SmartWatch research: How to generate mass market adoption

May 4, 2015


Over recent weeks we have been running user testing sessions, focus groups and digital depths for a range of projects. In each of the sessions we’ve touched on smartwatches for a few minutes. People we’ve spoken to were not recruited to be users, or even aware about smartwatches – they were there for other reasons and wearables were a topic of discussion we introduced out of the blue. In total there have been around 75 people.


Awareness is not knowledge


The vast majority have heard of smartwatches. There were a few blank faces with absolutely no recognition of what we were talking about, but around 75% were aware of the term and had seen or read something about them. But we are talking about awareness of the term - awareness of capability is virtually non-existent.


The initial sentiment is lack of relevance at the most basic level. Very few people were actually wearing a watch – most are using their smartphones to tell the time. This is good news for the industry as there is ‘space’ for this product – it’s unlikely to be competing with traditional watches. But manufacturers should realise wearing a wristwatch is a behavioural change that people need to become used to, so focusing on the beauty of wrist wear as well as the convenience of easy access to information will cause people to re-assess a smartwatch purchase.


Difficulty visualising usage


When it comes to functionality, people spontaneously think about communications. The ‘smart’ description cues ‘smart-phone’ associations and taking calls and SMS texts through the device comes to mind. Some react positively to this idea due to the perceived convenience, but most visualise talking into their watch (which can feel a little bit Star Trekky) and feel that their smartphone does this effectively already.


This also leads to the second barrier (behind relevance) which is visualising the interface. People naturally assume that everything on the smartphone screen will be squeezed onto a watch face. They ask how big it is. They imagine an email or text with words so tiny they cannot be read. The strategy here is simple: To clearly communicate how data is visually presented so that people become familiar with this new form of information.


Educating and inspiring


Once some of the really ‘smart’ features are described, such as convenient navigation, easy social media updates and activity tracking, their attention focuses and they become more open minded. Some begin to recognise a role for it in their lives. Strategies to dramatise the specific features (apps) that smartwatches offer – the convenience and ease of navigation when compared to holding a smartphone in front of you, or the reward of achieving a steps goal, or convenience of responding to a text without searching for a smartphone – will inspire new users.


One of the most powerful features of wearable devices is haptic feedback. This has been a focus of early reviews that has delighted users. However, this functionality is the most difficult for non-users to imagine as it is a new form of communication and will be a new experience for many. When we described it we saw blank faces. We think that over time, as people begin to witness early adopters using these devices, this feature will begin to become more prevalent – but for now, it’s the ‘secret’ feature that really makes the difference to users.


Sales driven by mindset, not Gen Y


Overall, whilst awareness of smartwatches is high, it only extends to the term and some basic functionality that is available on smartphones. That basic awareness results in a ‘what’s the point?’ attitude towards them for most people. After the AppleWatch was released at the end of April, people we spoke to had seen the media coverage but just a few had absorbed it in depth.


Of the 75 people we’ve spoken to over the past few weeks, around one in seven were genuinely interested in owning a smartwatch and recognised that as time went on they would become the norm. These people are gadget lovers – male and female – and not of any particular age. There is a great deal in the media about the Generation Y cohort which will be driving wearable category sales (Gen Y seems to drive most categories these days!) but at Clicked we believe that it is a mindset that will drive sales of wearables, not an age group.


Will SmartWatches succeed?


One specific tipping point towards mass market adoption will be the availability of smartwatches as a package offered by network operators. This has already happened with O2 offering the Samsung Gear S smartwatch on a contract and as this becomes more common their adoption as a useful device will grow. However, whilst some are naturally open to this new technology, there are challenges to persuade the mass market that smartwatches and their specific benefits are a worthwhile investment.


To speak to us about wearables research, or to hear more about our wearable technology tracker, please speak to Steve Mellor or Neil Russell on 0207 754 5415 or email Steve at 

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