Wearables: The key to an immersive in store experience?

31 March 2017

According to recent research from PwC*, 55% of English consumers now own a wearable device with the most popular device being a fitness band (49%) followed by smart watches (37%).  A further 15%** of consumers purchase products using their next generation wearables. But why are consumers using these devices, what’s truly motivating wearers to be connected 24/7 and how can retailers take advantage of the growing trend? In this blog I’ll answer these questions and explore the myriad of opportunities that wearables present to retailers for creating an immersive in store shopping experience – one which encourages repeat purchase and brand loyalty.

Informed is empowered

Being informed is empowered when it comes to wearables. Consumers are seeking health and fitness information from their wearables – everything from exercise information (58%) to medical (56%) and dietary information (48%). A further 35% want instant access to emails and communications on the move, including text messages.  Many see their device as a way to stay productive with their time, if you like, an ‘always on’ personal assistant. Wearables are certainly becoming that reliable friend who never leaves your side!

Fitness bands

We’re clearly a health conscious bunch. A mighty 49% own a fitness band and we’re watching everything from our pulse rate to the number of steps taken. This preoccupation with tracking our health offers retailers the opportunity to link to the in store 

experience. Why not challenge shoppers to see how many steps they’ve taken round the supermarket and incentivise them to compete with other shoppers – offer healthy food as a prize?

If you’re a retailer running a wellbeing initiative or are simply looking to motivate store staff to move around more, a fitness band could be the incentive you’re looking for.  Gamifying using a fitness band doesn’t have to be just for in store colleagues either – how about a head office competition to get people moving around the office more?

For retailers looking to test out how popular products are in store – could it be possible for customers to connect their fitness band to an in store beacon to track how much their heart rate increases due to anticipation of a newly discovered product, and discover which pair of shoes is really getting them excited?

Smart watches

According to PwC’s Total Retail survey, 37% of English consumers own a Smartwatch and 54% are likely to purchase one in the next 12 months.  Shoppers are increasingly connected. Allow store visitors to use their smart watches to connect with in store beacons and offer push notifications with personalized deals, increasing the likelihood of securing an in store sale and making their visit more tailored to their needs.

Who needs to track down that elusive sales assistant when you’re in a rush round the shops? Shoppers could scan an item with a few taps of their smartwatch to discover additional product information.

The smart watch of the future will surely double up as loyalty card or payment device to be scanned at the point of purchase instead of having to fumble around to find that elusive plastic card you have stashed away somewhere inside your wallet.

Smart clothing

Smart clothing could offer retailers the chance to make sure their employees are moving the way they should and as often as possible – giving feedback on movement, posture and fitness for employees in both manual and sedentary roles, helping to prevent injuries and health issues caused by occupational hazards.

Smart glasses

Almost one in four English consumers now own a pair of smart glasses. The mind boggles with possibility when I envisage what could come to life behind the glass, especially if a virtual reality headset is involved. Could this be the golden ticket for high street shoppers to look around their future holiday accommodation or for time-starved house hunters to walk around a new property at the estate agent without taking a foot outside the agency?

One thing is for certain - the future is pretty exciting for wearables in retail and the in store experience; there are many avenues of opportunity to explore. I’d be interested to hear from UK retailers who’d like to share their experiences of using wearables to enhance the in store environment.

*The Wearable Life 2.0 Connected living in a wearable world from the Consumer Intelligence series is an update of PwC’s 2014 report on wearables.

** PwC Total Retail survey 2015


Craig predominantly works in the retail sector and specialises in advising private and Private Equity backed companies, helping them through their growth phase and towards exit. He has assisted companies through the IPO process on the UK AIM and Main Markets. Craig also has extensive experience of working with companies once they have listed either in the UK or US.

Craig is passionate about new business and is part of PwC London’s Entrepreneur and Private Business Leadership team. He is also the Assurance lead for PwC’s Total Retail thought leadership (the future of retail) and plays a major role in the annual campaign.

In his spare time, Craig is interested in technology, enjoys skiing with his family and is a keen supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC.