The Unexpected Role of Wearables in Retail

Retailers will snap up nearly 10 million wearables in 2022, predicts ABI Research, and not all of them will be tasked with ringing up sales and enhancing customer experiences.

Retailers are banking on more than just the Internet of Things (IoT) to drive sales and make customers happy. A new forecast from ABI Research indicates that stores are also increasing their investments in wearable devices.

The analyst firm predicts that in 2022, shipments of enterprise retail wearable devices will reach 10 million units after attaining a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38 percent. For comparison's sake, vendors are expected to ship just two million smartwatches, smart glasses and other wearables to retailers this year.

"As online retailers are gaining in strength, the remaining physical stores are searching for ways to encourage customers to return and shop with them," said Stephanie Lawrence, a research analyst at ABI Research, in a statement. "Wearable devices provide shop staff with the ability to look up stock-level information, request help from colleagues, and upsell other products, which helps to assure that the customer's needs are met."

Not all new wearables will be tasked with helping store personnel deliver positive customer experiences and ring up additional sales. Some devices will also help improve employee safety.

"Wearable cameras, such as those from Pinnacle Response, provide retail workers who experience robberies or threats of violence with a way in which to record interactions," noted ABI Research. "These devices help to calm down potentially violent situations, as it alerts the potential criminal to the fact that their actions are being recorded, and if that does not work, then the recordings are used as evidence."

Meanwhile, companies like personal alarm maker U.K.-based Skyguard are shipping lone worker protection wearables that enhance safety when retail employees peel away to accept deliveries, are working alone or have taken late-night or early-morning shifts. These devices can be used to call for help or create a record of sketchy and potentially unsafe interactions.

Businesses of all types are expected to make wearables a part of their device toolkits.

In a separate forecast, ABI Research said wearable device shipments will hit 118 million in 2022, up from 38 million in 2017. In terms of growth, the enterprise wearable segment of the market is expected to outpace the consumer side, with CAGRs of 25 percent and 13 percent, respectively. The healthcare industry is a big customer, soaking up 30 percent of wearable shipments.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Tags: Mobile Age, wearables, wearables for work

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