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A look into the future: The promise (and challenges) of smartwatch marketing

Marketers know the best way to reach customers is to message them wherever they are, thus the hubbub about mobile marketing, from push notifications to iBeacons. With many connected devices entering the consumer market, the new guy on the block for mobile marketing is wearables, specifically smartwatches.

Wearables let marketers reach customers on-the-go and provide more relevant, targeted messages, but they also present the risk of appearing intrusive. Some marketers may question whether there’s actually a wearable market, and while only 15 percent of consumers are using wearables today, according to a Nielsen study, by 2018 the number of wearables sold is expected to increase ten-fold, according to predictions by Juniper Research.

That’s why marketers need to figure out how to use wearables to their advantage now, so that when the timing is right, they’re ready for action.

3 tips for smartwatch marketing

Connected devices provide immense opportunity, but how can marketers maximize success? Here are three tips from marketing experts:

  1. Be transparent. Marketers must be clear with customers when requesting access to location-based information. Being sneaky about collecting customer data and sending messages without a clear agreement only harms marketers. The more transparency the better, argues Malcolm Crompton, former Australian privacy commissioner. “We know based on experience that consumers are generally willing to share their information if they see value in return,” Alice Manners, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told CMO Australia. “Just like any other medium, it’s about understanding how the consumers are using it and respecting their privacy.”
  2. Capture hyper-specific customer data. With a more complete picture of where customers are and what they’re interacting with, marketers can provide targeted messages based on the location-aware data that smartwatches collect. “The big opportunity for marketers really lives in the data area,” Manners told CMO Australia. “What wearables provide us is a much more granular understanding of user behaviour, and that is going to change the way in which mobile marketing happens.”
  3. Enable social sharing and conversations. Talking to customers is about actually connecting them with other customers to have conversations, and smartwatches provide a new opportunity for customers to share with their friends. As Amber Case, director of mapping software company Esri, told CMO Australia, “People don’t like ads, but they do like recommendations and they do like to be connected closer to their friends.”

What skeptics are saying

Wearables are part of a bigger picture — The Internet of Things — that is here to stay, but some marketing experts see challenges ahead for marketing on wearables, and a handful even think it’s a lost cause. One of the biggest challenges for marketers is getting their message across on such a small screen. To solve that problem, Gartner analyst Angela McIntyre suggests turning to audio ads instead of visual ads since visuals require someone’s complete attention and could be dangerous while driving or walking down the street. While a creative solution, people aren't going to hold their watches to their ear to listen to an ad, argues Ovum analyst Carter Lusher.

As marketers are still figuring out how to master mobile, they should stick to it for now since smartwatches don’t promise anything more than smartphones do, argues Doug Hecht, president and chief operating officer of digital agency Digitaria. Hecht told Mashable, “Smartwatches aren't going to give you a big difference over mobile phones. A smartwatch doesn't represent anything important for advertisers right now.”

Do you think smartwatches will make a significant impact in the marketing industry?

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