Every time you think you’ve got a handle on the last big tech or marketing phase, a new one comes along. Hopefully you’ve already gotten mobile marketing down, because the next big thing for marketers to get on top of is the wearables craze. Many of the most popular wearables on the market today deal directly with health and we can expect that trend to continue as more tech companies realize how lucrative the market is. As such, while all marketers have good reason to pay attention to wearables, healthcare marketers have extra reason to do so.
The word “wearables” applies to a range of devices that, as the name suggests, can be worn by the user. For a population of increasingly sophisticated everyday tech users, a smartphone in the pocket just doesn’t pack the level of convenience now expected.
Currently, the most common wearables are fitness trackers like Fitbit and Jawbone that track health-related metrics such as the number of steps the wearer takes and their sleep patterns. The most talked-about — at least for now — is the Apple Watch; last year it was Google Glass, and who knows what it will be next month?
We don’t really know at this moment where the wearables market is heading, but all signs point toward continued growth in years to come.
What does this mean for you, the healthcare marketer? Marketing and healthcare are likely to be two of the industries most significantly influenced by wearables. These are four of the main opportunities (and concerns) that wearables will bring to healthcare marketing.
At this point, you can divide wearables into two main categories: those that are devoted to tracking and collecting data that also require a smartphone to reach their full potential, and those that offer screen real estate and app functionality on their own. Much of the current market share is dedicated to the former, but some of the biggest product releases of the last year (and probably the next) fall into the latter category.
For those devices, as with smartphones, marketers have the opportunity of delivering advertising messages on the device itself. Since consumers will be faced with an even smaller space for viewing on these devices than they currently have on smartphones, messages that are short and sharply focused will be the ideal mode of advertising in this space. Mobile devices and social media have already gotten your average marketer thinking in terms of short messages with contextual relevance. With wearables you’ll want to take that trend one step further into what’s been called “glanceable marketing.”
While medical tests and technology can aid diagnosis, doctors still largely depend on what their patients report to determine their healthcare needs. That requires regular visits and involves a certain amount of risk — the doctor’s ability to serve a patient is based on how well the patient can communicate what they’re experiencing.
Wearables can track valuable health information like heart rate, blood sugar levels, and body temperature that people aren’t always good at picking up on. That can give doctors a head start on diagnosis and, as the technology advances to become even more useful at tracking signs of individual health or illness, potentially replace some hospital visits with diagnoses delivered on the device in real time based on the data collected.
For marketers, this presents opportunities for useful content and apps. Did your patient’s blood pressure go up? Send them an article on five ways they can bring it down before they go to the trouble of setting up an appointment. You could even partner with businesses on apps that reward users for healthy activities with hyper-relevant offers — four hours of cardio this week earns you 25 percent off a doctor-approved smoothie at the health store next to your gym.
Think in terms of Jay Baer’s YOUtility concept — what doctor-sanctioned content can you create that will help patients at the exact moment they need it without requiring a trip to the hospital?
This wearables feature may be the most exciting for marketers. A tech device meant to be worn by the user at all (or most) times of the day potentially can collect loads of consumer data. It can track where people go and when, what their biological responses are to various stimuli throughout the day (including when they’re making purchasing decisions), and recognize their immediate physical needs.
How useful would it be to Gatorade to know exactly when a regular customer is starting to get dehydrated? Or for your emergency room to get an alert the moment one of your patients starts exhibiting the signs of a heart attack?
Marketers talk a lot about how important it is to understand our target audience and practice data-driven marketing based on their particular needs. While the web and smartphones have allowed us to make a lot of headway in doing so, wearables are poised to take it to a whole new level.
As much as we love our data, not all consumers are comfortable giving it up. We don’t want to lose the trust of customers, but studies that try to clarify how consumers feel about their data and privacy aren’t all consistent. Last year, about half of consumers said they were fine with sharing personal data if it resulted in a coupon or discount. But earlier this year, 90 percent of consumers in another survey said a discount was not enough to make it OK for businesses to collect information without their knowledge.
One thing all marketers should agree on is that we never want to find ourselves on the wrong side of consumers’ views on privacy. With wearables, that will mean being very careful to make all data-tracking apps and programs opt-in, and exercising the utmost discretion in how the data is used and protected once you have it.
Having a whole new category of technology to adapt to will mean more work and experimentation for marketers in the days to come. But it also means new possibilities for what we can accomplish in reaching our patients and building trust with them. We don’t know yet where the wearables market is heading, but we can get ahead in brainstorming how to make the most of it.