The advent of wearable technologies means big changes for small businesses. After being perhaps over-promoted as “the next big thing” for a couple of years now, wearables in 2016 look poised to finally come into their own—becoming an integral part of daily life for millions of consumers. As a small business owner, what does this mean for you? First, let's look at the current lay of the land:

1. Wearable tech is growing—and it's here to stay.

Wearable Technology for Small Businesses

As Wearable Technologies has it: “According to eMarketer, in 2015, 39.5 million U.S adults (18 and over) used wearable devices […] with an overall increase of 57.7% in 2014

As with other advances in technology, the youth are leading the way. From imForza: “MobiHealthNews observes that millennials are twice as likely to own and use wearable tech than adults 35 years and older, and they are also more willing to adopt tech devices earlier than older generations.”

With millennials and post-millennials becoming an increasingly large sector of the market— and the workforce—we can expect to see this trend continue.

2. The wrist is leading the way...for now.

By far the dominant trend in wearables up to now has been in wrist-wearables—ftness monitoring bracelets like FitBit and Jawbone's UP, and smartwatches like the Apple Watch and Pebble. Headsets and smartglasses like “Google Glass” can expect their market shares to grow. The common theme here is on hands-free devices.

The rise of powerful portables like smart phones and tablets has made high-level computing mobile, and the next step will be for tools that allow users to access that power without having to fish around in their pockets or purses.

3. Multifunctionality is key.

While still the largest single player in wearables, fitness bracelets will see their popularity plateau as smartwatches prove increasingly capable of integrating fitness functionality into devices that do much more. Moving forward, we can predict dedicated wearables to fall behind devices that offer multifunctionality, led by smartwatches—which will continue to become both less expensive and more powerful.

So that's where we are right now. What does the growth of wearable technology mean for small businesses? Three key takeaways:

1. Wearable tech will spur innovation in advertising and POS.

Smartphones have changed the game in advertising and point-of-sale, and wearables will continue this trend. For an overview of what wearables will mean for advertising, this article at Content Marketing Institute is a great place to start. Wearables will put even more of a premium on “glanceable” content, and the granular data made available by wearables will become even more important in microtargeting to make sure your message gets to the right consumers.

Regarding point-of-sale, Mastercard Biz has a great article describing some of the changes to anticipate as consumers move past mobile payment solutions to paying directly through wearables.

2. Wearables won't just change the way we buy and sell; they'll change the way we work, too.

As discussed above, wearable means hands free. As Margaret Jones writes at SearchMobile Computing:

“Because wearable computing devices let users go hands-free, there are a lot of ways they could be useful at work. For emergency personnel, search and rescue teams and mobile warehouse workers, wearables can provide high-tech mobility and tracking features. Smartglasses could be useful for technicians who need to consult a manual or a set of schematics while performing repairs[...] Any user who needs instant access to important data -- members of sales teams, real estate agents, lawyers, rural doctors, law enforcement and fire fighters, military personnel and more -- can benefit from using wearables in the workplace.”

3. Wearables mean changes to current business—as well as entirely new business opportunities.

It's true that wearable technology will change the way we do business. Adapting to changing needs in advertising and POS, for example, will no doubt cause some growing pains, especially for small businesses. But, as Sarah Patrick reminds us at Salesforce:

“Wearables allow businesses not only to bolster their brand by allowing their audience to access their content, products, and services on another platform, but also to expand the scope of the company by designing services and events with wearables in mind.”

In short, the advent of wearables will mean not only adapting older business models to new technologies, but also creating new models specifically designed to capitalize on the way wearables allow users to interact with the world. As we've learned with the rise of mobile and the Internet before that, small businesses that are open to innovation will be poised to reap huge rewards.

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