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How Smartwatches Like Apple Watch Could Affect Consumer Shopping

By wearing a smartwatch, consumers could soon get special customized offers on the things they normally buy sent to their wrists as they shop in stores. Let's ponder this idea for a moment.

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With Apple Watch set to go on sale on April 24, it's only a matter of time before more people start using smartwatches. Apple fanboys certainly will desire them, but many other consumers will likely be intrigued as well.

That means that marketers and retailers are already seeing dollar signs and opportunities for what smartwatches can mean as on-the-wrist electronic billboards for their products, services, advertisements and even discount coupons.

Josh Marti, the CEO and founder of Point Inside, a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based mobile shopping platform that links consumers to deals and products, said he thinks the expanding use of smartwatches will bring new and different shopping trends compared with the ones we see with smartphones today.

While smartphones already allow consumers to have apps with special deals from their favorite retailers, smartwatches will allow special deals to pop up on a wearer's wrist, without them having to fumble for a phone in a pocket or purse, said Marti.

And while that's not a huge jump from one device to another, it is enough that it will encourage more retailers and marketers to focus their attention on smartwatches and to capturing new sales through targeted special offers, blue-light specials and other promotions, he said.

Marti, whose company has a myriad of retailers as clients, including Target, Lowe's and Meijer, said he's already seeing evidence of these smartwatch trends.

About 45,000 Lowe's employees are using iPhones on the job today, and if they also had Apple Watches, which work with an iPhone to provide connectivity and other features, they'd be able to do their work with both hands, rather than having to hold their phones, he said.

"It is a game-changer," said Marti.

An avid Android smartwatch wearer, Marti said similar jumps in consumer offers and response have come in the past as people moved from researching their shopping on desktop PCs to doing that same retail research using smartphones and tablets. Businesses responded by creating apps and opportunities for the new devices.

"Ten years from now, will we look back and ask, 'Did we ever think that everyone would have one of these?'" Marti said. "The reality is that if there was a time, now is it, because we have enough digital bandwidth and infrastructure" for it to happen.

What's still needed, though, is the creation of new opportunities for smartwatch use and consumer expectations, Marti said.

"What we're missing is innovation, and that's coming," he said.

At first, I thought Marti was talking crazy because having smartphones doing these same things today already seems like enough. But then I began contemplating his view that consumers could ultimately be more receptive when such marketing and sales messages are sent right to their wrists, where they can glance at a screen hands-free.

And that, my friends, is when it started to make more sense to me. Smartwatches may not replace smartphones due to battery power restraints and tiny screen sizes, but the possibilities are certainly intriguing.