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Retailers Must Prepare for Wearable Explosion

52% of consumers want to buy wearables for fitness, digital health

January 9, 2014 By Jeff O'Heir
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The consumer wearables category is growing quickly and retailers who want to leverage the opportunities should waste no time in preparing their sales floors and staff.

In its recent Consumer Tech Survey, conducted with more than 6,000 people in six countries (U.S., Australia, India, Canada and South Africa), Accenture Digital found that 52 percent of consumers are interested in buying wearable devices such as fitness monitors to track their physical activity and to manage their health. About 46 percent are interested in buying smart watches and 42 percent are interested in Internet-connected glasses.

A recent NPD survey found similar results.

"We believe that wearable technology is at an inflection point and is ready to enter the mainstream," said Dave Sovie, managing director high-tech and electronics for Accenture.

Three key factors are fueling the numbers: explosion in sensor technologies; the proliferation of smartphones (69 percent of the survey's respondents own one, with a strong remainder saying they plan to buy one soon; and the focus by manufactures on product design. "There's a tremendous amount of creativity going on in that space," Stovie said, mentioning the large number of digital health companies exhibiting new products here at CES.

The overriding factor in the wearables explosion is connectivity, or something that's now being referred to as the "Internet of Everything." Sovie mentioned that Cisco CEO John Chambers in his CES keynote noted that consumers worldwide own about 10 billion connected devices today, with the number shooting up to about 100 billion in 10 years.

Improved user interfaces, more seamless integration of products within the networked ecosystem, and a reduction in across-the-board pricing is now creating "a tremendous amount of excitement" in the entire wearable space, Sovie said.

"Wearables combined with the 'Internet of all things,' will have a profound impact on the world in 10 years," he said.

To capture those new sales and service opportunities, manufacturers and retailers will have to focus on packaging, marketing and merchandising those products to help consumers fully understand what they do. An educated sales force will be more important than ever, Stovie said, adding that retailers should create separate departments staffed with knowledgeable, dedicated associates to successfully sell the new solutions. Stovie also expects retailers to create standalone stores that focus solely on digital and mobile health solutions.

"The challenge for retailers is to realize that they have to have staff that understands integration and all of things involved with these devices," he said. "And that's something in general that retailers still struggle with."

 

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