It’s obvious that wearables have become the new rising star of the consumer electronics industry. Although they have yet to fully thrive within the market, it’s undebatable that they are changing the way we interact with technology. Therefore, the question becomes, what impact will they have on society and more importantly, what opportunity does this present for retailers?
Wearables have capabilities to measure the pulse or kilometers traveled and evaluate the data at the end of the day. In theory, with Google Glass, people can control their daily live completely from an ego-perspective. The control of a smartphone’s touchscreen might be intuitive but it requires a conscious interaction.
The benefits of wearables, however, happen barely noticeable in the background: to continuously collect information the user can access at any time. Switching on and off is largely unnecessary, so that the possibility of seamless transition between different devices will strongly influence customer experience. In addition, the connectivity between devices will increase with each device.
What has started with the Smart Home and found a prominent example in the networked refrigerator can easily be extended to wearables. Users experience a technical environment that operates quietly and increasingly corresponds to the principle of “friction and seamless”, thus enabling a seamless transition during use and, in the medium term, data transfers between different devices. At the same time, the sovereignty of the customers is strengthened by information that is gathered first and foremost for them and not the manufacturer.
Limited wearables sales, but big impact
200 million wearables are expected to be sold in 2017, which is only a drop in the bucket compared to the expected 1.5 billion smartphones and 500 million tablets that will be sold in the same timeframe. However, more important than the sales figures, is the pioneering role that wearables play in the so-called “ubiquitous computing,” which means they will become the interface between body, apps, data, and, last but not least, services. This creates the opportunity especially for local retailers.
Personal on-site support is the best way to create customer loyalty and building relationships before, during and after the purchase. This will be all the more necessary as the increasing number of device categories and their interconnectivity will lead to increased complexity. Yet, today, smartphones users frequently reach their limits when it comes to setting up new equipment or configuring apps and services.
In addition, Wearables collect very personal information such as biometric data, giving insights into an individual’s health status. Hence it is not sufficient to only have sovereignty over your own data. It needs to be properly protected as well and because of that customers will appreciate a trustworthy support.
Retail has to become a partner of the customer
For brick-and-mortar retailers this is the chance to establish a new kind of customer service, a 360 degree service that turns retailers into long-term partners, at best even with a consistent contact person. This way, retailers enhance the frequency of customer interactions significantly and ensure a positive experience that will turn them into a long-term customer.
Additionally, retailers can enhance their in-store customer experience by providing more opportunities for people with wearables to learn more about a product in real-time. Those who do not take these opportunities will face difficulties competing in the market, not only because of the online competition but also because the new user experience created by wearables will strongly increase customer expectations.
What would this new wave of customer service look like? First of all, there has to be a change from a product- to a customer-focused service, in which the separation of sales and service will be obsolete. In this context, retail will become the primary touch point for questions and customer support including damage claims.
Customer assistance and troubleshooting will happen in the stores while more serious problems warrant speedy repairs and replacement devices. A recent customer survey from B2X has also shown that providing a replacement unit for the duration of the repair affects the customer experience positively.
Furthermore, customers can begin to receive push notifications to their wearable devices which will include communication to other devices based on the notification. A customer could be invited to product launches relevant to them where they have the opportunity to test new versions, upgrades or accessories – instructed by support staff if necessary.
If the customer opts to provide personal relevant information via their wearable further opportunities for marketing can arise. Due to predictive analytics based on the device’s data, customers could be informed about impending failure, so retailers could proactively invite to have the device checked in the store hence bringing the consumer back in the store.
Essentially, we expect to see wearables change the retail landscape by offering more touch points for customers interacting with retailers coupled with retailers being able to provide a seamless user experience and more customer service options through this new channel.
Sven Montanus is Head of Product Development at B2X Care Solutions, a leading provider of customer care solutions for electronic devices globally.