Above: Illustration by wilgengebroed, CC BY-NC 2.0
By Andrea Zeller
Editor’s note: This post is the fourth in a series of ongoing articles that highlight “Contextual Storytelling: Best Practices for the Internet of Things,” an innovative, new directed research course taught by Andrea Zeller and John du Pre Gauntt for the Communication Leadership graduate program at the University of Washington. During the course, a small team of students developed a framework and best practices for native storytelling that is optimized for multiple devices, contexts and locations.
A recent Guardian article noted that one third of American consumers who owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months of purchase. This high rate of abandonment highlights that there are gaps in the current user experience of a wearable device and that technology alone is far from being able to provide a true connected experience. In Contextual Storytelling Part 3, we highlighted a new paradigm for storytelling and described how the value of a connected Internet of Things (IoT) world revolves around heightened experiences. These experiences go beyond standard interactions with a website. Without the framework of a fully connected experience, a wearable may not provide the user any more value than any other device.
Why Do Connected Experiences Matter?
When a device can connect a user to a new perspective, more data or a social network (or a combination of these elements), there is an opportunity for compelling narratives and contextual experiences that add value to the user’s life.
To illustrate this point, think about how the value of a mobile phone has changed over the years and how this has impacted user adoption. Initially, mobile phones were used simply for calls and texting. Then, as connectivity improved, data plans became cheaper and the technology improved, the mobile phone as a device has become our major hub of connection, our daily connected experience. Now, we can connect to just about anything and everything.
Looking at wearable tech in the same vein as a mobile phone, it is easy to assess that the connectivity and usability is missing from the experience, and this may impact the high rate of abandonment. How can we re-frame wearable technology and apply the framework for storytelling as connections. How would the narrative for an activity tracker change? Would user adoption increase?
As we move into a world without screens, wearable interfaces may be the only screens we interact with. It is important to uncover the connections that will provide value while solving some of our unmet needs. In a contextual story, the key factors are how these experiences are harvesting data from the user, replaying that data in a meaningful way and making that data compelling. It is this last part, making the data compelling, where there is an opportunity to create an engaging narrative. Consider the following examples of how these concepts can be applied to create meaningful contextual storytelling experiences.
Fitbit, Meet Your Doctor
How many times do you go to your doctor and need to fill out endless paper work with the same questions? What if you had the ability to replay some of your Fitbit data to your doctor? That way, there would be live data that your doctor could respond to. In turn, your doctor could provide you with real-time feedback through your wearable.
Smartwatch, Meet Shopping
How many times do you go shopping for an upcoming event and can’t find anything that fits or you like? Can you imagine being in a clothing store and getting shirt recommendations on your smartwatch based on stored preferences from your previous purchases?
A connected experience can establish your personal narrative based on the filters that you set to define what you want to include and exclude. Your everyday problems can be solved with the same brands and apps you use today. These apps would be simply be augmented as new functionality is integrated into your everyday interactions.
Once these narratives are established and start solving our everyday problems, we may not see the 30 percent drop in usage after six months of using a wearable device. What we may see instead is an increase in overall adoption.
Stay tuned for our next post as we summarize our class and key learnings.