Gone are the Mad Men days when we'd throw out messages and hope they'd stick, never knowing what worked and why.

Data-driven marketing has led to smart, effective experiences, and consumers now seamlessly follow brands from screen to screen. The customer journey is tracked, logged, and retargeted. This 2-D world has sufficed... until now.

Humans want to move. We want to leave our phones in our pockets and purses, and wearables like the Apple Watch will let us.

Apple is marketing its Watch as a time saver. The Watch's whole purpose is to give you the choice: pull out your phone or continue doing what you're doing. The more we leave our phones put away, the more we will come to rely on our wearables.

This shift provides a huge opportunity for brands to be wayfinders. For example, Disney early on made the leap to a wearable, Disney MagicBands.

As soon as millions of people have slipped on the Apple Watch, the charge has been set. What will our brands do for us now?

Collecting Data

Data is our first opportunity with wearables. They give us a new source of data that is alive in the world. When data points from wearables are combined with other data sets, the possibilities for creative marketing are endless.

You might be asking yourself, "What is this data exactly?"

Let's consider smartwatches and fitness trackers. Both are crammed with sensors that monitor different aspects of your health and wellness.

Here's a brief overview of the sensors today, the data they track, and possible use cases for marketers.

  • Accelerometers provide several types of data but are most commonly used to count steps. By measuring orientation and acceleration force, they can determine whether the device is horizontal or vertical, and whether it's moving. Data science allows us to further mark types of movement. For instance, sleep apps translate our movements via the accelerometer to track our sleep.
    Use case: Brands looking to motivate and reward their healthiest and most active consumers should take advantage of human data. Based on activity data, brands can celebrate fitness achievements with all their consumers. So when a user reaches her 10,000th step, send her a "Congrats!" and maybe knock a few bucks off the health bars she loves.
  • GPS is not a huge differentiator yet, since the smartphone that pairs with a wearable is most likely in the same location and also has GPS. A lot of wearables have this feature for a user in a hands-free environment.
    Use case: Wayfinding in new environments is one way a brand can lend a hand. Say your user is at a summer music festival, and his phone is in his backpack. He can use a smartwatch to navigate to a secret party, a new pop-up store, etc.
  • Optical heart-rate monitors measure heart rate using light. An LED shines through the skin, and an optical sensor measures the light that bounces back. Because blood absorbs more light, changes in light intensity can be translated into heart rate. (This process is called photoplethysmography.)
    Use case: We all know our heart rate goes up during heavy exercise. This is the primary reason for the heart rate sensors in wearables. Using wearable data, brands can reward users for their most intense workouts.
  • Galvanic skin response sensors measure electrical connectivity of the skin. Your skin is a better conductor of electricity when you are experiencing a strong emotion and sweating.
    Use case: How can we prove one deodorant beats out another? How about a data-driven sweat test?
  • UV sensors warn you to get out of the sun before it starts to be harmful.
    Use case: How else can you use the intel that people are enjoying a sunny afternoon? Maybe ask them to share photos of their sunny day on social media with your hashtag. Or send them tips on urban gardening, the best nearby parks, day trips, or other personalized content.

Delving Into the Data

Data science allows us to derive richer insights from this data. Smart trend analysis lets us group the data and users. The data can be aggregated and segmented to improve the effectiveness and customization of marketing efforts.

Marketers can also be smart about how wearable data is used to power existing applications. Why can't Spotify offer up your favorite playlist when you've been sitting stationary at your desk for 10 minutes? And what if you knew that nearly half of your users rode public transportation to work? What would that grouping mean to you? What would it mean to your outdoor advertising budget?

A whole new revolution of marketing and computing has begun that will free up consumers and empower marketers.

"Whether it's the new phone, the wearable, or the connected car, mobility and connectivity are redefining how people interact with the world around them," says Gareth Davies, CEO of Adbrain. "The common currency here is the digitalization of just about everything around us, creating unparalleled data exhaust fumes begging to be mined for commercial and consumer benefit. It's no surprise that we're seeing tech, media, and automotive giants make serious investments to further increase their access to people across multiple touchpoints."

What About Privacy?

The data from wearable and activity-tracking platforms is very personal, so careful planning around privacy and anonymity is of the utmost importance.

Data gathered and provided should be funneled through an opt-in model, so users have control over what types of data are shared. Brands and platforms that use this data should follow industry standard best-practices regarding encryption and data security.

When considering an IT security strategy, we recommend that physical and logical access to systems be separated when possible. Personally identifiable information should always be stored separately from activity data to avoid breaches of complete datasets.

Opting In When It Suits Them

In a recent survey of retail shoppers, roughly 70% expressed willingness to provide data in exchange for rewards or incentives.

In other words, customers are looking for a reason to strap on their wearables and get moving.

Brands can provide this incentive and motivate a customer's healthy lifestyle. There were concerns when mobile banking first came around, but it's now commonplace to snap pictures of your checks and upload them. If the experience adds value to people's lives and/or improves convenience, they opt in.

* * *

We're entering the next phase of digital marketing. The potential for creativity is incredible. And measurement has never been smarter or easier to access.

The question is which brands will make the leap? What brands will ease us through decision making? Which brands will guide us around a city? Which will motivate our well-being?

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How Apple Watch and Other Wearables Are Transforming Marketing

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image of Steve Caldwell

Steve Caldwell is co-founder and CEO of Strap, Wearable Intelligence Software for marketers and advertisers.

LinkedIn: Steve Caldwell  

Twitter: @stevecaldwell