Fashion & Lifestyle Technology

The devil wears smartwatches: Why fashion brands are sizing up the wearables market

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It’s safe to say that many of the first smartwatch devices to hit the market were seen by consumers as kind of ugly, a little bit clunky and certainly nothing you’d catch Miranda Priestly wearing on her wrist. And as discussed in Tech Trends, wearables on the whole have yet to make their mark across today’s global industries. But now, with the help of big fashion brands, we’re starting to see some attractive developments and growth potential for these products.

Fashion brands have clocked that smartwatches can be a lucrative area within the wearables market – primarily because models that look appealing matter most to a large number of consumers.

Health and fitness trackers currently dominate the marketplace. Our latest data from January – March 2017 shows that in Europe, they account for 54% of unit sales in the region while in Asia the figure is 47%. Meanwhile, smartwatches are still in second but increased to 31% and 20% respectively.*

So far, wearables have suited consumers whose main focus is to stay in shape – but what’s out there for people who want to embrace the latest technology and look stylish at the same time?

Watch out for the real trend setters

This is where designer brands have the edge. The technology industry has been known to set trends, but let’s not forget that fashion is no slouch in this department.

Fashion businesses think about design. Before getting bogged down with the technical details, their first priority is to produce something that looks good. And this is where the opportunities lie. After all, wearables, as the name suggests, should be items people are able to wear – without looking like Inspector Gadget.

Giving consumers what they want

Tech players have tended to focus on device features as they cater for specific segments. This has brought success in sectors such as Health but as a result we’ve often seen a “one size fits all” approach to looks because design has been somewhat of an afterthought. Meanwhile, brands such as Michael Kors and Fossil have been offering fashion conscious consumers smartwatches that come in different styles and colors for different seasons and genders. They have started to think like their consumers and identified that it’s choices they may be after.

The key issue here is whether design alone will be enough to boost smartwatch growth. Will consumers want more than a cool brand name if they are shelling out high sums of money for this technology?

What needs to happen?

To succeed, fashion companies must nail the looks as well as the technology of their wearable devices. It’s important that they include enough features for a smartwatch to be worth purchasing over a normal watch, but not too many that the device is overwhelming and confusing. This combination will be vital and opens up possibilities for tech and fashion companies to work together to realize growth in this market.

Of course, there is a long way to go before we see smartwatches on the Paris catwalk, however, if designers continue to make strides in this area there may be a positive future for the wearables market.

* Estimated total market base GfK POS data Jan 17 – Mar 17 from 16 European countries and CN, JP, KR, AU, TW, SG, HK, MY

Jan Wassmann is a Senior Marketing Consultant at GfK. To share your thoughts, please email jan.wassmann@gfk.com or leave a comment below.

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