Wearables Part 2: The Case for B2B

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Brands have much to gain from the combination of technological advances in wearables and mobile connectivity that are changing the way retail works in the vibrant Asian market.

Last month, I looked at the advance of wearables in China and how brands could use their consumer appeal to drive innovative marketing and promotional activity.

But there’s an entirely separate, potentially more pragmatic case for their use in the B2B arena. While individuals are catching onto the benefits of owning technology that connects data from all of their devices in one convenient, easy-to-wear watch or fitness band, according to Nikkei Asian Review businesses are already putting them to work to improve efficiency and productivity.

Not only is the aviation industry (including Japan Airlines) testing the use of smart watches, glasses, and headsets to enhance processes for check-in and aircraft maintenance, factories and other manufacturers are exploring the advantages of providing staff with wearable technology which allows them to work “hands-free.”
Referring to operations manuals and inventory becomes significantly easier when the information required literally appears before your eyes.

And global market research company Frost and Sullivan predicts that wearable technology is set to revolutionize the telephony industry in the Asia-Pacific region, with contact, business, and knowledge processing centers using smartwatches to monitor employee performance, send alerts, and keep staff on schedule.

This kind of connected activity translates equally well to retail, and provides a very effective bridge between business and consumer data and devices.

Using technology to connect data across business operations has the ability to deliver a seamless experience for both customer and sales assistant – here’s how it can work for brands looking to capitalize on the business benefits as well as the growing enthusiasm for wearables in the Asian market:

  • Customers receive a message on their smartphone as soon as they enter a shop
  • At the same time, a sales/service employee is told that the customer has arrived via a vibration alert on their smartwatch
  • The employee’s tablet then automatically shows the customer’s profile, previous appointments, requirements, wish list etc. where they can select the most relevant items and “throw” them to an interactive screen
  • The customer can then browse full product/service details and discuss their options
  • The customer chooses the right service/item for them and can use the screen to order/buy/book an appointment
  • The customer can then make any payments due via their phone
  • The employee’s tablet shows that the transaction has completed successfully and their progress toward sales/service targets is automatically updated for real-time performance monitoring
  • Finally, the customer receives an email receipt/booking confirmation on their smartphone

With advances such as Alibaba’s recent partnership with Xiaomi to develop a mobile payment system specifically for wearables, customer journeys like this will rapidly become the norm.

China alone currently has around 700 million smartphone and tablet users, which means it is the biggest mobile market in the world.

It makes sense for retail brands to make the most of the technological advances in wearables and mobile connectivity to deliver a service that acknowledges the market’s appetite for both digital and physical shopping experiences and brings them together in a way which not only satisfies the customer but also works for the business.

Combining this practical, business-focused approach with the unique marketing opportunities presented by wearables (and discussed in last month’s post) has the potential to change the way retail works in the vibrant and ever-expanding Asian market.