It’s the future, but not as we know it

While we may not be selling the hover boards foretold by crystal ball gazers of yesteryear, modern tech such as fitness trackers are tailor-made for the skilful salesman to convert the doubters, says T21 managing director Paul Laville

I have a confession to make. I don’t ‘get’ Fitbit.

There are a couple of reasons for this, the first of which is down to the fact that when I was a kid, I read loads of space comics, so I knew that come the year 2020 we’d all be living in bubble houses, commuting to work by rocket-powered flying cars and larking around on hover boards. Telephones would be replaced by video screens and we’d all be carrying around tiny, personal computers that managed our daily minutiae.

Our supercomputer-controlled homes would be dominated by wall-sized TVs streaming a torrent of media from every corner of the globe, and by intelligent kitchens that would manage the groceries and cook food for the family while we enjoyed day-trips to the Moon.

Four years away from 2020 and at least three of those technologies have been realised, with a couple more bouncing towards actuality. Though maybe not the flying cars or the moon trips. Yet. I live in hope…

However, where in my comic books was there anything that described a wearable band of sophisticated biometric technology designed to help me track my ‘activity’, my food, my weight and my sleep? Where was it mentioned that there would ever exist a thing to help me ‘find my fit’? Everything else I was prepared for, but fitness? Seriously…

Yet the market for wearable fitness technology is massive and it’s still in growth. It’s the most immediately accessible embodiment of the Internet of Things and people are buying into it in droves.

Except me, it seems.

Secondly, no one’s ever been able to demonstrate to me what Fitbit really does. I’ve been told plenty of times that it helps ‘track my fitness’ and would ‘motivate me to go for a walk’. Huh? I’m not a fitness junkie and anyway, why do I need a watch or an app to tell me the obvious? Can’t I make a decision to go for a walk myself? This worried me. A gadget that I just didn’t ‘get’? You could have bottled my anxiety and filled a Radiohead album with it.

My wife told me I needed to get out more and then, I kid you not, one day she went and bought herself a Fitbit.

Just like that. Out of the blue. My wife – whose relationship with technology is on a need-to-know basis only – buying a slice of wearable tech before me. But then I was all over it: a real-life case study in my own house.

Integrated

So I watched… and was able to see first-hand how the thing integrated into her daily routine, and how it really did motivate, challenge and reward her to reach some fairly simple fitness targets. Nothing taxing yet: just a little nudge in the right direction and she feels great, rewarded by a sense of fulfilment, the knowledge that she’s taking positive action towards ‘finding her fit’. Sure, she curses like a demon when it tells her she’s still a thousand steps short of her target on a Friday afternoon, but without it, she tells me, she’d never push herself into staying fit.

So this got me thinking. How can we offer the curmudgeons, the doubters and the fence-sitters a compelling reason to buy into new technologies as we approach the space-age year of 2020?

There’s much education to be done and this will take time, but I think if there’s one thing we can do in stores right now, it’s demonstrate as much as possible: ‘Show’ rather than ‘tell’ and involve customers with smart technology through powerful demos.

The key, however, is to see if you can make them as interactive as possible – so not the kind of demonstration where you do all the talking and press all the buttons. Leave that for the shopping channels where they can’t see their customers. On the shopfloor, if you can involve your customer and let them handle the tech, let them experience it. If they can touch it and work it, feel it and get close to it, they’ll start to adopt it. And if it fits their lifestyle, and their wants, they’ll start selling it to themselves.

There’s a ‘transfer of ownership’ from you to the customer that happens like magic when you allow people to bond with the technology, but they won’t bond with it properly unless you let them touch it. Which means, I guess, that until the robots take over and do it all for us come the year 2020, your awesome demonstrations are critical when it comes to selling the future.