Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

October 20 2015

A Surprising Wearable Tech Success Story For The Travel Industry

By David McMillin



When Apple started shipping orders of the anticipated Apple Watch earlier this year, the leaders from a range of industries all shared the belief that wearable tech was finally entering the consumer mainstream. Sure, plenty of big names have been playing in the wearable space, but Apple’s trendsetting spirit would mean mile-long lines of brand loyalists who wanted a new device on their wrists, right? Six months later, the tech world doesn’t seem so sure. From Fast Company’s "Why The Apple Watch Is Flopping" to statistics documenting declining sales, the headlines continue to fuel one big question: is the hype of wearable technology actually wearing off?

Last week, I attended the Skift Global Forum in Brooklyn, where I had the chance to hear how wearable tech is becoming more than a buzz term. It’s transforming the consumer experience for one of the progressive names in air travel. Craig Kreeger, CEO, Virgin Atlantic, offered a glimpse into the airline’s efforts to use the newest tech tools to deliver better service for passengers in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Wing. Kreeger wanted the company’s most valued passengers to feel a more personal touch when they arrived at the airport, but one of the biggest challenges was the fact that customer service representatives typically stand behind kiosks and stare at screens during the check-in process. To eliminate this barrier, Kreeger and Virgin Atlantic experimented with having employees use both the Sony SmartWatch and Google Glass. Despite all the hoopla surrounding a connected wrist device, the test had a surprising winner.

"It turned out that the smart watch was not a good customer service solution," Kreeger said. "[Looking at your wrist] seems to be the universal way of saying 'I'm bored with you.'"

Google Glass, on the other hand, was a success. Kreeger admits that it took Virgin Atlantic's employees some time to get comfortable with the awkward where-should-my-eyes-focus predicament that comes with Google’s product. However, after a six-week trial, customers and employees alike indicated that Google Glass delivered a winning experience.

SEE ALSO: Finally, A Wearable Technology That Can Change Your General Session Experience

What Will Wearables Mean For Your Meeting?

Virgin Atlantic’s program doesn’t mean that Google Glass is the perfect solution for your meeting or that smartwatches are bad for business. Instead, it highlights that enhancing the attendee experience relies on experimenting and listening. Be willing to try unconventional ideas and tools, and when you do, conduct comprehensive research to find out what your audience really thought. Kreeger offers one extra piece of vocabulary advice that can help everyone in the organization feel better about moving into uncharted territory.

"Call them tests," he told the Skift audience. “When you call them tests, people don’t fear failure. When you call them implementations, there is a lot more pressure.”

Interested in learning how wearables can transform the attendee experience? Click here for a complimentary webinar from PCMA, “Harnessing The Power Of Wearable And Location-Aware Computing For Your Event.”

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