Wearable Tech: The Next Screen

By Christopher Low, Search & eCommerce Executive at Maxus

Project Underskin, digital tattoo implanted under the skin.


Project Underskin, digital tattoo implanted under the skin.

Wearable, the new buzz word for electronic gadgets or computers fused with clothing and accessories and are worn on the body. While these devices essentially performs the same tasks as a smartphone or computer, they also provide the additional sensory and motion features that are not typically found in smartphones and computers, such as monitoring our human physiology.

Broadly speaking, wearable technology enables real time communication and access to information. They can come in the form of a watch, glasses, contact lenses, pieces of clothing, an implanted microchip or even a tattoo! The ultimate goal is to enable a much more convenient and seamless use of electronics and computers, that makes it portable and mostly hands-free.       

The wearable device market is expected to grow year on year with an estimated value at 12.6 billion US dollars by 2018. [1] Currently, Samsung leads the category, with other players at a distant. With the launch the Apple Watch, Apple is expected to become a strong contender in the near future.

According to a survey conducted in March 2013, 25% of respondents who own Apple products reported that they are very likely to buy an Apple Watch for themselves or someone else when the product is available. [2] In this article, we will look at the emerging media opportunities in wearable technology, specifically around the Apple Watch.

Industry experts have acknowledged that wearable devices will play a bigger role in advertising business and with consumers – and most prominently so with the Apple Watch ecosystem.

The first-mover in the space belongs to the media publishers, most of them offering a condensed version of their app on the watch. The New York Times has introduced “one-sentence stories”, going as far as calling them a “new form of storytelling to help readers catch up in seconds.”[3] Others like The Economist leveraged the voice technology feature to read out its stories when users tap on a story from its Apple Watch app – in a British-accented voice!

Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade group for publishers that includes Conde Nast and the Times, said Apple Watch creates an opportunity for well-known media brands. "Everywhere and every minute, people are starving for access to reliable information, entertainment and news," he said. "Business models will follow."

From a brand perspective, Melvin Wilson, a consultant with IPG Mediabrands sees the Apple Watch as a vehicle for sharing offers, coupons and loyalty rewards. "As you walk through a supermarket you might get a notification on your Apple Watch for a loyalty program or special offer," he said.

In fact, Midwestern grocery chain Marsh Supermarkets has announced a partnership with mobile retail marketing platform inMarket, which will extend its current iBeacon program to the Apple Watch this year.[4] "It's an amazing time for consumers and commerce as digital and physical experiences converge," Todd Dipaola, CEO of inMarket, said.

Mobile ad exchange TapSense is in fact testing out programmatic advertising platform for Apple Watch ads. According to the company, the ads will combine interactive formats with hyper-local targeting. TapSense also believes the watch will be useful for delivering retail store coupons, and in general an intimate user experience.

In fact, brands such as Starwood Hotels, Shazam, and Air New Zealand are working on new smartwatch apps. As part of its keyless door entry system made available since November 2014, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide launched its app for the Apple Watch, enabling wearers to tap their device to unlock hotel room doors via Bluetooth.[5]

At the agency level, the application of the Apple Watch still remains an open canvas for many. Mindshare recently collected a series of biometric data from attendees at the Cannes Festival 2015 using the Apple Watch. Partnering with Lightwave, they fitted 100 participants with Apple Watches (linked to an iOS app) that picked up on heart rate, location and movement. Over 20 million data points were gathered from over the three days.

The program primarily measured three things: engagement, energy and emotional indicators. Engagement is when accelerometer activity is decreased but heart rate is increased, indicating that a person is physically still and focused, but excited. Energy is increased accelerometer and increased heart rate. Emotion is decreased accelerometer and fluctuation in heart rate.

Wearable technology does present another opportunity for marketers to engage with their consumers. Unlike other forms of digital advertising, wearable devices have a restricted screen size, and clearly hinting at a change in behavior towards content consumption. As marketers, the need to adjust existing content assets and reimagine how stories are told to the consumer will be crucial.

[1] Statista, http://www.statista.com/statistics/259372/wearable-device-market-value/

[2] Statista, http://www.statista.com/statistics/259051/likelihood-of-buying-an-iwatch-amongst-apple-product-owners/

[3] New York Times to publish ‘One-sentence stories’ on Apple Watch, http://adage.com/article/media/york-times-put-sentence-stories-apple-watch/297843/

[4] Apple Watch owners to get beacon promos at Marsh Supermarkets, http://www.nfcworld.com/2015/01/16/333561/apple-watch-owners-get-beacon-promos-marsh-supermarkets/

[5] Starwood guests unlock hotel rooms with Apple Watch app, http://www.nfcworld.com/2015/04/28/335007/starwood-guests-unlock-hotel-rooms-with-apple-watch-app/