Wearable technology such as the Apple Watch have been predicted to be “less disruptive” than technology such as the smartphone. Watches, for instance, aren’t as functional or affordable as smartphones. Fewer people will wear them, the logic goes, so they won’t have as great an impact on the common consumer.

On the other hand, wearable technology also brings in a completely new type of data for marketers to take advantage of. Though advanced analytics are available through certain marketing platforms, we are only seeing the beginning of analytics.

Now, for instance, eye-tracking technology is only available in controlled settings. But with the release of Google Glass and subsequent headsets, this technology will become more prevalent. The widespread release of this technology brings with it widespread marketing analytics.

Wearable technology is inherently more intimate than a smartphone, since these types of devices are already being built to include sensors that monitor aspects of a person’s physiology.

Developing a Marketing Profile

Customer profiles will become much deeper than they are now, and marketers will draw conclusions where they used to draw inferences. Physiological responses give direct information about emotional and psychological states, which can yield much more exact psychological profiles.

Developing a lifestyle profile of a customer or a demographic will include detailed information that, until now, has relied only on extrapolation. The more information that can be gathered about a customer’s psychology, emotions, and physiology, the more efficiently and accurately marketers will be able to construct targeted marketing campaigns.

  • Geo-Location – Precise geo-location capabilities can tell companies how long a customer spends in certain types of restaurants, stores, or pretty much any other physical location. All of this data would further inform companies and brands about the customer’s interests and needs. Altimeters can indicate how much time a person spends in elevators, skyscrapers, at sea level, and so forth, which can contribute to a lifestyle profile.
  • Physical Behavior – Wearable technology will most likely work in conjunction with other sensors that are connected to the Internet of Things. We can see this now with Apple’s beacon technology: wearable technology can be used to track how long customers spend in what parts of a mall, department store, where they look when they stand at a bus stop, and so forth.
  • Psychology – Health monitoring devices already exist, such as heart rate monitors, head bands that monitor brain activity, or bands that monitor sleep quality. Technology that monitors physiology can be used to provide detailed information about moods and reactions to certain types of advertising, both online and in the real world.

For instance, Google Glass can now provide data to advertisers that tells companies how long customers look at a billboard or physical advertisement.

New Forms of Advertising

Wearable technology will naturally usher in new forms of device-based advertising. The future of display advertising will require ads that appear on watches or in headsets, and most of these ads will be device-specific iterations of what we already see online.

Display advertising networks, software advertising networks, and ad networks in general will use this new ad space in much the same way they use ad space on websites, in-app ads, or similar ad spaces. Current personalized advertising products, such as recommendation engines, will pave the way for the transition into the next phase of personalized marketing.

But wearable technology will also bring in completely new compensation models. Google Glass will supposedly introduce a pay-per-gaze compensation model. This type of fee structure charges advertisers based on how long a user looks at a particular advertisement. Of course, knowing how long customers look at ads will be doubly useful as marketing analytics.

The patent that suggests this pay-per-gaze model might be a possibility also suggests the possibility of inferring the user’s “emotional state” based partly on “pupil dilation information.” In other words, this type of technology doesn’t just track physical reactions, it tracks emotional reactions. Would it be possible to charge advertisers based on the degree and type of emotions elicited? Possibly, but it is more likely that this information will be used to gauge the success, failure, and pricing of competing advertisements.

The Privacy Concern

Wearable technology is, by definition, more personal than keyboard strokes or mouse clicks. Eye-tracking or body-tracking technology provides intimate information about a person’s physiology and psychology. It goes without saying that most people would object the release of this private data.

Privacy has become a big issue in recent years, and companies have taken note of this. The above-mentioned patent by Google also makes clear that identifying information may be removed prior to furnishing eye-tracking analytics data to advertisers. Given the number of privacy advocates and watch dogs, it would be politically unwise – to say the least – for Google to attempt to provide such personally identifying information to advertisers.

It is probably a given that other companies will take the high road regarding privacy. This doesn’t mean that personalized marketing won’t take advantage of wearable technology. It just means that smart marketing companies will put their customers’ privacy first and foremost.

As mentioned, wearable technology may not become as ubiquitous as the smartphone – at least not yet – but it will have a disruptive impact on marketing. The new data that wearable technology provides will work in favor of both advertisers and customers by fueling highly targeted, highly relevant marketing campaigns. And, as is suggested by Google’s patent and recent research, display advertising may soon grow to be the dominant form of online advertising.


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