Wearable technology: The next big communications opportunity

Most US consumers know wearable technology exists, but few understand it - and that's a huge opportunity for PR pros, according to a study released Wednesday by Waggener Edstrom.

Apple's yet to be released Apple Watch
Apple's yet to be released Apple Watch

NEW YORK: Three-quarters of US adults are aware of wearable technology, but a far smaller percentage actually understands it, meaning there’s an opportunity for PR pros to educate consumers about the emerging technology, according to a study released Wednesday.

Only 44% of the 2,066 adult participants in Waggener Edstrom’s Wearable Technology: From Fun Runners to Fashion Stunners survey said they are familiar with wearable technology devices. Twenty-eight percent said they don’t know enough about it, and half believe they have no need for it in their lives.

That means communicators have their work cut out for them to explain wearable technology to American consumers. John Baird, VP of marketing and GM of Waggener Edstrom New York, said PR professionals have a "big education opportunity" to help people understand the benefits of wearable devices. He added that enlightening older generations should be a focus area for brands, communications executives, and marketers.

"One of the things I thought about was older Americans and how wearable fitness devices could benefit them, because generally they might have more health needs and they’re potentially a little slower to adopt technology," explained Baird.

The speed at which the fashion and luxury industries have embraced wearable technology is another key takeaway from the report. For instance, Diane von Furstenberg’s models donned wearable tech on the runway at New York’s Spring 2014 Fashion Week and designer Tory Burch recently released accessories compatible with Fitbit Flex.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) said the attractiveness of a wearable device is at least somewhat important, regardless of its purpose. Among students, that number jumped to 83%, and it increased to 79% among parents with children under the age of 18.

Based on the trend of fashion designers quickly integrating wearable technology into their brands, Baird believes the sector will soon touch a wide range of industries, such as consumer packaged goods and automotive.

Saying, "consumers are ready for it," Baird contends that brands have to ensure they are communicating with influencers and telling consumers why they should choose certain products over those from competitors.

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