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Watch, Wallet, Keys, Phone—The Future of Wearable Marketing

Danny Cashin By Danny Cashin

I have a ritual every day before I walk out the door.

Look at the time: watch? Check. Pat my back pocket: wallet? Check. Pat my front pockets: key fob and phone? Check and check.

To an outside observer, this would look like the world’s worst dance. Thankfully, some day very soon I won’t need to do it anymore.

Wearable technology—or wearables—will combine most of the technology that we carry around. Will it be a Google Glass, an Apple Watch, a headset computer, or smart pants? For a while, it’ll be all of the above. But like most technology platforms, one or two of these will prevail over the others.

The one that wins will be a device that has the potential to make our lives easier. And it has the potential to help brands’ lives too. By adding a new level of context to what we know about consumers (where they are, what they’re doing, how they feel, where they’ve been), we can deliver the exact message they need to see at the right moment.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re at Kroger. Your wearable knows that you always head straight for the freezer section to get your favorite mozzarella sticks. You do this like clockwork. Smart brands can pick up on this and reward you for buying their mozzarella sticks. Forget coupons. This device is going to know how and when you purchased the mozzarella sticks. It will automatically give you a $0.50 credit to your account. Instantly. No more coupon books. You just get the sale and a friendly message on your watch that thanks you for being a loyal customer. It might even give you a recipe to transform your mozzarella stick, sending you an aisle over to grab a few additional ingredients. This is a great example of a positive interaction between a consumer and a brand, made possible by the consumer’s wearable.

Here’s another: Consider your Kroger Plus card. Wait… actually, forget your Kroger Plus card. Your wearable is going to know you’re a Kroger Plus member, alert you when there’s a sale, and keep your grocery list based on your purchasing trends. It’ll know your eating habits and suggest new foods you should try. As marketers, we can share the new food consumers should try. Probably kale chips.

One more positive opportunity, thanks to wearables: As you’re driving home, your wearable buzzes to remind you your car is close to empty, and you’re close to a BP station. You go to the pump, select your gas type, and begin filling up. No swiping cards. The pump chats with your wearable and finds out that you’re a BP Driver Rewards member. It automatically redeems your gas points and let you know your balance. No thinking. It’s great. It makes your life easier.

Obviously, for every positive technological advancement, there’s the possibility of negative backlash. For wearables, the potential negative is the “creepy factor.” When privacy norms are ignored, and we feel like we’re being stalked by a brand, it creeps us out and leaves us with a bad impression. However, brands that deliver meaningful information or real value, in the right place and at the right time, will build stronger relationships with their consumers.

I don’t know where wearables will go in the future. Or how they’ll get there. But I can’t wait to see their evolution and start building apps that will make people’s lives easier and connect them with the brands they love.