartwatches, smartglasses and clothing that can monitor, process and transmit real-time data. Benefits for the wearer include augmented experiences and monitoring data such as vital signs, sleep patterns and co-ordinates.

Wearable devices can offer access to contextual information that marketers can use to understand consumers better and take actions to respond in meaningful and personalised ways

Data being pushed to and pulled from wearable devices can produce valuable ongoing insight which, when combined with data from other sources, can help brands become part of people’s lives in a frictionless way. The Consumer Electronics Association predicts that around 30 million wearable technology units will be sold in 2015, a 61 per cent increase from 2014. As well as fashion, these devices will have applications in the areas of fitness, healthcare, child care, clothing and even pet care.

According to Seán Donnelly, senior research analyst at Econsultancy, an award-winning digital marketing research, training and consulting firm, brands need to be informed about the opportunities that these devices offer. For marketers, such devices create an opportunity for more seamless integration between the online and physical worlds. The secret sauce that brings the two together is data.

“Wearable devices can offer access to contextual information that marketers can use to understand consumers better and take actions to respond in meaningful and personalised ways,” he says.

Nike, adidas and others have begun to embed sensors in their shoes and clothing that can monitor heart rate, temperature and so on. This data can be used by wearers to maximise their training while the aggregate data could help brands improve products.

While the opportunity sounds promising, marketers would be wise not to think about this technology as another way to push promotional messages. There is a new paradigm in marketing that requires an approach which integrates technology, connectivity and analytics to drive meaningful micro-engagements across a multitude of touchpoints, including physical location, mobile, desktop and wearables.

Recent Econsultancy research identified that marketers see areas such as personalisation and content optimisation as key opportunities for 2015. In spite of this, many marketers still default to delivering messages in a regular sequence of campaigns. In an Econsultancy survey of 6,000 business professionals, only 14 per cent indicated that digital permeates all their marketing programmes, while 20 per cent identified digital marketing activities as being very much separate from traditional marketing activities.

According to Mr Donnelly, organisations need to move away from thinking about different devices and platforms as separate channels, and take a fully digital approach to their business. Operationally, that means thinking about where wearable technology fits in with wider trends around mobile, cloud computing, the internet of things and big data. This is a huge challenge as it requires organisations to develop digital-first business structures.

“Organisations that are prepared for the ongoing operational reality of digital transformation will be able to redefine their relationships with customers, create greater customer loyalty and ultimately develop a sustainable competitive advantage,” he says.

Econsultancy has been helping its customers achieve digital excellence since 1999 through award-winning research, training and digital transformation consulting services. For guidance around wearable technology, Econsultancy has published a Marketer’s Guide to Wearable Technology.

To access this research and find out about Econsultancy’s Festival of Marketing annual conference, visit