The Evolution of Commerce in a Germ-Centric World: The Inevitable Boom in Wearable Tech

Adam Hark |

We don’t need the media, pundits or sector-specific experts to predict the future for us. What is true, and what we believe will be true, can just as accurately be derived from nothing more than our own personal experiences, observations and perceptions. I’ve found this to be particularly true when the world seems to be changing at disorienting speeds, as it is now.

I advise and consult for fintechs, payments processors, ecommerce companies, and SaaS providers. I’m a growth and M&A expert in these areas of digitalization. But, I’m also a consumer, just like you. And as a consumer, I’m going on record: the next big trend to take hold in the digitalization of commerce will be a surge in the investment and usage of wearable technology.

For the last few months, we’ve all been bombarded with the term “contactless” in reference to how we conduct commerce. This is a direct consequence of the COVID-19 induced pandemic. We want to minimize our exposure to germs - all germs. We don’t want to be touching things unnecessarily in strange places, and certainly not while shopping, whether that’s items we’re contemplating purchasing, or germ-infested point-of-sale payment terminals. But this “contactless” consumer preference that the media, pundits, and experts in the technology of commerce have awakened to has focused primarily on our mobile devices – specifically our phones. The basis of their argument is that going forward, whenever possible, all commerce will be transacted online, via PC, tablet, or mobile device. The objective is to dramatically scale back, if not entirely circumvent, the need to actually touch products or point-of-sale payment terminals.

This makes perfect sense…but are the media, pundits, and experts in digital commerce correct?  The answer is partly.

Every time I take out my phone in a store, regardless of whether it’s at the checkout counter or in the aisle shopping, I am overcome by the “eww” factor; my consciousness is hijacked by thoughts of disgusting germs, slime, and grime. I experience a post-shopping bout of anxiety recalling everything I touched: food packages, shopping carts, door handles, and the like.  My anxiety level is compounded by having to remember to disinfect my hands and face, and my phone before I use it again. My shopping experience has become so uncomfortable that I prefer not to bring my phone into the store at all. I leave it in my car. This is the only way to lessen my shopping angst.  Thus, using my phone as a means of affecting contactless payments in physical setting does nothing to assuage my discomfort or address my concerns.

As a result, I’m now looking to wearables, specifically watches. Smart watches with short-range wireless capability (NFC) can provide me with a phone-less shopping experience. This wearable tech solves my phone dilemma altogether: it allows me to shop phone-free. Currently utilized mainly outside of the US (thank you Canada), wearable tech in smart watch form completely eliminates the need to use my phone at the point of sale. It’s a fast, secure, frictionless solution that eradicates the concerns I have as a consumer about having to bring my phone into a less-than-hygienic store.

Though I may be somewhat eccentric in my “eww” phobia, I don’t believe my shopping preference is entirely off-base. Wearable tech with NFC capability is the logical next step in the evolution of commerce in a germ-centric world. As such, I’m officially going long wearable tech, as both a consumer and investor.

Adam T. Hark is Managing Director of Preston Todd Advisors. An expert consultant in fintech, payments, and integrated SaaS, Adam advises clients on growth, exits, and market positioning strategies. Adam can be reached at  adam@prestontoddadvisors.com