Wearables: Bridging Digital to the Real World

The growth of iBeacon and wearable technology is making one-to-one marketing more possible than ever before, but brands have to be strategic when it comes to analyzing and applying data.

An Advertising Week panel titled “Proximity Marketing, Wearables, and the Art of the Possible” focused on the power of combining big data with wearables to bridge the gap between customers’ digital and “real world” lives.

Mark Donovan, chief operating officer of Thinaire, said that wearables have the potential to marry brands into users’ day-to-day lives as they move through the physical world.

One possibility Donovan cited was a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag in the shoelace of an Adidas running shoe that essentially turns the sneaker into a wearable device when used in conjunction with the brand’s smartphone app. An RFID tag would “continue a dialogue into the life of a product,” allowing customers to communicate with the company about everything from the fit of their shoes to the intensity of their workouts long after the point of sale.

While wearables and beacons offer brands nearly unlimited possibilities for permissions and data, they also usher in what Andrew Markowitz, director of global digital strategy for GE, called “a golden age of accountability” wherein there is more pressure on brands to be protective of user information than ever. The panel cited recent security breaches at major chains such as Home Depot and Target as examples of brands that have lost consumers’ trust.

Conversely, data and proximity marketing create opportunities for brands to earn customers’ trust as well. Jordan Grossman, U.S. head of sales for Waze, described ways Michelin could potentially use GPS to warn drivers about upcoming weather conditions as an example of this. Proximity marketing also allows advertisers to tie data to the ad experience, giving them the ability, for example, to offer drivers facing inclement weather restaurant and lodging options.

The panelists also stressed the fact that big data doesn’t automatically mean big results. David Clarke, partner in digital services at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), said that while real-time data is offering advertisers more options than ever before, brands need time “to digest it and decide what we’re going to do with it.”

One thing brands will have to do with their data is share it in collaboration with other companies. Data solutions and strategies increasingly lead to what Donovan calls “corporate omnichannels,” where brands use data and proximity marketing in conjunction with one another to create engagement and move customers through the purchase funnel. For example, Walgreens and Kraft may find it beneficial to partner, using data, wearables, and iBeacon to deliver rewards for purchasing Kraft products in Walgreens stores to targeted customers.

The panel agreed that collaboration would be the key to success in proximity marketing for wearables. “Brands can’t do everything alone,” Markowitz said. “Partnerships with companies that provide a service you’re not providing” might just be the real future.

Image via Shutterstock.

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