Will Ads Change the Smartwatch Experience

Filed under Editorials by Adam Torkildson on November 17, 2016 at 3:51 PM

With wearables gaining popularity among smartphone users, it seems inevitable that advertisements will overtake our smartwatches the same way they’ve overtaken our smartphones. But smartwatches pose several interesting problems for advertisers: their small screens, and the necessity of linking them with another device. Plus, ads might cause users to lose enthusiasm for the smartwatch experience.

Smartwatch ads are Still New

Though smartwatches have been available for some time now, developers and marketers haven’t tapped into the potential for advertising on the wearables. Part of the reason is probably the screen size and the limitations of the technology. Right now, smart wearables need to pair with a smartphone. Otherwise, you’re just wearing a digital watch without Wi-Fi.

Another reason that ads are relatively unheard of on smartwatches is the technology itself. Wearables are still new, and developers haven’t tapped into everything they have to offer, yet. Designing apps that work on wearables is difficult enough. With the number of smartwatch apps still relatively low compared to the number of smartphone apps, it’s no wonder advertisers still focus their efforts and money on designing great smartphone ads.

Simplicity is key on a Small Screen

Instead of taking cues from smartphone ad design, marketers and developers will have to create a new ad experience for smartwatch users. Using GPS services in tandem with the apps someone uses most might create an opportunity for targeted notifications, like letting a book lover know that there’s a Barnes and Noble nearby. The screen is too small for much else; you’re not going to be able to explain or demo new products on a smartwatch screen. One key in advertising could hinge on piquing a smartwatch user’s interest in something you already know they like.

Ads Don’t fit all Watches Equally

A small screen is one thing, but not all smartwatches work the same. Android watches especially differ in their functionality, from watches that are sleeker than the Apple Watch, to simple wearables that only notify you of a few key smartphone functions. Because app design differs from smartwatch to smartwatch, some smartwatches don’t have as many available apps.

Once ads start to overtake certain smartwatch brands, users may start flocking to easy-to-use watches like the Samsung Gear S2 from T-Mobile the Uncarrier, with its more selective app store. Plus, its slightly smaller screen will make it difficult to design apps for, which is a good thing from a user perspective.

Screen Stealing ads Might Irritate Users

It’s annoying enough when you’re enjoying an app in your smartphone, and an ad with a timer comes up, preventing you from continuing with the app until a 30-second video plays. Will people put up with that kind of ad behavior from ads on smartwatches? Imagine if ads commandeered the alerts you receive on your watch: now, instead of knowing that you’ve got an important e-mail waiting for you, your watch will flash to show you that you need to buy something.

Because many people rely on smartwatches to reduce their dependence on smartphones, extra notifications for information you don’t want isn’t going to be popular. Especially if it happens in the middle of an important job interview or business meeting.

Will People Click Through?

If watch screens currently are mostly for notifications that you need to check your phone, will ads have success? Imagine: you get an ad for something vaguely interesting on your smartwatch screen. Even if the app looks fun or the promotion is a good deal, are you going to hunt down your smartphone to engage with the ad? If ad developers are smart, they’ll find an incentive to convince smartwatch users to do so, but discovering what those incentives are could prove difficult.

The right smartwatch ads could be quite effective, but only if advertisers don’t overwhelm smartwatch wearers. Developing ads that offer something different from what we all already get on smartphones and the internet is essential to keeping the smartwatch experience intact. The route advertisers take, and how users react, remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to watch in the months to come.

Comments are closed.