Wearables pose a challenge for high street retailers


Today the Apple Watch has been made available to pre-order, but it would seem that wearable technology is posing something of a problem to bricks and mortar retailers, with current and potential owners preferring to buy online than on the high street, YouGov research suggests.

The latest Wearables Tracker shows that high street shops are struggling when it comes to selling wearables, finding that 62% of wearable owners bought their device online, with Amazon the biggest purchase destination (31%). It is a similar story among those in market for the devices where 56% think they will purchase their device online.

YouGov‘s research suggests that as wearables enter the mainstream and early adopters give way to a wider consumer market, there is an opportunity for high street retailers that can properly showcase the products in-store.

Supposedly, current owners who conducted research before they bought were significantly less likely to have browsed or learnt about the ranges of these devices in-store than those still in the market for a wearable device. YouGov found 72% of current owners researched devices, of which just 16% went into a store to check out the wearable before buying. However, among those in the market for wearable devices who plan to research the product before buying almost half (86%), almost half (47%) plan to go into a store to find out about the device.

Russell Feldman, Director at YouGov said: “Wearable technologies are an odd beast in that they are both high-tech versions of existing wares and also an emerging distinct category. As wearables increase their scope to include the likes of rings, jewellery and accessories, retailers will have to answer a simple question: where should they put them in the shop? Do smartwatches sit along consumer technology or alongside the timepieces? Do fitness bands go in the sports section or in a special wearables one? Unless these questions can be answered definitively and in a unified way across retailers, consumers could end up shunning bricks and mortar retailers out of sheer confusion.”

The scale of the problem facing bricks and mortar retailers is shown in data from Wearables Tracker that finds almost three times as many current owners bought their device online (62%) as in-store (22%).

YouGov found that the reasons for purchasing online and in-store differ by channel. Although convenience was the most important factor across both, among online purchasers price came second and good stock in third place. However, when it came to those who purchased in-store, good customer service was in second place followed by providing good information. Among bricks and mortar customers just 11% said good stock selection was an important factor.

Feldman continues: “Given wearables is a relatively new category, reassurance and advice is key among new purchasers. If high street retailers were better able to promote themselves when it came to their stock and position themselves as a destination for wearables they can start to try and take some share away from online retailers. Although we are likely to see many consumers grazing in-store and then purchasing online, were retailers to be better at showcasing these devices to consumers it is likely they would at least increase their share of this new lucrative market before it slips away from them completely.”