Happy Birthday, iPad! (A Cautionary Tale for Businesses)

Can you believe it’s only been five years since the iPad graced our lives? I struggle to remember a time when I was without mine. The idea that I used to sit on my sofa and ‘Google it’, or ‘YouTube it’ on anything other than my tablet seems almost unbelievable now.

On the day of the launch, 300,000 iPads were sold. Within a month, the iPad had reached the one million-sold milestone–half the time it took to sell the same number of first-generation iPhones. By summer 2014, we collectively owned 200 million iPads.

Their convenience and intuitiveness is inescapable. A device that people once thought was reserved for the technorati has achieved mass adoption.

Back in 2010, it was hard to imagine how anything could top the iPhone. Quite content with the little handheld that had already transformed our existence, many people (including me) couldn’t fathom why they would need something that sat uncomfortably between the laptop and the smartphone.

Like the iPad before it, many people have dismissed the Apple Watch–and wearables generally–as a fad that will never catch on.

But if there is one thing we can learn from recent history it is that consumer appetite for new technology shouldn’t be underestimated and that Apple is rarely wrong! Like its older siblings, this new technology will become an indispensable part of the family, and an essential part of our lives.

For consumers, the Apple Watch and its plethora of copycats will give us our own portal to unlimited information, our social calendars, and entertainment, all strapped to our wrists: the ultimate in functional convenience.

For businesses too, the convenience and functionality of wearables shouldn’t be underestimated. Five years ago, smart businesses were quick to see the huge potential benefits of the iPad. Within its first 90 days on the market, the iPad managed to penetrate half of the Fortune 100.

With consumers increasingly choosing convenience over price, wearables provide a huge business opportunity to deliver a genuinely differentiated and personalized customer experience.

With permission, companies will be able to gather personal data directly, discreetly and immediately based on the customer’s movements, location and habits. Companies can use that data to proactively deliver personalized service that fits naturally into the customer’s life. That concierge-level service will foster the kind of customer loyalty and engagement that will be hard to break and difficult to emulate.

As with the iPad, there are many compelling applications for wearable devices that have the potential to touch every industry. As with the iPad, it will also be the nimble and the savvy that capitalize on wearables first. In this light, it will be the absence of a wearables strategy that will make a business stand out, and for precisely the wrong reasons. I’ll see you in the queue!

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