Wearable technology has been THE hot topic in the tech industry. Fitness bracelets tracking the user’s amount of footsteps and sleeping behaviour have already been introduced some years ago. In the past months smart watch technology has attained increased attention in the media. However, the wearable trend goes even further now: smart t-shirts, rings, and miniature electronic devices got introduced recently.  According to multiple different sources the adoption of wearable technologies is expected to soar (PDF) in the years to come . Various industries are affected by the rise of wearable technology, amongst which are entertainment, communication and media, health, retail, and technology. Particularly health and fitness applications like capturing blood pressure, pulse, respiration etc. are the driving force of success of wearable technology.

For firms engaged in the development and marketing of wearables it is of utmost importance to understand the motivational factors underlying the intention and decision to buy new (wearable) technology. From a management perspective, understanding the human psychology in the development of buying intention and actual purchase can play a major role for the success or failure of a product. For example it is interesting to know why some wearable technologies like Google Glass are so much less successful than others like GoPro. The questions product managers should ask themselves are:

Which factors impact the adoption of technology in a consumer context?

Let’s have a look at some fundamental studies about technology acceptance. There are numerous theories and models about the understanding of new technology adoption. Among these models are the Theory of Planned Behaviour , the Decomposed Theory of Planned Behaviour, the Technology Acceptance Model, the Model of Technology Adoption in Households, and most recently the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology. Some of these models stem from the field of broad social psychology, and others specifically integrate technology adoption.

Generally, three elements are found to be pivotal for the purchase of technology: Attitudinal, normative and control beliefs. These three categories mainly determine behavioural intention which in turn impacts actual behaviour. Attitude is measured by determining effort expectancy, perceived usefulness, ease of use, and perceived playfulness of a technology. For the formation of normative beliefs social influence and the media play a key role.

Perceived behavioural control is about having access to the necessary resources to engage in an activity. In a technological context it can be determined by the fear of technological advances, the price value of a product, the fear of declining costs, and other more general facilitating conditions like available monetary resources.

Wearable technology adoption in society

Looking at these fundamental elements, it gets clear why some promising innovations just didn’t make it. Consider for example Google Glass which was stopped being sold for consumers this January. Everyone could see the great potential behind this new innovation, but still sales were more than disappointing. One problem with Google Glass was that nobody really knew how to use it (Read: 12 Months with Google Glass. Where is Google Wrong). However, effort expectancy also known as user friendliness was identified as THE most important variable for the attitudinal construct, which in turn is most decisive for the formation of buying intentions. For product developers this means to bear the ceteris paribus principle in mind: humans go for options that yield the greatest benefit for the least amount of effort. Furthermore, Google did not succeed in creating facilitating conditions in the purchase situation. There was no easy way to buy the product, and once Google had established an adequate distribution infrastructure, it was already too late. Also the secondary source influence was missing since there was no big marketing offensive in the consumer media.

All in all, bringing technology to people is a challenge. New technology is often clunky in its beginning phase and not yet completely user-friendly. This insufficiency coupled with a poor marketing strategy and other obstacles like high perishability of the technology can make or break a product launch.


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