Twenty percent of American adults already own a wearable technology device and the adoption rate – on par with tablets in 2012 – is quickly expected to rise, according to PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series – The Wearable Future report – an extensive U.S. research project that surveyed 1,000 consumers, wearable technology influencers and business executives, as well as monitored social media chatter, to explore the technology’s impact on society and business. In the last three decades, PwC has examined how technological innovation plays an increasingly prominent role in helping brands set themselves apart in their respective industries and how wearable technology can offer brands an opportunity to establish themselves, particularly in the entertainment, media and communications (EMC), health, retail and technology industries. In conjunction with The Wearable Future report, PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) launched a separate report, Health wearables: Early days, further examining consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward health wearable technology.
While fitness bands, smart watches and other wearables are already established in the market, many of them have under-delivered on expectations. Consider that 33 percent of surveyed consumers who purchased a wearable technology device more than a year ago now say they no longer use the device at all or use it infrequently. Price, privacy, security, and the lack of “actionable” and inconsistent information from such devices are among consumers’ main apprehensions with the bourgeoning category. In fact, 82 percent of respondents were worried that wearable technology would invade their privacy and 86 percent expressed concern that wearables would make them more vulnerable to security breaches.
That said, 53 percent of millennials and 54 percent of early adopters say they are excited about the future of wearable tech. Among the top three potential benefits:
- Improved safety: Ninety percent of consumers expressed that the ability for parents to keep children safe via wearable technology is important.
- Healthier living: More than 80 percent of consumers listed eating healthier, exercising smarter and accessing more convenient medical care as important benefits of wearable technology.
- Simplicity and ease of use: Eighty-three of respondents cited simplification and improved ease of technology as a key benefit of wearable technology.
And for wearable technology to be most valuable to the consumer, it needs to embrace Internet of Things opportunities; transform big data into super data that not only culls, but also interprets information to deliver insights; and take a human-centered design approach, creating a simplified user experience and an easier means to achieve goals.
“Businesses must evolve their existing mobile-first strategy to now include the wearable revolution and deliver perceived value to the consumer in an experiential manner,” said Deborah Bothun, PwC’s U.S. advisory entertainment, media & communications leader. “Relevance is the baseline, but then there is a consumer list of requirements to enable interaction with the brand in a mobile and wearable environment.”
Both the consumer market and the business to business (B2B) market stand to be radicalized by the mainstreaming of wearable technology. The following is a sector breakdown on the opportunities and challenges for enterprising companies:
Entertainment, Media and Communications
According to PwC, companies in the EMC industries have perhaps the largest opportunity for advancement and growth in the wearable technology market. Basically, where there’s a screen, there’s an opportunity – and if projections that sales of wearables could reach 130 million units in 2018 are correct, that opportunity is big.
- Seventy-three percent of survey respondents expect wearable technology to make media and entertainment more immersive and fun, and the expectations were even higher among millennials at 79 percent. In fact, 64 percent of millennials said they would be excited to try a wearable technology product introduced by an entertainment or media company, compared to 42 percent of the general population.
- As social media becomes more fundamental to the way we receive information and interact with others, consumers want wearable technology to offer anytime/anywhere access to their favorite networks. This is especially true among millennials, who were three times as likely as the general population to list real-time social media updates as an important benefit of wearables.
- Ninety-seven percent of American children ages 12 to 17 play an average of one hour of video games per day. Wearable technology is poised to offer a host of new platforms and devices to make gaming more visually and physically engaging than ever before. Sixty-four percent of consumers ages 18 to 24 say they would be motivated by this.
- Additionally, wearables open up more advertising inventory – blank canvases for highly targeted message placements, especially in the form of content with greater relevancy and context to the user. But wearable devices won’t just create more ad inventory and unleash more publishing subscription revenue – they’ll provide a meaningful opportunity to drive product sales and eCommerce.
“The media company of the future must combine insights with curated experiences, and find new ways of monetization – not merely through conventional advertising and paid content offerings. Wearables offer media companies a huge new frontier of relevance and immersive experiences, helping to engage audiences by providing the most relevant content,” added Bothun.
As wearable devices gain traction over the next five to 10 years, they can help consumers better manage their health and their healthcare costs. But based on PwC research, wearables’ potential in the $2.8 trillion US healthcare system will only be realized if companies engage consumers, turn data into insights and focus on improving consumer health. Additional key findings from HRI’s Health wearables: Early days report include:
- Consumers have not yet embraced wearable health technology in large numbers, but they’re interested. More than 80 percent of consumers said an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make health care more convenient. Companies hoping to exploit this nascent interest will have to create affordable products offering greater value for both users and their healthcare partners.
- Consumers do not want to pay much for their wearable devices; they would rather be paid to use them. Companies – especially insurers and healthcare providers – offering incentives for use may gain traction. HRI’s report found that 68 percent of consumers would wear employer-provided wearables streaming anonymous data to an information pool in exchange for break on their insurance premiums. Moreover, consumers are more willing to try wearable technology provided by their primary care doctor’s office than they are from any other brand or category.
- While employers and health company executives expect wearables to provide valuable insights, few consumers are interested in using wearables to share health data with friends and family, and, citing concerns about privacy, consumers trust their personal physicians most with their health data. Therefore, companies should ensure privacy policies are crystal clear. Physicians already have the trust of consumers, and healthcare organizations have expertise in protecting personal health information. Consumers will want to see those high standards applied to health wearables data, especially as they become integrated into electronic medical records.
- Consumers may need a human touch to help them choose a device and its associated apps. An “apps formulary” of apps vetted by medical teams (and available in a virtual apps pharmacy) could help consumers wade through the thousands of health apps and devices.
“For wearable technology to help shape the New Health Economy, next generation devices will need to be interoperable, integrated, engaging, social and outcomes-driven,” said Vaughn Kauffman, principal, PwC Health Industries. “Wearable data can be used by insurers and employers to better manage health, wellness and healthcare costs, by pharmaceutical and life sciences companies to run more robust clinical trials, and by healthcare providers to capture data to support outcomes-based reimbursement. But it will be critical to address the consumer concerns that we’ve identified, such as cost, privacy, and ease of use.”
Wearable technology will soon become an integral part of many retail experiences. It is poised to create an enhanced customer experience – better, more informed service; faster checkout; greater access to deals; and more real-time input into purchasing decisions. Rather than shopping across multiple channels – at home, on-the-go or in-store – the new consumer experience will be omni-channel, fuelled by wearable devices and comprehensive analytics. Though, the biggest concern for consumers is potential breaches of privacy and security surrounding personal data, shopping habits, increased use of payment tokens (rather than card/bank data) and recent investments to avoid brand tarnishing will attempt to address these concerns.
- After dietary, exercise and medical information, an enhanced retail experience was at the top of the list of information millennials would like wearable tech to provide them. Fifty-one percent of millennials said this would be information they’d like to know, as did 45 percent of the general population.
- Seventy-two percent of people surveyed said it was very important for wearable technology to improve customer service. This was especially true among time-pressed parents, 76 percent of whom wanted wearable tech to make shopping a more pleasant, efficient experience.
- Consumers, especially millennials, desire wearable technology in the retail space to reward them for being faithful customers. One in two millennials said they would be strongly motivated to wearables if it “has apps/features that reward those who frequently use it.”
- In-store merchandising and promotional spending by brands is a key source of funding for retailers. With wearable tech, the tremendous potential for synergies will increasingly expand not only into advertising but also into content marketing, with brands providing content to retailers that will improve the shopping experience.
“Wearable technology will slowly shift retail conventions as retailers will be able to connect the dots between pre-store and in-store behavior, and reach a new level of interconnected retail,” said Scott Bauer, PwC’s U.S. retail & consumer practice partner and omni-channel leader. “How consumers pay for purchases and interact with the retailer while in store is expected to be radically redefined by wearable technology and retailers cannot afford to ignore the impact it could have on their bottom line.”
No doubt technology stands at the epicenter of the wearables movement. As part of PwC’s The Wearable Future report, consumers were asked to rate how excited they’d be to experience a wearable technology product from a particular brand and, not surprisingly, tech brands have the edge. Wearable technology is at a crossroads, and it’s looking down a path on which IT is a driving force, directly impacting the technology industry. Wearable tech products are increasingly being designed with business applications in mind, with the promise of improving workplace productivity and the overall efficiency of organizations.
- Wearables already have a strong incumbent challenger—the smartphone. For wearable products to take off, they will need to carve out a distinct value proposition. And, because the phone is such a fixture, for the short term, at least, wearable technology will need to seamlessly integrate with our existing technology. When asked if they’d need their wearable device to replace an existing piece of technology in order to justify its purchase, 76 percent of respondents said no.
- Seventy-seven percent of respondents said an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make us more efficient and more productive at work. Seventy percent of respondents say they expect their workplace to permit the use of wearable technology, and 46 percent say they think their company should fund the wearable technology, rather than a BYOD (bring your own device) model.
- On the financial back end, payment processing is poised to get a boost from wearable tech. For companies in manufacturing and field service industries, the impact of wearable technology is already underway.
- Net, if wearable technology has the potential to bring higher productivity and a better bottom line, CIOs and IT departments will be the agents to shepherd it through. “Making technology simpler to use” was an important benefit of wearable tech among 83 percent of respondents and 41 percent listed “seamless integration with other devices” as a top three reason to adopt wearable technology.
“Inconsistency of data remains one of the top challenges for wearable technologies today. For wearables to be effective across both primary and secondary devices, there needs to be an established frequency of measurement. Enterprises must forge partnerships and develop IT and platform alliances to deliver seamless experiences on both the front end and back end of wearable implementations,” said Mike Pegler, Principal, PwC US technology practice.
With all signs pointing to wearable technology as the next big thing, businesses need to have a game plan in place to act on the competitive opportunity, while taking note of the challenges. Among the considerations to keep top of mind:
Envision How Wearables Can Create New Business Opportunities: The rise of wearable devices will create new means for marketing, including smarter, more robust customer data collection, and stronger insights into user interaction.
Keep Human-Centered Design at the Forefront of Your Strategy: To effectively embrace wearable technology, businesses must put the user at the center of the activity, reshaping an entire enterprise and its capabilities system around the customer or user experience.
Instill Trust: As trust is a key concern with consumers in the wearables space, enterprises will need to be consistently transparent with what they do with data and how they use it. Trust is the foundation which needs to be established early on.
Recognize that the Wearable Category Will Continue to Evolve: As with any digital strategy, adopting wearable technology requires taking the long view.
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