Imagine the following scenario: Rosa, an excited eight-year-old from Costa Rica, and her family have arrived in Orlando to celebrate her birthday at the Disney World Resort. Upon entering one of Disney World’s restaurants, they are greeted by wait staff, who address her family by name. Delighted by this welcome, they sit at a table where their food promptly arrives.
All this transpires without the wait staff asking the family where they would like to sit or what food they’d like to order. Rosa’s dad remarks that their rides were somehow conveniently timed. After lunch, they sight Princess Elsa on the streets. As Rosa approaches her for a photo, the princess bends down and whispers, “Feliz Cumpleaños, Rosa.” Her eyes open wide with joy at hearing a birthday wish in Spanish. This is magic, she thinks to herself.
To craft this “magic,” Rosa and her family have been wearing a MagicBand on their wrist. This wearable comes equipped with a radio frequency identification chip that broadcasts the wearer’s identity while at the Disney resorts. The waitress at the entrance of the restaurant received Rosa’s name on a screen while Rosa was steps away. She alerted the kitchen staff, who prepared the food that Rosa’s parents had ordered months ago (Kuang 2015).
Similar receivers in the restaurant’s tables and ceiling triangulate a customer’s location. Without having to ask customers, the wait staff know their order and where they’re sitting. Similarly, the actor in the Princess Elsa costume was notified about Rosa’s name and her birthday through her headset. On every step of this customer’s journey, MagicBand facilitated transactions for its wearer. Furthermore, tailoring the message in the customer’s native language put the final personalized touch on the customer’s experience.
According to a study by Dan Ledger and Daniel McCaffrey, user experience is identified as a baseline criterion for ultimate adoption and utilization of wearables. The wearable user experience must seamlessly transcend the hardware and the app to the point of invisible and seamless experience. This closed cycle of real-time data collection and analysis, of every step of the customer’s journey portrays an ideal case study for marketers who study consumer rituals.
The question that future marketers should ask themselves is, how can we weave wearable technology into the customer’s lifestyle to craft a more advanced customer experience? The following are some key considerations for companies looking to integrate wearable technology when designing customer experiences.
1. In the world of wearables, the customer experience is invisible and seamless.
While wearables are becoming smaller in size (Smith 2015), and companies like HexoSkin produce biometric fabrics woven into shirts, the driving force of adoption should go beyond the literal visibility of technologies.
Marketers should recognize that wearable adoption can transcend an invisible experience when the technology, intertwined with fabric and body, act seamlessly to deliver utilization and transaction to customers. Customer expectations regarding waiting times are formed through accumulated experience(Zohar et al. 2002). Marketers can learn from wearable convergence with environmental touch points to integrate frictionless transactions into customers’ lifestyles that would reduce waiting times at each stage, from opening doors to paying for food.
2. Personalization is key to a seamless customer experience.
Customer-centric businesses can enhance customer engagement by delivering a transparent and personalized experience. James Gilmore and Joseph Pine’s “four faces of mass customization” states that “transparent customizers provide individual customers with unique goods or services without letting them know explicitly that those products and services have been customized for them.” For example, customers are not privy to the knowledge of how Disney World’s staff locates their dining table or speaks in their native language. Wearables allow businesses to deliver a transparent customization.
Furthermore, wearables can create a customized cultural experience by lowering language barriers. For instance, Waverly Labs has created earpieces that seamlessly translate dialogue in different languages between two people.
3. Invisible customer experience requires data analytics, but what about privacy concerns?
The future of customer experience design is about giving customers what they want, before they even know they want it. Wearables can collect massive amounts of data that can be used to analyze consumer behavior from fitness to spending patterns, which can, in turn, be used to provide customized promotions. Achieving this task, of course, comes paired with privacy concerns over data collection. A great way to overcome this negative aspect is through experimentation within a controlled ecosystem.
Take for instance the Nimb Smart Ring, which acts as an accessible SOS beacon, broadcasting one’s location to both loved ones and emergency response services in case of an emergency. When the benefits provided outweigh the consumer’s security concerns, a trade-off is facilitated.
4. The future of wearables will be about dialogue.
Whether the customer taps a touch point or a waitress receives a broadcasted signal, today’s wearables limit customer experience to a one-way interaction from the wearer to the receivers and data servers. The customer experience can be elevated by significantly leveraging two-way communication where technology transforms the customer from a passive element to a dynamic player.
Rosa is now growing up in a world where wearable technology will shape every facet of her lifestyle. Not only will she enjoy an enhanced experience, but also she will be able to personalize the environment around her. Perhaps one day, she can create magic in the real world, but until that day comes, she can always fly to Orlando to get a glimpse of the future.
Gilmore, James H. and Joseph B. Pine II (1997), “The Four Faces of Mass Customization,” Harvard Business Review.
Kuang, Cliff (2015), “Disney’s $1 Billion Bet on a Magical Wristband,” WIRED.
Ledger, Dan (2016), “Inside Wearables Part 3: The Rocky Path Towards Personalized, Insightful Wearables,”Endeavour Partners.
Ledger, Dan and Daniel McGaffrey (2014), “Inside Wearables: How the Science of Human Behavior Change Offers the Secret to Long-Term Engagement,” Endeavour Partners.
Smith, Andrea (2015), “Rise of the (nearly) Invisible Wearable,” Popular Science, 287 (1), 17.