Wearable technology in the form of accessories has moved on from sporty wrist gadgets with chunky leather straps to more fashion forward items women actually want to wear, such as bracelets and rings. The smartwatch market however, has largely been ignored.
But that’s beginning to change.
Michael Kors is the latest luxury designer to enter the wearable tech space, launching two different types of smartwatches compatible with Iphone and Android on Tuesday. The Bradshaw and Dylan watches come in gold, rose gold and sabel tones, and resemble designer dress timepieces, rather than the typical chunky unisex designs other smartwatches have been criticized for. The collection, called Michael Kors Access, also includes four different styles of a fitness tracker, and ranges from $95 for the fitness trackers to $395 for the most expensive watch.
A step into this market makes sense: The worldwide wearable market, valued at $15.6 billion this year, is expected to balloon to $52.5 billion in 2020, according to International Data Corporation. New research from IDC also shows the overall market for wearable devices grew 26 percent in the past year, despite Apple, one of the leaders in the market, posting a 56.7 percent dip in shipments in the past year.
There’s no shortage of brands and companies catering to women in the connected accessories market. Tory Burch was arguably the first luxury designer to step into the space, launching a wearable tech accessory line in 2014, which was met with lukewarm reviews. Since then, brands including Vera Wang and Public School have jumped on board with collaborations with Fitbit, and companies like Ringly have tried to fill a gap with connected jewelry. However the space is filled with a number of failed ventures, from Microsoft’s high tech bra to Wearable Experiment’s navigate jacket, which seem to pop up and fall off the radar almost instantly.
Where wearable technology and smart watches in particular have failed to take off with consumers, is with design and user experience, said Ramon Llamas, IDC’s research manager of wearables.
“The running joke is most smartwatches were conceived by a male engineer, designed by a male engineer and worn by a male engineer,” he said. While brands including Fossil and Tag Heuer have entered the space, both are gender neutral or slightly skewed towards males. “Technology has underserved females for a long time and Michael Kors has seen an opportunity to do it.”
Llamas said while Tory Burch was one of the first luxury designers to provide accessories, the scale and investment into smart watches is vastly different. Kors, he said, will help to elevate smartwatches in the luxury category.
“Other luxury companies are dipping their toes in water when it comes to wearable technology, but are not diving head first into the smartwatch market. That’s a totally different beast.”