Empowering Brands with Wearables
Posted on 2016 Feb,24  | By Rasha Rteil

People are sometimes amazed at how we have become one with devices, machines, and the cloud. But overall, we’ve adopted this oneness with technology quite seamlessly; as we constantly seek to control our environments. Discmans evolved into iPods; Monocles to Microsoft HoloLens. Our mobiles enable us with the ‘nowism’ of tuning in to customisable experiences, while our smart TVs load personalised content on and off the cloud.

We are intertwined with the Internet; it is part of our everyday lives. We carry the internet in our hands, on our wrists, our waists, and our babies. We are much more receptive to wearable tech than ever before. While some brands might not be quite ready to fully embrace this new age, we’re undoubtedly not as far off as we may think. Internet of Things (IoT) enabled brands are poised to jump on the bandwagon and reap the benefits of this new wearable technology, as long as the put the consumer first and understanding their needs.

We don’t expect wearables to reach mass adoption point anytime in the next year, at least in MENA. So far only 7% of active internet users own a wearable device. A further 13% will consider purchasing wearable technology next year. Even among early adopters, 25% are using these wearable gadgets only for fitness tracking purposes. And at least half reported losing interest within six months. So are wearables doomed to be shelved as fails, along with the Segways and the Zune? Not quite.    

Adoption of wearables will depend on cost and scope of use. But psychology will also play an important role. At UM Labs, we believe opportunities abound for content within wearables.

That’s why we’re excited about creating connected content ecosystems for the wearable consumer.

In our view, now is the time for businesses to contemplate their relationship with this potential content goldmine. Offering a way for the consumer to connect easier, be happier, and more entertained, while on the move. It all rests on a fundamental human truth, people need things that help them improve their lives in some way.

To become a ‘necessity’, wearables need to help people improve their lives. For brands to leverage this successfully, they should consider this powerful psychological need.

At the Labs, we went ahead and mapped crucial trends that can help brands crack the attrition challenge and build a loyal following on wearables.



Show us a consumer who isn’t trying to improve in health, skills and knowledge, relationships, ethics – the list is endless. All too often though, good intentions are not backed up by consistent action. So now, connected consumers are embracing wearable devices that supercharge self-improvement by offering material rewards when they hit personal goals.

Some of you have probably bought a wearable tracker in the hope that it will inspire you to be more active. You’ve probably also learned pretty quickly how to reach your daily goals and left your gadget gathering dust in the drawer. That’s because people are apathetic. 
It’s much easier for us to relapse into bad habits.

So clearly, people need to be motivated, through positive or negative reinforcement. For brands, the go-to method has been to throw money, coupons or points at the problem. Getting a discount if I hit 10,000 steps a day is certainly one incentive that will work in the short term. 37% of Millennials would be strongly motivated to use a wearable device if it ‘rewarded those who frequently use it with loyalty points’ and 52% if the rewards were monetary. (Source: PWC, October 2014).

But our generation of immediate gratification forgets that positive behavioural change is a marathon, not a sprint. For inspiration that lasts the long haul, we need to be motivated by the right reasons. “I want to be able to run with my kids”, “I want to be more sociable”, “I want to be happier”. There are much deeper levels of motivation that are beyond the discounts or number of steps taken. Numbers alone are never enough to keep people devoted to the device.   

Digital self-tracking promised a self-improvement revolution. But a third of people who buy an activity tracker give up on it within six months. Now, consumers are looking to wearables for motivation as well as data.


What’s next for your brand?

For wearables to improve our lives, they need to set goals, keeping them within our sight and reach. Then gradually, move them further. Become the brand that helps your customers achieve their goals, and you’ll build powerful loyalty. Could you shape your next campaign around wearables and self-improvement? Think creatively about the rewards you can offer: money, points, discounts, and more. The Commercial Bank of Dubai offered rewards for running with a Fitbit or Jawbone.

August 2014 saw Chinese online media brand Tencent team up with gaming hardware company Razer in a deal designed to incentivize healthy behavior. The collaboration allows fans of Tencent's popular Timi Run Everyday game to purchase in-game rewards using exercise data recorded by Razer's activity-tracking smartband.



Middle Eastern consumers show no signs of slowing their dependence on real time info feeds. There is no such thing as ‘information overload’ yet. But absorbing all that information via a smaller screen on their wrist, through their smart watch, is proving to be a social intrusion. However, consumers will embrace truly intuitive, natural interactions with technology that allow them to process even more of the information (useful and entertaining) that they love.

For MENA’s millennials, demand for real-time information is intrinsically linked to the digital revolution. Now, they expect information tailored to their needs and delivered in a digestible, easy-to-understand format. The potential applications are endless, from ‘live’ billboards to embedded social streams, interactive news broadcasts and more.

The digital revolution has primed many consumers to expect – if not demand – smart, contextually relevant content in the form of alerts or notifications. They want more than raw data – they want it personalised, contextualised, analysed…


What’s next for your brand?

Think beyond the individual. Aggregate the preferences of the crowd to create an improved real-time experience for everyone.

 Go one step beyond real-time information and anticipate consumer needs. Smart brands will think about providing a solution before a problem happens.

An example is Lightwave, a wristband that aggregates audience data to enhance live events. The wristband tracks audience interaction (including movement, audio levels and temperature). It then interprets the aggregated data, sending it back to the performer and allowing them to customize the live experience according to the crowd’s reactions.



In addition to demanding more than just data, MENA consumers are demanding more natural forms of interaction with technology. That is, devices they can talk to, notifications they can feel, information that’s part of the ecosystem around them.

For UAE consumers, 77% want to use wearables to manage their lives, while 68% of Saudis and Egyptians want to use wearables to watch or create content. This is where wearables can create a natural extension for our existing actions, enhancing and amplifying them. Wearable technology already has an advantage. It is connected to our bodies. The next stage will be to leverage this strength in making the experience of interacting with technology more seamless.

So it wouldn’t be surprising if clicks are replaced by blinks, pick by voice, hand-shakes, or even more biologic reactions such as higher heart rate.


What’s next for your brand?

Engagement should become based on gestures, body motion and voice control. Apps on wearables need to become more adaptive, introducing gesture based and native in-stream content. If a smartwatch were to vibrate, the natural reaction is to check the screen.

Emirates Airline is capitalising on this response, becoming the first carrier in MENA to launch an Apple Watch app. Passengers will be able to review their list of upcoming trips, gain access to real time flight information, and receive timely notifications in case of changes like gate number or baggage belt.


"In today’s connected world, mobile technology plays an increasingly important role in the overall travel experience of our passengers” - Alex Knigge, Senior Vice President, Digital, Emirates Airlines.



Apple has started discussions with UAE banks about rolling out Apple Pay. Despite the presence of various similar solutions in the market, Apple Pay could become a game changer and enable the widespread use of the system.

Local mobile payments induced technologies such as Beam Wallet, recently teamed up with Al-Futtaim. So can we aspire to an ecosystem where the smart watch meets mobile payments and proximity marketing in retail spaces? Or are we dreaming too big here? 



Lily is the “Camera. Reinvented”. The top selling consumer drone in the market now, it films users autonomously while they wear a tracking device. Because maintaining the perfect duckface while tapping a touchscreen button is sorely testing humanity’s multi-tasking capabilities. Lily is introducing Drone Selfiecation.


What’s next for your brand?

Brands working with active influencers can use Drone Selfiecation to create more exciting types of content. Hook trackers on skiers, safari goers, Sahara campers, snowboarders. The hovering alternative to a GoPro adds the benefit of shooting footage of the users, rather than just a first-person POV.



So for 2016, here’s one approach. Build your inevitable ‘what to do with wearables’ discussion around how the wearable ecosystems can improve your consumers’ lives.

Think about the psychology of positive reinforcement and the oh-so human inertia that often stands in the way. Consider immersing them in entertaining stories, or making them feel noble. Understand that they are just human and will err, repeatedly. Anticipate their falls and help them get back on track. They will love you more for trying to fit in around their natural movements and lifestyle, and become an extension to their empowered self-being.  



Rasha Rteil is Head of UM Labs, UM MENA