If Mary Meeker is right, you and your friends will be sporting your own pair of Google Glasses as early as next year.
Meeker, a respected venture capitalist who is hailed by many as the “Queen of the Net,” recently gave her annual State of the Internet presentation. One of her biggest predictions was the beginning of what she referred to as the “third cycle.”
Meeker explained that while product adoption cycles for smartphones and tablets are still in their early days, the beginning of a third cycle—led by “wearable” technology, such as Google Glass—is already under way. In the next few decades, we will see the emergence of wearable computing: think Google Glass, fitness tracking bracelets, and wearable computers. While technology cycles historically last 10 years, wearables and similar technology are arriving much stronger and sooner.
Compared to current mobile technology, wearables offer a number of important advancements for consumers, according to Meeker’s presentation. They are:
- Hands-free, controlled with your voice and gestures.
- Always on, with lower power consumption.
- Environmentally aware, thanks to GPS, accelerometer, and other sensors.
- Attention grabbing, with users exposed to fewer distractions when receiving alerts and messages.
As the CMO of a software development company, I think the early arrival of the wearable era spells marketing opportunities and challenges. Meeker's presentation highlights four important factors to keep in mind regarding the age of wearable computing.
1. Innovation Will Persist
Thanks to passionate and entrepreneurial people, the next big thing is always just around the corner. For example, Pinterest and SoundCloud were passion projects that became disruptive businesses. Software is already eating the world—and the wearable era will only accelerate this. Wearable technology will encourage empowered entrepreneurs to continue to create more exciting products and platforms that will drive industry innovation.
To prepare for the wearable era, CMOs need to stay ahead of the technological curve. CMOs are already investing heavily in technology, and we need to continue to do so. CMOs also need a solid team who understand the importance of multichannel marketing and that can keep up with the technological changes ahead.
2. Social Sharing Will Grow Exponentially
In the U.S., only 15 percent of people share most of their lives online, which is far below the global average of 24 percent. As Google Glass and other wearable technology make social sharing easier, this number will increase.
Social sharing is already huge, but it will only get bigger because of the growing popularity of short=form content. For example, Meeker’s data showed that Snapchat users already share more than 150 million photos (or “snaps”) every day. Similarly, more and more folks are using Vine to share six-second videos.
In addition to short-form content, people are starting to share audio files. Meeker’s data revealed that SoundCloud users upload 11 hours of audio per minute, while WeChat’s user base grew significantly this past year.
As consumers use more platforms to share pieces of their lives online, marketers will be tempted to join the conversation. As CMOs, we need to lead our teams to produce clear and fast messages that will resonate with our target audiences across diversified platforms. To rise above the noise, marketing teams need to deeply understand their target markets and find ways of leveraging new social arenas to build an emotional connection with consumers.
3. Big Data Will Only Get Bigger
More social sharing as a result of wearable computing means one thing: more data. As such, the volume, variety, and velocity of big data will continue to be overwhelming.
For big data to turn into actionable insights, marketers must organize and make sense of what’s available. Researchers in marketing teams need access to technology that will allow them to understand data coming from new forms of sharable content. Extracting consumer insights from emerging forms of content (audio, short form, etc.) will be a key issue for researchers in grasping and understanding data. We need to speak and listen to our customers more than ever and connect the dots on data and consumer insights. The role of data scientist has already been billed as the sexiest job of the 21st century; as CMOs, we cannot afford to ignore the increasing importance of this role as we enter the age of wearable technology.
4. Customer-Centric Companies Will Win
According to Meeker, the reimagination of business processes is alive and well. Hot companies, such as Kickstarter, Airbnb, and Uber, aren’t solving new problems; they present creative technology solutions for existing day-to-day issues. These companies share some common notable traits:
- Frictionless technology: They empower consumers to easily achieve a goal or solve an issue. Kickstarter, for example, lets people easily raise funds for projects and causes they care about.
- Collaborative, social, and open: For example, Codeacademy is accessible to anyone. It’s also interactive, allowing people to connect with friends as they learn how to code.
- Accessible and on-demand across any device: Spotify users can listen to their favorite tunes on their phones, tablets, and PCs any time they want.
The real opportunity for wearable computing for companies is in providing innovative products and services that address customer problems. Even as new platforms emerge, companies don’t need to solve new issues; they just need to reimagine solutions to existing processes. As the team that often interacts with customers, CMOs and marketing teams are in a unique position to help drive innovation in their companies. To uncover consumers’ unmet needs, marketers need to actively engage customers from the start and on an ongoing basis.
More importantly, consumer engagement plays a role in deciphering the personal data that companies will have to sift through as a result of wearable technology. While transactional, behavioral, and social data can help reveal what people do with new forms of technology, only consumers can explain the how and the why of their purchasing behavior. To make sense of big data, marketing teams will need to use technology to lead the charge in engaging consumers in a variety of ways, including social media platforms and insight communities.
Some people may laugh at wearables or dismiss them as a passing trend, but as Meeker pointed out during her presentation, some people also doubted Amazon, PCs, and the Internet. Wearable computing is upon us, and I don’t think my fellow CMOs can afford to go into this new era without preparation. The potential is enormous. Staying ahead of the technological curve and talking to real people—your consumers—can help you drive the innovation process and gain insights from the big wave of data that wearable computing is about to bring us.