THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CONSUMERS, WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY AND FASHION BRANDS

By: Jeff Tsui, Senior Director, Lightspeed GMI APAC (Kantar, WPP Group)

Date: May 2015

Asia Pacific was home to 34% of the worlds, connected wearables last year. It is estimated that by 2025, the global wearable technology market will be worth some 70 billion U.S. dollars. So far, fitness and health related functions are dominating the space, as well as devices that can form linkage to functions currently available in a Smartphone, such as GPS. But is this just a playground for the big tech companies and early adopters? Or is this a significant shift in the way we will lead our lives? The key question this piece of market research aims to discover, is whether or not we actually know our consumers well enough, in terms of their acceptance and expectations of such products. Are consumers in Asia Pacific playing catch up, or are they actually leading this trend in consumer wearable technology? How can marketers and manufacturers succeed in this area?

Awareness, Ownership and Usage

Unsurprisingly, the most prevalent item identified by respondents in their description of wearable technology was the Smartwatch. The top three wearable tech products our respondents are aware of are, Smartwatches (86%), Glasses (69%) and Arm / wrist wear (55%).

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Actual usage, as expected, was a lot lower compared to awareness. 21% of all respondents claimed to own at least 1 wearable tech product, but interestingly as much as 1/3 of those said their regular usage had dropped off since they first purchased. 41% claimed they do not own one at present but are aware and interested to find out more. The remaining 38% claimed that they are not too interested at all.

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These findings are inline across the 9 countries surveyed, with New Zealand having the lowest ownership and highest not interested rates. Surprisingly enough, developing countries such as Malaysia and China show the highest ownership and interest levels. In all countries, amongst those current owners or those interested there was a heavy skew towards males aged 25-44.
Ownership of Smartwatches came in highest (24%) while other products recorded an average of only a few percent. The results seem to indicate that countries in high growth are leading the way. China & Malaysia recorded the highest ownership figure, almost 1/3 claims to be existing users. Whereas Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore recorded similar figures at an average of 20% and Australia & New Zealand were just 11%.

Of no real surprise, over 70% claimed that they would buy wearable tech products for personal use, and only 8% said they would use it for business purposes. Some also mentioned they would buy wearable tech products as gifts.
What appeals
“Convenient” (33%) was strikingly the key benefit.

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A Lightspeed GMI Hong Kong respondent who recently acquired an Apple Watch mentioned, “it is very convenient and can make better use of fragmented time. It is a device which allows me to quickly access information on my iPhone. Prior to having the Apple Watch, I probably peek at my iPhone hundred times a day. While with Apple Watch, I just need to raise my wrist a hundred times during the day, while there are usually only ten times I really need to take my iPhone out for a long reading or replying a message ”. The same panelist also raised the benefit of the Apple Watch saving battery on his iPhone.
Other important reasons are being on trend and to be seen as high tech. Interestingly, not many mentioned the actual functions of wearable tech products as the core appeals.

What doesn’t appeal

As for the cons, there was perception that existing products are expensive, short battery life, data privacy related concerns, or dislike the fact of wearing too many devices or that it requires linkage to other digital products.

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In a separate question asking specially if respondent thinks most wearable technology products available in the market nowadays are ugly, and lack fashion sense. Across all 9 countries, 47% commented that they “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” with the statement. A lot more female vs. male respondents claimed that wearable tech products are “usually ugly and does not match my taste or outfits”.

With the existing wearable tech products available in the market and their functions, many are still not convinced that it is worth the effort in carrying more devices with them. This finding suggest that people would prefer to have wearable tech products that he or she would normally wear anyway, such as watches, jewelry and footwear, rather than carrying an “extra” item per say.

A Lightspeed GMI China respondent mentioned:

“The main issue with the wearable tech products that I am aware of, is that it does not have many additional useful functions that my Smartphone cannot perform. I am not entirely sure what additional functions I want, but they need to be something innovative, looks good, and desirable that can give me real practical benefits.”
Battery life is often an initial downside of many newly launched electronics. Whilst this is currently an issue for respondents in this study, it would be expected that this will be worked and improved upon for future versions.

Although it didn’t make it to the top, still 11% of our respondents had concerns over data privacy of such wearable tech products. It is difficult to provide a fair comment on this point, as we believe the level of data security setting / ability is probably very different between devices. However, it is fair to say that this is a point marketers would need to address, potentially turning it into a positive selling point if the device they are promoting can eliminate or minimize such data privacy concerns, both to the users themselves or the general public at large.

Purchase intention

Overall, 31% of respondents claimed they will “definitely” or “likely” buy a wearable tech product within the next 12 months. However, a higher 44% claimed “unlikely” or “definitely won’t buy”. This suggests that, with many early stage technological launches, initial uptake is somewhat polarizing. Often, and as seen with Smartphones, this can rapidly shift to faster adoption after the preliminary phase, especially if some of the concerns outlined in these results can be resolved.

In terms of country differences, there are more positive intenders in China (60%) and India (50%), while Australia (62%) and Japan (61%) seem to have more outright rejecters. Japan is a bit of a surprising finding, as most would thought Japanese people tends to be more high tech and skew towards early adopters. While for the “mid-tier” markets in APAC (i.e. South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore), those that are “unsure” represent the more sizable chunk.

Brand Association

As would be expected, the top three brands which respondents associate consumer wearable tech products with are Apple (73%), Samsung (56%) and Google (45%).
An interesting finding here is that, although all fashion brands included in the pre-defined brand list scored lower than the top three brands, Rolex (13%) came on top. Our hypothesis was that some of our respondents may be thinking that a

Rolex Smart g3 watch will appeal, by combining digital technologies with their craftsmanship, quality and a luxurious brand image.g4

To test the concept of cross over between fashion brand and wearable technology, a still image was also presented to the respondents, of a newly launched product by Swarovski, named as Swarovski Shine. The image shows the prototype of a recently launched activity tracker, which Swarovski claim that it does not require a battery. This product is targeted specifically for the fashion conscious female segment. i.e. the core targeted consumer segment for Swarovski. This Swarovski product is a co-creation between tech startup Misfit Wearables and Swarovski.

The top two boxes (i.e. Prefect idea, Sounds good) recorded was very high, at 48% on average. In developing markets like China, India and Malaysia, this reached as high as 53%-83%.

This illustrates why I believe cross over between technology and fashion brands will work when it comes to co-creation of consumer wearable tech products. This example from Swarovski demonstrated that it has not only attracted a possible new segment but it has also provided an actual solution for the short battery life concern many might have on wearable tech products, as discovered elsewhere in this survey.

After all, the survey also revealed that consumers are open to the ideas of not only watches, but also wearable items such jewelry and footwear, presenting the opportunity for more collaboration between technology & fashion brands.

 

Advice from consumers

Aside from the absolute need to look nice & fashionable, the top 3 tips our respondents gave to brands or manufacturers who are thinking of launching wearable technology products were:

1) Think of ways to enhance the value of wearable tech products can bring, don’t treat it as a physical product alone, but also provide correlating or follow up services (21%)

2) Come up with functions that are more useful & relevant for different consumer segments (21%)

3) Come up with something that is more affordable (15%)

Consumers are looking for a true value add, rather than an additional device that can perform the same or similar functions as devices they already have, such as a Smartphone. A wearable tech product that looks nice & fashionable is as important as the functions it can bring, and this is what we believe where the biggest opportunity lays, for technology and fashion brands to collaborate to come up with wearable tech products that our consumers truly desired.

 

Research Design

Through Lightspeed GMI proprietary online consumer panels, we have interviewed 2,407 consumers during April 2015, through a short online / mobile survey, with respondents coming from 9 countries representing different parts of the Asia Pacific region, covering both developed and developing countries. The countries covered were Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.

To achieve representation, aside from ensuring our respondents are from a good spread in terms of demographics, we have also included different sub groups, namely 1) Current users of wearable technology device(s) 2) Those that are aware / intend to buy 3) Rejecters.

The survey is designed specifically to be short, to get a “pulse check” of the different topics mentioned. This survey included both quantitative and qualitative findings.

 

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