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Does the Apple Watch really have what it will take to make the wearables market a mass one? Current research on wearables suggests the picture is hazy: Between consumers’ murky idea of what specific wearables might do, and their perhaps murkier idea of what they might want them to do, what will actually appeal to users?
February 2015 research by ACCENT Marketing Services indicates that watches are not what most consumers are looking for when it comes to wearables. Only around a quarter of internet users said they were most excited about watches, compared with 44% who were more likely to be most interested in an activity tracker or fitness band. Another 8% most wanted activity or fitness clips, as opposed to bands.
The Apple Watch, of course, combines many features typically found on fitness bands with its watch functionality, and may successfully fill both roles for consumers looking into wearables. Only time will tell if users find Apple’s offering can substitute for a dedicated fitness band.
And the users themselves may not be sure of what they really want, or what the difference might be between a smart watch and a fitness band.
Around one in three internet users surveyed told ACCENT they wanted a wearable device for quicker access to social sites, and nearly as many just thought they looked cool. Substantial numbers of respondents were also interested in the possibilities around brands marketing to them via wearable devices.
In a question specifically about the Apple Watch, ACCENT found that only 19% of respondents planned to buy one. Men were more likely to say so than women, at 25% vs. 13%, and baby boomers were the most likely age group to plan such a purchase, at 20%.
One point against Apple’s offering may be how closely it is tied to iPhones. The Watch requires an iPhone to be paired with it, and many use cases mean the phone must be nearby at the time of use. Meanwhile, ACCENT found that 63% of internet users thought wearables should work hand in hand with any mobile device, regardless of operating system (OS). Another 22% thought wearables should be able to function on their own—just 15% thought integration should be so seamless the same OS was required.
According to January 2015 polling by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 29% of marketers rated wearables a 4 on a scale from 1 to 4 in terms of marketing opportunity.
What those opportunities will be—just like what the most popular use cases of the Apple Watch will be—remain unclear. John Hoholik, chief engagement and solutions officer at ACCENT, told eMarketer, “People will start to engage as much as the technology allows them to engage, and I don’t know that marketers and brands have really thought that through yet. I think it will evolve much as social has evolved. It will grow and change, and what consumers need will dictate the different ways marketers behave on these new platforms.”
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