CCS Insight predicts a wearables market worth $34 Billion by 2020. While invisible, we are bathing in a world of wearable technology with multiple applications in retail, automobile, medical, and insurance sectors. And yet, the vast potential the fashion industry has for wearable technology remains untapped, with most experts agreeing that the problem lies in the lack of consumer involvements, according to the poor understanding.
Experts propose different strategies on how to make consumers interested in fashion tech garments. For example, some argue that for the fashion technology segment to take off, customers must show the willingness to keep wearing wearable technology apparel, until it becomes an integral part of their lives. Others insist that for consumers to wear fashion tech products, the design is critical, while there is this idea that only by creating a sustainable story behind such innovative garments brands can create mass market adoption.
Wearable technology fashion - Make them desire
Some key findings from the Accenture Digital Consumer Survey, which looked at consumers' receptivity to wearable technology in six countries, show that 52 per cent are interested in fitness wearables while 46 per cent are interested in smart glasses. A similar survey from Forrester shows that 25 per cent of fashion consumers are fine with smart sensors clipped to their clothes while 15 per cent like embedded technology into their garments. Moreover, 3 per cent would even have fashionable tattoos with smart sensors.
Truth being said, there's no point in businesses developing innovative garments packed with wearable technology if nobody buys them. For that, we argue that for the fashion consumer to engage in the consumption of fashion tech goods, long before these garments become a part of their daily lives, product aesthetic and style are paramount in incentivising them. Moreover, while fashion tech garments must have appealing aesthetics, there is the need to imbue them with social values and a sense of doing good by consuming them, if we want fashion consumers to buy them.
A 2016 IDC market survey reinforced the sentiment, showing that consumers interested in wearable technology feel that fashion retailers should put a significant focus on product design and aesthetics rather than technical features. In similar fashion, a Nielsen report from 2014 shows that 53 per cent of Americans expect wearable technology gadgets and accessories to look more like real jewellery.
And again, at this year's Wearable Technology Show in London, the expert panellists were unequivocal about the need for aesthetics in wearable technology fashion segment, and the importance of designing fashion tech garments and accessories that look good. Long before consumers pay attention to the technological construct and functional value of a wearable device, they should desire it first.
Wearable technology fashion - Make them feel
A growing body of experts argues that the intangible attributes of the product, such as design, branding, heritage, and the story behind the brand, are the subconscious drivers of fashion and luxury consumption. To oversimplify, to them, fashion has always been about how it looks and how it makes the consumer feel.
However, according to the PWC 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey, wearable technology infused apparel and accessories have become increasingly desirable among the general public. As the case, why do we want wearable tech-infused garments? Evidence shows that the apparel industry goes through a period of fast tech-driven transformations, with fashion brands working hard to capture the needs of the modern fashion consumer.
Wearable technology fashion - There's massive potential
In a recent WTVOX study, we asked fashion buyers to tell us how they perceive wearable technology in its current form, and what can make wearable technology desirable in fashion apparel and accessories. Respondents were allowed to choose as few or as many answers as they wanted, so the percentages won't add up to 100 per cent but we feel this approach gives a more accurate overall picture of the specific spread of opinions:
16 per cent feel more fashionable when wearing at least one fashion tech item, in the form of modern fashion apparel (embedded in wearable technology).
15 per cent believe that any wearable technology can make them look more attractive.
24 per cent think that by showcasing wearable technology infused garments or accessories other people perceive as more intelligent and/or successful.
32 per cent believe that the format that most available wearable technology products have poor and unappealing designs.
What lessons can be drawn from these findings?
There are several points worth highlighting here:
Wearable technology fashion - Consumer's needs first
First, and foremost, wearable technology is much more than just functionality. To become alluring and desirable, all garments and accessories augmented with wearable technology must be designed with the needs of the fashion consumers in mind. Adopting for the strategy of luxury brands, fashion tech garments should be able to arouse and satisfy
consumers' need for status, to belong, to be different, and the need to do good, as in having an ethical input, helping animals and the environment.
Wearable technology has a simple role. To improve and augment, with functional value, the garments and accessories of the modern consumer, such as smartwatches, connected jewellery and innovative textile clothes, as these are the only parts visible to the user's social circle.
If in the past, garments and accessories infused with wearable technology have been criticised for being too bulky and unappealing, the current generation of fashion tech apparel and smart accessories has started to put aesthetics and design at centre stage.
Wearable technology fashion - And the reason is...?
Second, as the market for fashion tech apparel and smart accessories is growing at an incredible pace, a new type of 'fashion tech / eco-conscious consumer' segment has started to emerge. Some experts argue that the segment's main driver toward the consumption of wearable technology fashion remains the need for status, in a contemporary world driven by connectivity, social media, and tech-powered gadgets.
And yet, wearable technology fashion garments are no longer just smart sensors thrown in fitness trackers, but have evolved into a complex ecosystem of fresh and innovative apparel.
Contemporary fashion tech garments are made from biomaterials such as leather from fungi and pineapple, textiles from algae, 3D printed rubber from recycled plastics, and lab-grown leather, all recorded on the blockchain. As such the statement that a need for status is what drives consumers' choice for wearable technology fashion, becomes something worth investigating further, in order to understand.
Nevertheless, if there is something to take from this article, it is that if your startup is creating wearable technology fashion, and wants to find the best way to target consumers, just try satisfying their need for status and you'll do well. Add a dash of 'ethical mission' to your communication messages, and you'll be on the path to global recognition and success.
This article has not been edited by Fibre2Fashion staff and is re-published with permission from wtvox.com