Once upon a time back in 2014, wearables were tipped to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. So many tech-savvy, eCommerce experts were adamant that soon we would all be wearing clip-on headsets in all areas of our daily lives. Fast forward a few years and a recent poll of 1,000 US internet users aged 18+, shows that three-quarters have never bought any wearable technologies. The evidence can be seen all around us that the concept did not take off. But, before we consign wearables to the technical failures basket, along with the MP3 player, we should ask ourselves- can they be saved? To answer that we need to look at why they failed in the first place.
First up, cost played a huge role in the downfall of wearables. The Levi’s wearable jacket, which allowed wearers to navigate their journeys through a built-in GPS, sold for £450. Given that the original item would have cost £140 and a cheap GPS can be bought for around £50, the likelihood is that if consumers want to look good in a Levi’s denim jacket, plus know where they are going in their cars, they are going to buy the jacket and GPS separately and save money. Similarly, the Oakley Rader Pace offering of a sunglasses/personal trainer hybrid is £449. There are cheaper gadgets out there in the £150 region, but the bulk of the wearables stock is reserved only for luxury shoppers or those with a particular love of gadgets.
One huge stumbling block for wearables was and always will be smartphones. Almost everything wearables offer can be downloaded in app form onto an iPhone. Even fit-bits, one of the more affordable wearable products that retail at around the £100 mark, can be downloaded in a similar form for free onto smartphones. The Apple Watch is a good example of how competing alongside smartphones, wearables fall significantly short. The Apple Watch when launched, achieved sales of $11.9 million in 2016, this figure was dwarfed by the $90 million sales of iPhones in the US, in the same year. It really is hard for consumers to see how it makes economical sense to buy a wearable which is often in essence just a really expensive multiple app, which when purchased on a smartphone, are free.
Vanity is also a massive reason why wearables are not taking off. Many wearable products are simply not very cool. They don’t flatter the consumer, nor do they rank highly alongside the trends of the day, in terms of style and finesse. The Levis jacket when launched was even described as one of the few genuinely “wearable” items of wearable products, as previous offerings had been so ugly. Wearables often take the form of sunglasses that allow you to take pictures or headsets that let you know when a parking space becomes available and these are not pieces that look particularly flattering on an individual.
The battery life of wearables does not inspire confidence that the all important sales of these items will increase. Most wearable products have alarmingly low battery life and what with most consumers carrying around iPhones which need constant charging, having to charge more than one item is tedious and irritating for most consumers, who like to travel slick and light.
Given the above-mentioned drawbacks, it is very hard to imagine how wearables could claw their way back to a more prominent place in the consumer psyche. It seems consumers have lost interest and are less inclined to consider their worth and that they might be an asset to their lives as time goes on. It is going to take a very inventive offering from wearable creators that can really offer something different from a conventional iPhone app, to get consumers engaged and keen to buy wearables once again.