Wearable Tech – Your Gratified Self
Anything Market – April 2015
Wearables range from apparel and textiles (exoskeletons, garments, and skin patches) to devices that are worn on arms, feet, heads, legs, and wrists. Tech-enhanced cameras, glasses, and jewelry are also included.
Addressing Human Needs
An intriguing article from early 2015 reviews human psychology and its influence on new product adoption. Specifically, the author looks at reasons for the “lukewarm reception” for wearable devices and points to lack of a “humanistic approach.” Well-recognized needs of belonging, love, and self-esteem are important, but manufacturers may not be addressing them and are missing the “softer side of adoption” in the wearables market. Achieving “intimacy at a distance” and “connection” is one area for improvement to support consumers’ sense of belonging.
Self-esteem is another component, which is often achieved through experiences that build competence. An extreme example is a thrilling GoPro video that fully engages the audience. In contrast, Google Glass focuses on others without including the user and eliminates the reward of self-esteem in the process. Manufacturers often emphasize technology over human needs and ignore the drivers for adoption and change. For example, an unconscious mental preference for convenience and routine usually takes precedence over the more time-consuming option of analysis and deliberation. Change requires delayed gratification and making considered decisions.
How can understanding human need, self-esteem, and self concept improve sales? The short answer is to develop products that enhance existing behavior while slowly achieving change in small incremental steps. A good manufacturing practice is to incorporate innovation that doesn’t require consumers to learn new behaviors. For example, hybrid cars operate the same as conventional cars and have been fairly well adopted by consumers since 2000. Electric cars, however, require additional steps such as overnight charging, trip planning, etc. For innovations that require change, success often depends on benefits outweighing the effort to adopt them.
Wearables Market Overview
According to ResearchandMarkets.com’s latest report, the global wearables market is forecast to grow from $20.0 billion to nearly $70.0 billion during the next ten years. Health care is expected to drive adoption, as competitors develop products and services that combine electronics with fitness, medical, and wellness tracking. The biggest change is expected from e-textiles, which will be adapted from military to consumer use. [Note: Jupiter Research forecasts a wearables market valuation of $80 billion by 2020.]
In addition to addressing human needs, manufacturers need to overcome technical barriers such as extended battery life and connectivity, as well as the required footprint to incorporate all of the features consumers want in devices that can be worn comfortably and unobtrusively. A Fortune.com article suggests that invisibility may be critical:
“Beyond the geeks of Silicon Valley and elsewhere, it’s just not cool to wear a watch, glasses, or headset that’s as big as a hood ornament.”
Presently, manufacturers such as Apple and Google are going in the opposite direction — embracing fashion. Moving technology goals from “quantified self” to “gratified self”could be even more important. Consumers (and profits) will ultimately decide which strategies win.
 “Human Psychology,” Wearable-Technologies.com, February 2015.
 “Global Wearable Technologies, Markets, Forecasts 2015 – 2015,” PRNewsWire.com, February 25, 2015.
 “The Key to an $80 Billion Wearables Market?” Fortune.com, February 24, 2015.
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