Wearable devices have a huge potential to create new innovative marketing platforms for the companies that sell them. A great example of this is the fitness wearable industry. Many might think that companies in this space see the revenue provided by these devices as huge growth opportunity especially with analysts predicting hundreds of millions of devices sold within next 5 years. This certainly is a good revenue opportunity, but more important than the device are the digital services and community platforms built around these devices. This is likely a major reason why Under Armour recently purchased MapMyFitness and their reported 20M user base. Creating a digital community, like Nike has done with their Nike+ community, allows these companies to have regular engagement with their customers and build more personalized relationships like never before. This has huge marketing value. After all, most of these companies sell primarily through Retail channels today and likely don’t even know the customers who bought their gear. Instead of having to blindly market, they can focus more on direct marketing to their active user base.
These digital community platforms not only offer the ability for athletic brands to know who their customers are, but provide regular daily (even hourly) engagement with their users. Even if they sell their gear direct to the end-customer, customer engagement only happens at point of purchase and not again until next purchase. With fitness wearable trackers, users check their app on daily basis (if not more frequent) and each day they automatically upload more data about themselves. Especially as the data becomes richer through new sensors or more sensored gear, this provides valuable information about their customers.
A New Marketing Platform
Content marketing is a huge trend today in digital marketing. Due to the overwhelming barrage of messages (spam in a lot of cases) customers are presented with online, companies that want to cut through the clutter and engage more closely with their customers are using relevant and interesting content articles to grab attention and engage customers without the appearance of a hard marketing sell. Interesting articles, useful apps, or visually compelling infographics, offer content that customers want while at the same time allow companies to present their brand in a non-direct way. To be effective at delivering interesting and valuable content though, companies need to know their customers extremely well.
Fitness wearable community platforms provide great knowledge of their users which can help them create compelling content. There are two main opportunities here: 1) building insights from Big Data analytics from aggregated user base data and 2) personalized insights. As an example, Jawbone has recently leveraged insights on sleep behavior from their customer base to build some interesting and humorous marketing infographics (see example below). Personalized data, can also provide personalized content. Suppose a fitness wearable user has been tracking their food on regular basis. Recognizing this, a company can serve up a relevant nutrition article. Another example if is a tracker identifies that a user is not doing a lot of high intensity training in their work-outs and they can serve up an article on benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Tailored messages and content like this can help build more trusted relationships and stronger loyalty.
Marketing at the Point of Sweat
Timing of customer engagement is also important. Engaging a customer when they just finished a work-out or finished a race or ride, could be a great time. Generally, endorphins are high and users are usually in a positive and relaxed mood. A properly targeted marketing message delivered at this time can be well received and their positive feeling can be associated with these brands. MapMyFitness calls this delivering content at the “moment of sweat”. MapMyFitness has used this moment to sponsor content that is relevant to end-user (see Brooks Happy Group on MapMyRun video for example). Delivering a marketing message when someone is stressed or frustrated, has less likelihood of success.
Better Understanding Customers through Sensors
As sensor technology gets further embedded in athletic companies’ products, new opportunities are presented. Imagine a shoe with an embedded set of sensors that helps identify foot strike of a runner. In addition to enabling real-time coaching, this data can provide information to the shoe company that helps improve future shoe designs. Companies like Nike, Under Armour, Adidas spend millions of R&D dollars each year improving their products. Even with this, there are limited testing cycles that are done. By using real-world crowd sourced data (similar to what companies like Waze do with mapping), companies can vastly expand their data and likely identify more ways to improve their products. In addition, the data can help provide better recommendations to their customers. Suppose a shoe picks up that a runner is an under-pronator, but they bought a pair of neutral gait shoes. This can be easily identified and a recommendation can be provided to the user to select a better fit shoe for the future. Personalized recommendations like this have huge potential in creating higher loyalty.
Privacy & Creepiness Factor
This new marketing platform has huge value, but companies need to pay close attention to their privacy policies and need to guard against the “creepiness” factor of messages that are too targeted. If not treated appropriately, they have the potential to turn-off their customers and alienate them.
Wearable device digital communities offer huge potential for companies as a new and powerful marketing platform. Device sales are great, but companies that focus on building loyal communities are likely to have long-term success and see many bigger benefits from these devices.
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