Decisions made off the cuff

The last five years have been a time of huge technological evolution for brands. This was something which I was lucky enough to be involved in at Burberry, one of the brands credited as being on the leading edge of embracing mobile. 

Back in 2010, I helped the CTO pen a speech to senior executives on digital transformation, designed to encourage them to become digital natives. At this speech, we distributed 150 iPads, which had just been launched, telling people to exploit the devices and use them to run the business. They quickly became regulation kit at Burberry. Why? Because the devices were beautiful and easy to use. They were self healing. They were intuitive. And virtually everything needed to run a global enterprise was available at an executive's fingertips. No data was ever held on the devices, instead they were an information gateway from an intricate ecosystem of carefully architected, enterprise-strength solutions designed to run a global brand.

The company never looked back, and has since become a leading example of how mobile can truly transform businesses.

Today, brands run faster, collaboration is an imperative and we are strategically connected via mobile devices. Speed is the new currency.

"The most dangerous place to make a decision is in the office. Make decisions at the point where it matters," Coca-Cola's Erfrischungsgetränke CEO Ulrik Nehammer told a London-based Salesforce World Force audience in May. Nehammer runs his business off of his phone.

This is why the Apple Watch matters.

At a recent London workshop, designed to provide UK retailers with insights on the strategic use of the Apple Watch on brands, Ross Sleight, chief strategy officer at Somo, said: "We pick up our mobile phones more than 200 times a day. What then, will be the impact on mobile connectivity as we glance at our watches hundreds of times per day?"

The 'appification' of everything

The Apple Watch is stylish and possibly my most personal mobile device, highly relevant to me because it is linked to my phone. It is task-centric and accurate, simply because it has more than 3,500 apps, many of which link to enterprise strength ecosystems.

Previously wearables and smartwatches have struggled with relevance to the wearer's overall life. Instead, they have focused on one task like fitness and health – and haven't been great at the accuracy of that task. These devices haven't had the power of any real ecosystem behind them and until the world caught its first glimpse at the apple watch, design and user interface aesthetics have been largely uninspiring.

The key difference compared to anything we've seen before is the speed of change. The sheer velocity of mobile adoption has been twice as fast as the internet, three times faster than social media and ten times faster than the PC. This has created a consumer-driven environment of which smartphones and tablets are a small, but essential part, as we start the adoption velocity of the Internet of Things. Imagine the impact wearables will have. 

Gartner predicts that this year, 50% will choose a smartwatch instead of buying a smart wristband and according to Forbes, 71% of 16- to 24-year olds want wearable tech. These are your interns, your new hires, and your second hires. Now the right mind-sets and infrastructure have been established, it seems Apple has once again got its timing accurate, reiterating the importance of doing something right, rather than doing something first.

"The interest in wearable technology underscores the growing consumer desire to be more digitally connected at all times," Accenture reported in its 2014 Consumer Technology Survey. "For these consumers wearable technology crystallises a complete digital lifestyle. New functionality in wearable devices and apps enables consumers to quantify, measure and access analytical data faster and more ubiquitously."

The era of big bang disruption

Will a glance at your watch provide you with instant access to the real time data you need to make business critical decisions?

I think so. And with marketing campaigns like "Run your business from your wrist," Salesforce thinks so too. Using "The Wave," its cloud-based analytics platform, Salesforce is surfacing data to the Apple Watch via apps aimed at helping us run our brands.

The Apple Watch is already accelerating connected device adoption with 24/7 personal, social, and professional connectivity through device delivered content and services. As Apple continues to tweak and update WatchOS, we'll only see an increase in its relevance and become an incredibly valuable medium for brands. 

At launch, the Apple Watch augmented the physical world with location. The device is hyper local and super contextual – it taps my wrist to tell me when to turn right or left when walking so I don't have to stop and stare at my phone in the glare of daylight without my reading glasses. (How many of you, like me, are older than Microsoft and need to turn the phone to align physical reality to the digital map before proceeding?)

Sleight predicts that within 18 months the device will become a remote control for our connected lifestyle: retail, car, health/fitness, home, self, and wallet.

Utility and relevance have driven enterprise usage-apps – major media outlets and airlines have already built experiences, aiming to deliver key information at just the right time. Apple Pay has been working in the US and arrived in the UK this summer with an impressive number of partners, including Transport for London, which means that users will just need to tap their wrist on terminals to travel across the city.

For retailers, the Apple Watch holds an incredible amount of relevance in terms of ensuring an unparalleled customer experience, providing important but simple notifications like when a VIP has arrived in store, or when vital stock is running low and needs to be re-ordered, or on the business side of things, when the details of an important meeting have changed.

How will you communicate with your consumers and your workforce who wear their technology rather than carry it? What impact will this have on your retail business? Will your strategy meet the demands of the empowered digital consumer/employee? Are you targeting and activating a digital eco system?

People ultimately make technology their own. So while Apple and every other smartwatch manufacturer will assume how consumers will use their devices, ultimately new unpredicted uses will emerge.

After all, we are limited by our ideas, not by technology.

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