11/09/2014 - 14:29

Wearable-tech is no fad, it’s forever

11/09/2014 - 14:29


Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

Would you wear wearable technology, such as the soon-to-be released Apple Watch?

Wearable-tech is no fad, it’s forever
The new Apple Watch.

Would you wear wearable technology, such as the soon-to-be released Apple Watch?

According to one survey, undertaken by US investment bank Citigroup, most people are prepared to give it a go, if the technology meets certain personal requirements.

While older readers may dispute that observation, it’s worth remembering it wasn’t that long ago that an earlier generation of oldies rejected the Sony Walkman, Apple’s iPod, and hand-held tablet computers.

Some still object to the use of mobile phones in social situations.

For retailers looking to latch onto the next big thing to ignite consumer interest and, more importantly, open tightly-locked wallets, the arrival of wearable-tech such as smartwatches, cannot be ignored – if Citigroup’s analysis is correct.

The flipside of that observation is that the flow of cash into wearable gadgets could threaten other retail products – such as conventional watches.

Reacting promptly and correctly to a technology breakthrough, fashion change or fad-of-the-day is always a test for retailers.

If you look hard enough, somewhere in Perth there is a bound to be a container load of men’s safari suits, unwanted as the trend they represented died as quickly as it arrived (thank goodness).

However the suburbs also house many overnight millionaires, who jumped aboard the smartphone revolution, either as retailers of the phones or as suppliers of essential accessories such as protective cases, earphones, car chargers and screen protectors.

For the next challenge, which Citigroup reckons could grow into a $US30 billion opportunity, welcome to the emerging world of wearable-tech.

In what it calls a ‘deep dive’ into wearable-tech, a team of 10 analysts working in a number of offices around the world for the US bank found that wearable-tech is: “more than a fad, it’s forever”.

The market for smartwatches such as that displayed earlier this week by Apple is estimated to be $US10 billion by the year 2018, but over time, Citigroup says: “A wearables market including sport fitness bands, watches and apparel could be $US30 billion.”

Most pain from the forecast rise of smartwatches will be the traditional watch market, which is expected to lose $US5 billion in sales as consumers make the switch.

The other $US5 billion in smartwatch sales is tipped to come from ‘technology trendsetters’ who might not now even wear a traditional watch, preferring to use their mobile phones to check the time.

Apple is not alone in the wearable-tech market. Other players include: Google, with its glasses; Adidas with fitness training products; Ralph Lauren, with a compression shirt that reads biological signals via sensors knitted into the fabric; and Rebecca Minkoff, which has released a five-item jewellery collection including a notification bracelet, which lets the wearer know when an email or text message has landed.

Many more items of wearable-tech will be developed, with those in the under-30s crowd – who have grown up with technology that remains foreign to their parents – likely to embrace change the fastest.

Citigroup argues that wearable-tech will move into a wide range of retail sectors, evolving out of smartphones and smartwatches into accessories and apparel.

But the bank’s analysts add a number of cautionary remarks to the speed at which wearable-tech will develop, and the importance of delivering products that customers will embrace and be prepared to pay for.

The most important feature, which is hardly a surprise, is price; with 40 per cent of respondents to a Citigroup survey of US consumers saying that the cost of a smartwatch would be their key test.

Other features important to making a sale are: display visibility (36 per cent of respondents rate that as critical); battery life (34 per cent); touch screen features (20 per cent); the ability to interact with other devices (20 per cent); and a camera, which gets the lowest importance rating at 13 per cent. (The total adds to more than 100% because people surveyed ticked more than one box.)

The speed of wearable-tech uptake, which is also a test of how quickly a retailer might recoup an investment in the selling the stuff, is perhaps the most important feature and a point of significant difference between people with young brains and people with old brains – a test that is not necessarily based on physical age.

Citigroup reckons that 8.2 per cent of the people it surveyed are prepared to buy a smartwatch in the next 12 months. In the case of Perth, that means there is already a market of 150,000 potential customers.

On price, 29 per cent of survey respondents would buy in the next 12 months if the product was priced between $US100 and $US199, and only 31 per cent are unlikely to buy regardless of the price.

Whether Citigroup and Apple are right or wrong will be fascinating to watch (forgive the pun), and it would be an unwise retailer who crossed his or her fingers and hoped that what’s being predicted went the way of safari suits and hula-hoops.


Subscription Options