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Why Wearables Are Here to Stay: The Future of Shopping

We will all end up benefiting from the seconds that tick back on to that device on your wrist.


In April, shortly after Apple launched online preorders for the Apple Watch, it was widely reported that nearly all devices were sold out. This indicated a huge interest in the wearables category, and as a senior product manager for the world’s largest online marketplace, eBay, I had to think about the best way of integrating the benefits of wearables into the daily shopping habits of our customers.

Wearable devices are offering great additive value to a person’s life. We’ve already seen them create a major impact in certain categories like fitness, where dedicated devices act as gym partners. Now that devices are getting more generic, we can expand that utility to shopping so brands are able to directly zero in on a customer’s needs and enrich their lives. Mobile ecosystems are constantly evolving, and wearable devices are giving brands the opportunities to fill their customers’ wants and needs in the quickest and most succinct way.

Be encouraged: To help early adopters advocate the wearable shopping experience, it’s important that brands serve their customers’ needs by utilizing the natural benefits of the device. A wearable device can detect when it’s being worn and where it’s located. This technology can provide great insights into determining the right time for a brand to connect with their customers. Growth and retention can largely be driven by reducing friction and inserting moments of delight into the shopping experience with a wearable.

Get real benefits: At eBay, where 59 percent of our buyers shop on multiple screens, we like to study how people shop in the online and physical world in order to build better products to serve our customers. As of this writing, the wearables market is still quite early, however there are some immediate benefits to consumers that will continue to grow as the industry better understands how shoppers use them.

Here is my Top 5 list on why wearables are here to stay and how it can impact the future of shopping:

  • Multi-task and create shopping lists
    I’m always amazed at the number of people fumbling with their smartphones as they traverse aisles doing the family shopping. Placing that shopping list on their wrist for instance, frees up a hand; a massive benefit, especially when also managing little ones.
  • Touchless payments = streamlined experiences
    We’re not quite at the days where you can entirely leave your wallet at home and not have some level of anxiety, but it’s getting much closer. Touchless payments that aggregate payment sources are making it far easier to quickly transact. Having this option on your wearable device further cuts down on friction and makes the process easier in general since the process is so contextually focused.
  • Stay organized with order management
    The ability to quickly jot down a product and browse a few options offer a very short and sweet method for shopping for household items. Getting shipping updates and managing transactions keep a shopper informed while only requiring a fraction of their time. For example, I find it extremely helpful that in five seconds I can learn what time the parcel truck will be at my front door so I can sign for a package.
  • Notifications when you need and want them
    Notifications with deep and informative content can help a shopper determine if there’s a really interesting moment they should engage with. For example, both buyers and sellers on eBay can get quick overviews of their activities and view far more detailed information straight from their push notifications.
  • Quick browsing
    Overall, the best experiences on wearable devices are the succinct ones. Wearable devices are well optimized for short sessions. By utilizing the glanceable overviews of information, customers can quickly sift through important events and complete short tasks. At eBay, our priority with wearables is to offer our shoppers an optimal experience on any screen they are shopping on.

EBay is unique in that time is a much larger mechanic to auction formats. Our newly launched eBay app for Apple Watch provides a great avenue for us to offer glanceable bites of information and support small tasks; especially when timing is critical. For example, users can reply to messages directly from their watch through voice dictation. For our buyers, we created a bidding experience where a user can quickly increase their bid without having to pull out their phone. All of our notifications were upgraded with more content and imagery to give users a quick glanceable overview, and overall, the power to decide to dismiss, take direct action or transition to a richer experience on their iPhone.

We’re still very much in the early days of this platform, and as we at eBay and other retailers adapt to these new shopping habits, customers are becoming more familiar with how to use their devices and we will all end up benefiting from the seconds that tick back on to that device on your wrist.

John Tapley is senior product manager for Innovations and New Ventures at One of the world’s largest online marketplaces, connecting people with the things they need and love virtually anytime, anywhere, eBay has 157 million active buyers globally and more than 800 million live individual and merchant listings at any given time. With mobile apps available in 190 countries, eBay delivers a personalized shopping experience and seamless access to inventory from down the street and around the world. Tailored shopping experiences customize buying and selling; and eBay provides variety and choice for sellers by enabling them to offer goods through online, mobile and local channels to consumers around the world. For more information, visit

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