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January 13, 2015

Are Wearables There Yet?

Posted by Amitabh Mudaliar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:59 AM

Retail conversations at National Retail Federation Big Show 2015 [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3kitsczNO0]

This week we're in New York City, in the midst of a mind-boggling trade show with thousands of sponsors, products, ideas, and exhibitors on display: the National Retail Federation's Big Show. I wish one of their stores would sell a device that tracked how many digital devices ever see the light of day! Chances are that it would be a very low number.

Truth is, the market for good, useful and seamless digital devices in the retail industry is a brutally tough one. Especially when you're the retailer that has competitors on all fronts - clicks and bricks. The product you need to be selling must have more than just a shiny exterior. That's why Samsung's curved TV set is making everyone take notice. Anyone who passes by the electronics retailer can immediately picture the curved set in his/her living room. That's always a good sign that the market is pining for the latest invention and flocking to your stores.

Then there are wearable computing platforms. Now that we're getting closer to actual market release of these devices, retailers are still working out a strategy around them. Wearables like Google Glass are certainly cool to look at. But, are they cool enough for retailers to seriously invest in and then figure out what to do with them later? Not yet.

Yet, the famed Internet analyst Mary Meeker predicts the meteoric rise of wearables. I have no doubt that this will happen. But, there's still a long way to go. Interestingly, the man who's credited with creating Glass, Babak Parviz, left Google for Amazon.com - where he is reportedly working on retailing's next big thing! This is important to note because Amazon.com excels in making a seamless retail experience for the consumer.

The bevvy of wearables at the NRF's Big Show are technologically impressive and are exceedingly advanced. I truly believe that the idea behind them is profound and will change the world. However, there are kinks to be worked out before they can really make a difference in retail and be the talk of the next Big Show. There is a lot of ground to cover first.

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