In My Opinion: Richard Gill: Wearable technology – an advertiser’s perspective

THE growth in internet-connected devices continues to create new advertising opportunities for businesses to reach highly-targeted audiences with tailored messages.

April, for example, marked the launch of the Apple Watch in the UK in what could be a landmark moment in the growth of wearable technology.

Where any new device on which media content is consumed is brought to market, advertising opportunities are never far behind.

But while this is an exciting opportunity for the advertising community, it also exacerbates an industry challenge – how to accurately attribute the value of a particular advertising message back to a consumer action.

The great strength of digital marketing is that it provides instant feedback to advertisers about how consumers are responding to their adverts.

However, the truth is that industry standard systems have not yet cracked the problem of consumers being exposed to advertising messages across multiple devices, prior to making a purchase on a single device.

Let’s look at a simple example.

If a customer browses the web for a new pair of shoes on their work PC on a Monday morning, continues to research on their mobile phone through lunch, then makes a purchase on their tablet that evening, it’s a significant challenge to join up that user journey and understand all the touch points that may have influenced the ultimate purchase decision.

This was already a challenge when consumers accessed the web through several devices; adding ‘wearables’ to the mix increases this complexity enormously.

As you might expect, the industry is working hard to solve this problem through both improved technology and enhanced data analysis techniques.

But the solution needs to go beyond measuring online sales only.

The UK market leads the way in online sales as a share of overall retail purchases, but even still around 85 per cent of all retail transactions occur in store.

It simply isn’t good enough for businesses to be focussing all of their attention, from an attribution point of view, on such a small share of their overall business.

Google have recognised this and stated that their top priority for 2015 is to make major progress in this area.

In recent years, they have partnered with agencies to bring more clarity to this area through research studies, but the next step may be to capitalise on physical in-store beacon technology which is now being tested in US high street retailers.

The premise is that these beacons can communicate with connected devices such as smart phones or watches, and allow the retailer to send targeted messages to the device, or track an in-store purchase back to an online interaction such as a web search or website visit.

This would be a much welcomed leap forward in helping businesses answer the all-important question: for every £1 I spend on marketing, how much do I get back?

Richard Gill is managing director of UK-wide digital performance marketing agency iProspect, based in the company’s Scottish office.

He is the current Rising Agency Star, from last year’s Marketing Society Scotland Marketing Star Awards. This year’s awards are taking place on the 18th of next month, at the Glasgow Science Centre.