By Emily Shaw
“You may have missed it but...” Swatch recently announced a partnership with Visa to bring contactless payment capabilities to its Swatch Bellamy watch. This makes Swatch one of the first traditional watch manufacturers to show an interest in the rapidly growing market of wearable technology. Retailers should take note; this is the latest example in a steady move to mass market adoption of technology.
Swatch: wearable technology
The Swatch Bellamy, which is actually an analogue timepiece rather than a full smart watch, features near-field communication (NFC) technology, enabling it to make payments on contactless terminals. The product will initially go on sale in the US, Switzerland and Brazil early this year.
This is a bold move by the manufacturer– with innovation not usually being associated with the iconic, chunky wrist staple - but the wearable technology market is rapidly growing with 23% annual growth predicted for the next five years. The number of products catering to a variety of consumer needs is ever increasing, with smart watch penetration growing rapidly. The Apple Watch was launched last year to much fanfare, but there are also successful products from the likes of Samsung, LG and Motorola.
What is really interesting about this latest development from Swatch is that it is appealing to a different sort of customer, with a lower price point and straight forward features; it is pulling in the less tech-savvy to the market of wearable technology.
Retailers must ensure they are properly prepared and thinking about what impact wearable technology has on their business, to take advantage of the opportunities and connect with shoppers.
Driving a customer centric shopping experience
The potential of a Swatch watch to enhance the in-store shopping experience is clear. It enables real-time communication with shoppers, and offers a wide variety of information delivery services. For instance, allowing customers to compare prices, see reviews of similar products, check additional inventory, place orders or receive suggestions based on past purchases, all while keeping their phone firmly in their pocket.
To get this right, retailers should think through how watch wearers want to use applications differently in comparison to other devices; but also show them how they could use them differently! Just as the iPhone helped create an entirely new marketplace for mobile applications, why not expect to see entirely new consumer-facing retail applications optimised for the wrist-savvy consumer?
Using wearable technology to improve operations
Whilst there is a growing hype around what smart watches could mean for consumers, it is also important to consider possible benefits for employees as well. We are already seeing wearable technology (like smart glasses) transform back-end operations in some organisations - e.g. mobile order fulfilment being moved to a “pick-by-vision” approach.
What else is possible? Could there be efficiencies to be had from shop assistants using smart watches to check stock inventories or to guide customers to a particular part of the store? Unlike hand held devices, the smart watch would be permanently with the employee, providing an unobtrusive way for colleagues in-store to stay connected to each other and better support the shopper journey.
A permanent feature of the connected shopper
Smart watches are proving to be unobtrusive, easy to wear and easy to operate. With each new wearable device that appears, we move closer to mass market adoption and a flurry of consumer facing applications. Retailers must plan what this means for them now and in the future – the speed of advancement only gains pace with new technology launched; retailers can’t afford to fall behind. With millions already sold, smart watches are well and truly on their way to being a permanent feature of the connected shopper.