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Wearable technology will be game-changer for mobile: Forrester Research

PHILADELPHIA ? A Forrester Research executive at eTail East claimed that the combination of wearable technology, data and a consumer-chosen mobile interface will shake up mobile for marketers.

The Forrester executive spoke about the massive change that digital has caused for brands during the ?Marketing Innovation in the Age of Digital Disruption? keynote session. The session also gave attendees a better grasp on why brands are creating innovation labs as ways to test new types of technology for better smartphones, tablets and desktop experiences.

?There?s this sensor issue that?s going to be a big game-changer for mobile,? said Bert DuMars, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, Cambridge, MA.

?The reason I say that is, where are the future mobile devices?? he said. "Are we going to wear them as glasses as Google is proposing, are we going to wear them as watches as we all keep hearing is coming or are we going to wear them on our clothes??

Wearable mobile
Forrester Research recently conducted a survey which found that 28 percent of consumers were willing to wear sensors if they were included in clothes versus being tied to a specific device, which is the proposition behind smart watches and Google Glass.

The other interesting thing that Mr. DuMars sees coming down the pipeline is about screens.

Smartphones and tablets have become the way that consumers interact with things, which can be embedded within devices to feed data to the cloud.

The data can then be analyzed by the cloud?s intelligence and deliver the analysis to an app that a consumer is using.

The talk nowadays with mobile is all about next-generation experiences that are contextual, and wearable sensors are one of the more interesting ways of creating those experiences.

There are still several challenges with mobile sensors, including availability, price and getting the data to the cloud.

Additionally, privacy issues around aggregating the data is tough.

However, the up-and-coming technology does give marketers an interesting way to connect with individual consumers, per the Forrester exec.

?Marrying up the intelligence with the data, with sensors, with the mobile interface that the consumer chooses is the winning proposition,? Mr. DuMars said.

7-Eleven is an example of a brand that tightly integrates data via mobile to build stronger relationships with consumers.

For instance, an election-themed promotion encouraged consumers to pick between either a blue or red coffee cup in-store to vote for a politician.

7-Eleven could then pull data by county based on which coffee cups consumers bought.

There was also a mobile component to the campaign with mobile display ads and an initiative that built up 7-Eleven?s SMS program by doling out mobile coupons (see story).

The next step was to use the data to build out new apps via a hackathon. The winner developed an SMS app.

The 7-Eleven app also changes out content based time of day and location.

According to Mr. DuMars, 7-Eleven?s goal is to have 50 percent of in-store revenue driven by digital in 2020.

Innovation drivers
Digital is disrupting marketing across all areas of business, including content and commerce.

As proof that brands need to be constantly innovating and testing new types of technology, Nordstrom, Target, Walmart and Staples are all rolling out innovation labs.

According to Mr. DuMars, this is because these retailers are feeling the pressure from both smaller companies and competitors to stay ahead of the curve in digital.

Brands are also struggling to deal with shorter customer lifecycles, which is evidenced by the growth in mobile users.

The Forrester executive referred to these users as part of a group called perpetually-connected consumers who are constantly on their smartphones and tablets.

?Customer behaviors are constantly changing, and why are they changing ? they?re changing because of smartphones and tablets,? Mr. DuMars said.

?These are changing the way we interact, they are changing how they consume content, they are changing the way you shop and they are changing the way we interact with each other,? he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York