Wearable Mobile Devices Are the New Black

This year’s hot trend in fashion is computers. Whether at SXSW or in the tech and media hubs on the coasts, people are excited about the watches, wristbands and “eyeframes” that double as computers. Not all of these gadgets will succeed and those that do probably will evolve rapidly from today’s versions. But the trend is real—and marketers need to take note. They can expect consumers open to new forms of discovery and deeper relationships with brands, but also who have less tolerance for advertising that’s irrelevant, disruptive or disrespectful of privacy.

This year’s hot trend in fashion is computers. Whether at SXSW or in the tech and media hubs on the coasts, people are excited about the watches, wristbands and “eyeframes” that double as computers. Not all of these gadgets will succeed and those that do probably will evolve rapidly from today’s versions. But the trend is real—and marketers need to take note. They can expect consumers open to new forms of discovery and deeper relationships with brands, but also who have less tolerance for advertising that’s irrelevant, disruptive or disrespectful of privacy.

Nothing exemplifies the widespread interest in wearable computers better than Pebble, a watch that has its own Internet interface, apps and waiting list of fans eager to buy it. Last year, the founders of Pebble went to the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter with just a vague business plan and raised $10 million from thousands of investors. In less than a year, Pebble started to ship product and, in the past month, has released programming guidelines for outside developers. Not to be outdone by a start-up, Apple, Google, Samsung and LG are all rumored to be working on smartwatches, and Nike has made a big splash with its own wristband that tracks calories burned—the Fuel Band. Probably the most ambitious of all is Google Glass, the smartphone/eyeglass hybrid that projects information directly onto the lens of the wearer. Initial versions for developers have begun to ship already.

All of these devices will take the mobile revolution to a new level. The original iPhone ushered in an era when consumers expect to receive relevant answers any time, anywhere, to any question—even if they haven’t asked it yet. Still, wearable computing adds another layer of complexity. With screens that are always on and always feeding information, there’s even less of a margin for error with irrelevant advertising, and more opportunity for location-specific discovery. There will be new types of data—e.g., biometrics, location, eye movements—that could be incredibly relevant to marketers, but also frightening for consumers already worried about personal privacy. As a result, most marketing opportunities will have to be truly opt-in and transparent in how data will be used—and how that use is actually a service.

Take Google Now, a service that lets users receive pertinent time-sensitive or location-sensitive information without asking for it. It’s currently on phones, but it’s ideally suited for Google Glass. Although Now has high use-value, there’s also a high potential for creepiness, something Baris Guletkin, co-creator of Now, understands: “We take privacy very seriously, and make it very clear what the user will get, and what kind of data we’ll be using, and lots of controls so they can turn things off that they don’t like.” Google is banking on the fact that a lot of people will make that tradeoff in order to get useful information on-the-go. If I’ve just landed in Paris on an overnight flight and I am walking to a meeting, I’m OK with Google knowing what type of food I like if that information is used to suggest boulangeries along my route with highly rated croissants. But not everyone will feel that way.

Current discovery engines, such as Yelp and Foursquare, could probably also make a relatively easy transition to something like Google Glass or evolved versions of a smartwatch. Other marketers, however, will have to create new ways to use personal data and tags within physical objects to provide information that’s pertinent and enhances a real-world experience, not interrupts it. Peter Dahlstrom and David Edelman of McKinsey have written a great article about “on-demand marketing,” They describe a scenario where a headset has an NFC chip that communicates with a smartphone and opens an app that shows the headset in different colors and has related offers. Combined with augmented reality on Google Glass, the possibilities for this type of technology are pretty exciting. Even if Glass doesn’t catch on with the mainstream population, it will likely spur innovation that will trickle down to smartphones.

In addition to discovery, a second transformative role for wearable computers may be in how they turn solitary offline activities into daily social activities, creating a durable bond with the brand.

Nike’s Fuel Band is a great example. Nike has taken the daily workout and turned into a shared activity. The wristband uses a motion detector to calculate the amount of calories a person is burning during the day and tracks it against personal goals. It also connects to an app that shares this information with friends, creating value by turning the fuel points into shared successes and, for some, a competition. Because it’s always on, it creates dozens, even hundreds, of daily touchpoints with the brand.

Fuel fully aligns the brand with staying in shape, a high value for many people, and the core need that its other products satisfy. Eventually, Nike could connect Fuel points to support public causes, which would align the brand with the core values of the “new consumer,” described by sustainable branding agency, BBMG,

“Thirty percent of the U.S. adult population—some 70 million consumers—New Consumers—are values-aspirational, practical purchasers who are constantly looking to align their actions with their ideals; yet tight budgets and time constraints require them to make practical trade-offs every day … To deliver on total value, it’s no longer about pushing products, it’s about creating platforms for ideas and experiences that help people live healthier, greener and better.”

The Fuel Band and competitors like Jawbone are such platforms. They don’t just turn offline activities into online, social ones, they also link the brand to the values of the customer.

The Fuel Band right now is one of the first wearable computers that has been a commercial success, because it enhances existing activities in innovative ways. We’ll soon see whether Glass, Pebble and others have similar levels of success. Regardless, we’ll continue to see new wearable computers down the line, and they will undoubtedly lead to new opportunities for marketers that are impossible to see today.

Social Media and ROI: Strange Bedfellows, or a Match Made in Heaven?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock during the past few years, you’ve noticed that social media has become the new norm in our lives, both personal and professional. For businesses large and small, what was initially a curiosity has rapidly emerged as a highly effective tool for interacting with their customers and prospects. … As interest and investment in social media continue to grow, it’s inevitable that corporate stakeholders and bean counters across corporate America will begin to clamor for marketers to demonstrate ROI …

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past few years, you’ve noticed that Social Media has become the new norm in our lives, both personal and professional. For businesses large and small, what was initially a curiosity has rapidly emerged as a highly effective tool for interacting with their customers and prospects. In fact, according to Emil Protalinski in an article on ZDNet.com, a whopping 68 percent of small businesses say they use Facebook as their main marketing tool. Wow!

As interest and investment in social media continue to grow, it’s inevitable that corporate stakeholders and bean counters across corporate America will begin to clamor for marketers to demonstrate ROI for their firm’s social media activities. And believe me, Social Media spending will most certainly continue to grow. According to an article on CMOSurvey.com, in the next five years, marketers can expect to spend 19.5 percent of their budgets on social media, which is almost three times more than the current level. That’s a lot of shekels. This year alone, in fact, marketers are already spending 10.8 percent of their budgets on it.

With increased budgets will undoubtedly come increased scrutiny. But as is the case with most things, the devil is in the details, and measuring social media success is much easier said than done. Unlike most marketing activities, you see, which can be traced back to number of leads generated, customers acquired or sales made, Social Media KPIs are anything but clear cut.

Think about it for a moment. How much is a Facebook “Like” worth, anyway? How much would you pay to get a new follower or to be mentioned on Twitter? How much does each LinkedIn connection contribute to your company’s bottom line? Given this environment, it’s not a big surprise that there are some who simply shrug their shoulders and say that trying to pin ROI to Social Media is a complete waste of time. I don’t necessarily belong to that school of thought, but I do think that Social Media is an entirely new beast that needs to be viewed in a manner distinct from other places marketers spend their money.

Fact is, social media is not simply another advertising channel with a specific budget that can be attributed to a specific group of sales or other traditional marketing KPIs. This is because social media can be used by a firm for many different activities by different departments, many of which are not exactly under marketing’s purview or control.

For the customer service team, using Social CRM technologies and listening platforms, Social Media is an incredible tool that can be used to listen to and engage with customers on the Web, supplementing their phone bank and other customer service activities. For the sales team, Social Media presents yet another source of red-hot leads to be contacted—prospects that have expressed interest in their firm’s products or services and can be followed up on in real time. For marketers, social media may play a role in the department’s content marketing strategy, enabling them to disseminate awesome content to a large base of customers and prospects at minimal cost. And for a PR department, social media represents a unique way to broadcast company press and news releases to the press and public in a continuous feedback loop.

But as a direct marketer by trade, I must admit that I have a difficult time accepting that any activity run by the marketing department can avoid the inevitable ROI discussion. Sure, most ROI calculations I’ve seen in run-of-the-mill PowerPoints are 50 percent math 50 percent BS … I should know because I’ve made quite a few of them in my day! But that being said, I do think we’ll eventually get there. And I’m not alone: A recent study published by Mediabistro demonstrated that 64 percent of executives believe that social marketing will eventually produce a legitimate return on investment for their firms.

In many ways, this lack of clarity is a result of Social Media still being in its infancy to a large extent, and regarding ROI we’ve still got a ways to go. So what do I think the answer will ultimately be? I’m not completely sure, but let me leave you with this.

Because Social Media is being used by different departments with different budgets for different things, when evaluating social media a firm needs to grasp a firm understanding of how Social Media is being used within the organization. For each department, success will need to be measured and tracked differently based on performance metrics that are relevant to stakeholders in each of those departments. Sales teams, for example, should use metrics relevant to salespeople, such as number of leads generated, conversion rate on those leads and so on. Customer service departments, not surprisingly, operate on entirely different systems and, therefore, need to evaluate Social Media according to an entirely differ set of KPIs. Ultimately, each department’s success measurements for social media need to be based on their specific goals and metrics.

Okay, I’m out of space so I’ll leave it there for now. Have you tried to work out KPIs or perform ROI calculations for your Social Media program? If so, I’d love to see what you’ve come up with, so let me know in your comments.

—Rio

Mobile’s Role in the In-Store Shopping Experience Growing, Survey Finds

I came across a very interesting report this week from White Horse, a digital marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. The Future of In-Aisle Mobile: A Framework for Consumer-Centered Innovation found that 84 percent of smartphone users have engaged in some type of in-store mobile activity related to shopping.

I came across a very interesting report this week from White Horse, a digital marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. The Future of In-Aisle Mobile: A Framework for Consumer-Centered Innovation found that 84 percent of smartphone users have engaged in some type of in-store mobile activity related to shopping. I think this is a pretty high percentage.

The report examines how consumers use smartphones to supplement in-store shopping while also offering tips on how retailers can take advantage of this behavior. For the study, White Horse conducted 13 videotaped shop-along trips to retailers including Anne Taylor LOFT, Best Buy, Sephora and Bed Bath & Beyond. It then conducted a survey of 390 U.S.-based smartphone users to validate the field research.

The 16 percent of respondents who haven’t used their smartphone for shopping tasks in-store cited very consistent reasons for not doing so: most haven’t found a utility that allows them to shop and gather information in-aisle easily, and many want a speedy shopping experience, according to the report.

Electronics stores are where shoppers are most likely to use their smartphone to aid their purchase decision (79 percent), followed by discount retailers (67.5 percent), department stores (48.6 percent) and supermarkets (42.6 percent).

The report also found that while price-checking is the most common activity for mobile shoppers (72 percent of respondents report doing so), it’s by no means the dominant activity. Searches for product reviews and recommendations (67 percent), and seeking a retailer’s store information (61.1 percent) followed closely behind.

What do you think of these findings? Surprised by them at all? Please leave a comment below.