Posted by Matt Egan 28 October 2014
Would you like a wristband activity tracker with that? Get ready for free wearables from McDonalds and Starbucks
Why you'll soon be wearing McDonalds wristbands and Starbucks glasses. Probably.
You know a market is commodified when (a) supermarkets start selling own-brand items and (b) prices drop to next to nothing. As it was in the smartphone and tablets market, so it is in the wonderful world of wearables. Yes, no-one knows how popular smartwatches and -glasses are set to be, but wristband activity trackers abound and the consumer tech industry is determined that we will all be wearing our computers soon enough.
And the commoditisation is already taken care of. Because just as the super cheap Tesco Hudl told us that tablets had become an everyday purchase, so now we see the Aldi Activity Tracker. It's a wristband from the budget supermarket that tracks your exercise and it costs just £29. Wearables are now impulse purchases to be made when getting the weekly shop, it seems.
This is interesting on several fronts. For one thing it suggests that we are all paying a premium for activity trackers. Indeed, I recently had to replace my Jawbone Up24 after it stopped working, and I was pleasantly surprised at how amenable was Jawbone to replacing it no questions asked. Pleasantly surprised, that is, until it occured to me that the device I purchased for £125 was so easily replacable for the manufacturer. It probably costs pence to make and ship.
And if Aldi is knocking out activity-tracking wristbands for £29, it won't be long until they are available for free. (See also: Concerned about privacy? Avoid Android (and the internet itself).)
What your wristband says about you
This is not least because - like Tesco with the Hudl tablet - the benefits to manufacturers of wristbands reach beyond the profit they make from selling them. The Hudl is basically an extension of the Club Card, giving Tesco an insight into the viewing and surfing habits of customers about whom they already know a lot. I would posit that Jawbone's long-term profitability is based more on the massive amounts of user data it generates than on its ability to sell wristbands.
Which is why a recent survey from PriceWaterhouseCoopers makes for interesting reading. One of the survey questions asked the 1,000 respondents how excited they'd be about wearables from various brands. While Apple unsurprisingly came out on top, the bottom of the list is much more interesting.
Apparently, 18 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or very interested in wearable technology from McDonald's. The survey also found that 27 percent of respondents were interested in a Starbucks wearable, and 26 percent were interested in wearable tech from Coca-Cola. This has been widely mocked, in so far as it has been reported at all. But the bean counters are on to something here.
Imagine the benefits to McDonalds or Starbucks of giving away activity tracker wristbands with meals. It would be great PR: earn more unhealthy food and drink by exercising more. The fast-food vendor as fitness trainer. And it would be an incredible way of generating data about customers, and enticing them back into the store. Perhaps a Starbucks or McDonalds wristband would buzz when a certain amount of steps was achieved, and then use GPS to point customers to the nearest 'restaurant' in order to consume the treat they'd earned.
It sounds only a little far fetched right now. Trust me, it will happen. Free and cheap gadgets as a mean of generating loyalty and user data is already an accepted business model. And the more personal the device the better the data. So free wearables from your favourite brands is the next step on from loyalty cards. Coming soon to a fast-food joint near you. (See also: Smartwatches, the smartphone anti-churn device.)