Patience is a Virtue with Consumer Tech Adoption
Technology innovation today moves at breakneck speeds. I don’t want to admit that as a member of the tech press it can still be incredibly difficult at times to keep up with what’s new and truly pushing the limits of consumer tech. The pace of change in this industry is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great because we get to see so many new gadgets and awe-inspiring technologies debut on the regular. But we’re also quick to dismiss that very same technology when consumers are slow to adopt them.
We’re all guilty of this as tech industry professionals: the media for dismissing or even slamming tech; retailers for quickly revamping showrooms to remove so-called failed products; and manufacturers for doing sudden about faces the second it seems like a product is ready to flop.
I’m here to ask everyone to pump the brakes a little bit when it comes to our expectations for how quickly consumers ought to adopt technology—especially as we move into an era when the products that are launching have a very difficult and intrusive ask of consumers.
As the tech world becomes more and more connected and products start speaking to one another, sharing information about how the user engages with those products, the lines between what’s personal and public data are becoming more and more blurred. Manufacturers have this expectation that consumers will readily form over private information for the sake of creating a smart home.
As we’ve seen time and again in our coverage of the smart home and other tech segments, consumers (rightfully so) have a tough time trusting companies with their data. That’s not to say that consumers will never trust companies with their data, it’s just going to take time for them to be comfortable enough—and to understand the benefits of sharing their information—before these markets mature to the point that we’ve long expected they’d already be at by now.
Take the smartwatch.
On a recent random workday I forgot to wear my Apple Watch. That doesn't sound like much of a story and is absolutely a first-world type of problem. But it turned out to a real telling moment in my life as a smartwatch user and consumer tech writer. In spending nearly an entire day at work without my smartwatch, I realized just how important the device had become to me. Sure, there was a brief moment of relief at the thought of my wrist not buzzing all day. But I quickly discovered that I was checking my phone ever 23 seconds, nervous that I was going to miss something important.
My Apple Watch has become a routine part of my life. This add-on piece of tech that we were ready, not long ago to write off as a viable product, has grown on me and on hundreds of millions of users around the world in just a few short years.
Adoption of the smartwatch, at least from my personal perspective having used one for close to three years, has to do with the fact that the product—without me really even realizing it—has made my tech life more efficient. I’m able to leave my phone down but still get those notifications that are important to me that I wouldn’t want to miss. And though there’s the personal health and wellness data that’s shared and the idea that certain brands (through their app) have access to my wrist, I’m okay with that. The product provides enough of a benefit for me not to really question any of that.
Other tech markets face a similar wave of adoption, and that’s where the call for a little patience comes in. Smart home tech brands are asking consumers to trust them with their data on a much larger scale than a smartwatch manufacturer. So of course the pace at which consumers become comfortable with the technology and all of the personal data implications that come along with it is going to be a lot slower.
What manufacturers and their retail partners can do to speed up the pace of adoption, though, is offer expert advice and assistance to those consumers who have shown interest in the technology. Education around this space (and any other similar tech segment) is so crucial—either in the form of in-store demos, educational events at your store, or even in those one-on-one interactions that occur every day in your store. Inform your customers in a way that alleviates any concerns they might have about these products, and demonstrate to them the ways in which this technology can vastly improve their daily lives.
We’ll get there with these various markets. Just tamper those expectations and don’t throw in the towel. Consumers will come around; they just need a little more time.