While Apple was announcing the final set of features for its watch on Monday morning, Wearables TechCon was taking place just 50 miles away. Wearables TechCon attendees were abuzz about the new watch, but not just because they wanted to purchase one: They were excited to see one of the world’s largest company validating the market opportunities for wearable devices.
John Feland, founder and CEO of Argus Insights, gave a keynote address on Tuesday that explored consumers’ thoughts on wearable devices. Argus Insights runs a proprietary algorithm across text data gathered from social networks to assess sentiments for brands. He said that Argus Insights has used this technology to help Best Buy determine why items were returned by consumers.
The most common reason, and one very important to wearable developers, is that the user experience was too confusing. Feland said that, historically, the most commonly returned items at Best Buy have been wireless routers, primarily because of the difficulties associated with setting up such a device.
The first 15 minutes of a consumer’s time with a new device, said Feland, are critical. He showed statistics he had gathered that showed Fitbit’s software on-boarding experience was too confusing for people, resulting in unsatisfied customers. The company quickly changed the tenor of its first 15 minutes of use, and as a result, users became more pleased and less likely to return it in frustration.
Sometimes, however, the reason for returns is something that would seem more innocuous to an engineer or product manager. Feland cited the high return rate for Samsung Galaxy Tabs shortly after Best Buy began selling them in its stores.
“People returned Tabs at double-digit rates,” he said. “When people got their Galaxy Tab home, they got excited. They get it out, they think about all the ads they saw, about how you could bring over your family movies, show people pictures and such. They get it out of the box, and go to sync it with their desktop, and there’s no cable. In order to cut the costs, Samsung had not shipped a USB cable with the box, so the first 15 minutes was packing it back up and taking back to Best Buy.”
Feland highlighted a number of other pitfalls for wearables developers, including those that come from consumer tendencies. He advocated that developers mold their devices around consumer expectations, rather than building something that might require a change in behavior from the user. “Disruption is bad for the consumer,” he said.
One of the things he said users are unhappy with about wearables is that smartwatches can’t handle the shower. While these devices may be waterproof, their touch-screens can be activated by drops of water, and thus someone showering with a smartwatch might accidentally call someone up.