Tech Trends: Wearables, WhatsApp, Instagram and Beacons

Posted on by Patricia Odell

At the recent ANA Brand Master Conference, Mashable’s senior technology analyst Christina Warren shared the what, why and how of three top tech trends all marketers should have top of mind.

1. Wearables: It’s not about the design, noted Warren. It’s all about the context. It’s delivering information based on where consumers are and what they’re doing.

The major wearable categories are:

  • Stuff for your face: Google Glass and other computerized eyewear.
  • Smartwatches: Pebble, the Samsung Galaxy gear line, Sony Smartwatch and many more
  • Fitness Trackers/Smart Bands: Nike Fuelband SE, Fitbit and Jawbone

There is massive market potential of wearables, Warren said. Canalys reported 1.2 million fitness bands were shipped in the second half of 2013, up 700% from the first half of 2013. The forecast calls for 8 million bands to be sold this year and reach 45 million by 2017, Canalys predicted. ABI research predicts that 7 million Smartwatches will be sold in 2014.

Opportunities for brands: Ask yourself, “is there something about the way people are using these that I can tie to my brand?” and then focus your campaign around the wearable demographic and utility, not simply the brand marketing. Take advantage of context and location when possible. Develop apps or content that fits the device. Google Glass doesn’t allow ads, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build an app. Look at successful early brand iPhone apps to generate ideas. Make sure your main website is responsive and mobile friendly because that’s more than likely how people will access things.

mercedes-pebble-355Mercedes-Benz Digital DriveStyle’s new app for the Pebble offers drivers quick looks at their wrists to get vehicle data, road hazards and speed notifications. Ebay has an app for the Smartwatch so users can look for products and add the items to Watch Lists by pressing a button. ESPN got in early with an app for users to get game scored and other information.

“ESPN was very smart to get in on this space early,” Warren said. “Brands can and should start looking at wearables now.”

2. WhatsApp & Instagram: “The hottest social networks are NOT Facebook and Twitter,” Warren said.

WhatsApp has 450 million monthly active users, 70% who are active daily. It gets 1 million new users every day and 19 billion messages are sent each day. Over 600 million photos are uploaded daily. The network has huge global reach with 100% year-over-year growth and it hasn’t even taken off in the U.S. yet. Facebook saw the value and recently bought WhatsApp for $19 billion.

“That’s a huge opportunity,” Warren said.

Instagram has its own set of impressive numbers. According to a study from the L2 Intelligence Report, 92% of prestige brands have an Instagram account. There are 150 million monthly active users. Engagement is 15 times that of Facebook’s with an average time spent monthly of 257 minutes,

Opportunities for brands: Ben & Jerry’s on Instagram is a good example, she said. It’s popular brand on Instagram averaging 20,000 to 25,000 likes per photo, numbers that jump to 300,000 for paid ads.

“The key is to make your content beautiful and engaging,” Warren said. “And try to integrate these technologies into broader campaigns.”

In another example, Absolute in Argentina used WhatsApp to publicize the launch of its new collection. It organized an exclusive party and created “Sven” as the doorman who would choose who would win tickets to the party.  Fans had to contact Sven via WhatsApp. The promotion generated more than 600 contacts and more than 1,000 videos and audio messages created exclusively to convince Sven to give them a ticket.

“It was the only way to enter contest and got a tremendous response,” she said. “Whatsapp is free. You can think about integrating it with a broader campaign or a one off to reach users of these services.”

3. Beacons: Beacons are low-cost, low-energy transmitters than can alert phones or other devices of their presence. Apple’s implementation is called iBeacon and Qualcomm Retail Solutions recently began offering Gimbal proximity beacons. Beacons work by using Bluetooth Low Energy that sends a notification or alert to a user’s phone. It can also trigger actions, like checking in on an app or adding a digital coupon to a wallet. Beacons are similar to NFC (near-field communications), but with a wider range and lower-cost.

Major League Baseball is using iBeacon indoor mapping to customize its At the Ballpark app so game goers can get easy access to lots of information, including where the nearest bathroom is located. And Macy’s in Union Square in San Francisco and Herald Square in New York ran trials last year pinging app users as they walk by products.

Opportunities for brands: “Beacons are similar to QR codes expect people might actually use them,” Warren said. Beacons can be a great way to build loyalty or call attention to product placement. They can be used as a way to enter contests, offer more information, generate leads or as opportunities to partner with other brands, retailers or venues.

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