About four desks away from me sits a quiet but friendly product manager working on ad prototypes for wearables. His quest is simple – draw out the best use case possible for advertising on wearables. It is still a bit like divining for water since the devices – smartwatches, glasses, and headgear – haven’t really moved past the early adopters. However, the diehard optimist in me believes that the pace of innovation and adoption is shortening dramatically. For example, tablets grew faster than PCs and likewise, smartphones faster than the tablet. So, wearables becoming mainstream might be a matter of a short one or two years.
The good news for brands is that wearables are literally attached to their consumers throughout the day. Wearables are also just as geo-location aware as smartphones making them a great proposition for brands to reach the right consumers. Likewise, as developers start creating apps for wearables, there will be the all-important question of monetization.
Might it be fair to estimate that the preferred monetization model for wearables will include advertising?
Hyper-local, hyper real-time, hyper-specific
Every wearable device gives a potential advertiser a different context. So smart watches are a great way to understand activity patterns, health and fitness related behaviors. It seems plausible that brands like sports goods, health foods, vitamin and supplement labels and even the odd beverage company would find advertising on these watches an interesting proposition. On the other hand, with smart glasses, advertisers are going to gain great insights through geo-locational signals. There are retina, hand-gesture and even use case studies underway that could result in food, beverage and potentially tourism brands leveraging these headgear and eyewear to gain proximity to the consumer. While watches (as opposed to eyewear) may be the easiest option for advertisers since they have a screen, what is certain is that wearable device advertising will get hyper-local, hyper real-time and hyper-specific. The modalities of how the ads will actually look and when they will ‘pop’ up are aspects that, I imagine, product managers around the globe will start to tackle once the basic aspects of consumer experience and utility are all neatly tied up.
Likewise, since wearables are expected to be very deep on one or maybe just applications, they are expected to throw up very pristine data signals. Piecing these into a brand’s narrative will create great opportunities for brands to build a connection with their consumers.
With predictions of wearables reaching 100 million devices in the next two years, brands that are not directionally investing in such form factors could be missing out on a great platform to reach their target audience. InMobi certainly recognizes these possibilities and is staying on top of the evolution of wearables to help advertisers separate what’s real from the hype.
There are the naysayers, who will view advertising on personal devices as intrusive. I believe it is all about how brands are able to forge a connection. If there are consumers willing to tattoo “Harley” on themselves, then receiving ads on wearables could help form real brand relationships – without any of the pain!