Thanksgiving is just days away, signaling the start of the holiday season. Eat turkey, rest, and then shop… and keep shopping until you cannot think of any other gift you want to give to friends and family (or, of course, to yourself). And in this coming season, we can expect quite a few bargains and discounts to help nudge us into spending. But of course, the real art of gifting is finding the right product for each person… which brings me to the topic of smartwatches.
Once seen as somewhat of a niche product for the fitness-focused, the smartwatch has now moved well and truly into the mainstream market. According to NPD’s Connected Intelligence Smartwatch Ownership Report, an estimated 38% of U.S. adults now own a smartwatch, and this shopping (er, holiday) season will see plenty of discounts to help tempt yet more consumers back into toting a watch on their wrist.
But gift-giver beware. It’s not quite that simple when it comes to smartwatches (or activity trackers for that matter). There’s a potentially un-intended (we hope) message that comes with the gift of a smartwatch. As in “Happy Holidays, now start burning off that holiday goose, will ya?” Yes, that always goes down well… Of course, if your significant other has dropped enough hints about needing a smartwatch then it’s all fair game, especially if they were kind enough to leave details about the specific make and model so you can give them a “totally unexpected, but just what I wanted, how did you guess” kind of present.
Being slightly more serious, there’s a reason to be careful about the unexpected smartwatch gift: the likelihood that the receiver will abandon the device in the first six months of owning it is more than double than for consumers who buy their own device. And that is because the smartwatch is still seen as a fitness device (rather than a useful notification-and-beyond product) so as those New Year fitness resolutions die a slow death, so too does the smartwatch. Otherwise, it’s a constant reminder that yet again, you failed to hit your steps, your workouts, your cardio goals… you get the picture.
But rather than abandon all thoughts of giving an unsolicited smartwatch, perhaps it is time to change the perspective on who the gift is for. In the relatively early days of wearables, activity trackers were a big hit with kids, particularly in the 9- to 14-year-old range, who saw them as a fashion statement of sorts. Fast forward to the current era and we’re seeing an increased demand for smartwatches among the same demographic and that is perfect for parents. Beyond giving your little munchkins a holiday gift that they’ll be extremely happy with (presumably) it also gives parents a degree of communication with said kids.
Garmin is the latest smartwatch vendor to jump into this segment, with an LTE-based device that also has GPS – with geo-fencing. That means you can get alerts when the little ones wander too far, but it also supports calls and messages to a limited distribution list. All of that means the watch can be the first communication device you give your children and it’s much easier to manage than a smartphone that, potentially, lets the child browse the entire internet.
For smartwatch vendors, the opportunity is huge. This is not just about selling a device to the child; it’s about being the child’s first introduction to tech, and (hopefully) creating a loyal customer moving forward. That is less important for Garmin, with its limited ecosystem of watches and trackers, and far more important for the likes of Apple and Samsung who would hope that a loyal smartwatch wearer will translate into a smartphone user as they get older. And that strategy guarantees that we will see a lot more focus on the kids’ market in the coming months.