What’s the best Smart Ring go-to-market strategy for startup device makers?

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Over the past five years, the Smart Ring market has grown steadily with startup device makers as its primary drivers. Amazon’s Echo Loop Smart Ring product launch recently, however, can mark the beginning of a new era for Smart Rings – they have entered the mainstream, market growth will accelerate accordingly, and startup makers can find new opportunities.

In this article, Ville Ylläsjärvi, Product Innovator, and Co-founder at Haltian, the global product development firm, and developer of several innovative Smart Ring products explains the best practice Smart Ring Go-to-Market strategy for startups!

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Picture credit: Haltian

Launch of a new era in the Smart Ring market

The first Smart Ring products entered the commercial consumer markets about five years ago. Since then, the Smart Ring space has been dominated by startup companies. The startup driven market has enabled rapid innovation, technology evolution, and product development. As a result, you can find several Smart Ring products in at least 11 product segments – these include health monitoring, fitness tracking, contactless payments, app notifications, the panic button, voice control, and more.

Amazon’s launch of the Echo Loop Smart Ring in September, has, however, marked the beginning of a new era for Smart Rings. The offering from one of the largest global consumer brands will help the Smart Ring enter into the mainstream market, accelerate market growth, and open new opportunities for the startup device makers. Further, Apple’s Smart Ring patent application guarantees that other tech giants will follow suit.

Is Smart Ring ready for widescale Innovation?

The Smart Ring form-factor has passed the initial acid test of commercial consumer markets with flying colors. Despite several market flops, a handful of startup companies have managed to create successful Smart Ring products – among these are the Oura health ring, the Motiv fitness tracking ring, and the Wave midi ring created by Genki Instruments.

What sets Smart Rings apart from other wearables? The Smart Ring is light, unnoticeable, and a very personal wearable device. It sits tightly on a finger and doesn’t fall off easily, and it won’t disturb the user. The Smart Ring is a natural device for gesture control – as we use our hands and fingers all the time for communicating, steering, and for pointing at things. Our fingers provide a comfortable way to sense the heart rate for applications such as health monitoring.

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So, yes – the Smart Ring form-factor is ready for wide-scale innovation for brands, manufacturers, and service providers!

Smart Ring: The ultimate product development challenge!

Let’s face it; the Smart Ring is an ultimate product development challenge for any company. On a strategic level, you can choose between several go-to-market strategies; and then you will have to define the right product/market strategy and value model.

Technically, the Smart Ring is an ultra-demanding form-factor. It is tiny, yet packed with sensors, circuitry, a battery, and more with an ultra-high degree of integration. Developers have to solve countless challenges before they can launch a Smart Ring product, which can deliver an extraordinary user experience.

Building a successful Smart Ring strategy depends on three primary areas: it is the product/market strategy, the value model, and the right product development strategy. I will now go into depth by delving into them in more detail.

Choose the right Smart Ring product/market strategy

The Smart Ring form-factor is a flexible product innovation platform, which can be designed, developed, and applied for a multitude of use-cases and markets. As with every company, you have to define your own strategy. Here are four alternative paths you can take:

  1. Create a new Smart Ring category: Smart Rings have been successfully used for establishing several new product segments, which were not in existence before. These include, for instance, convenient sleep improvement, and health and fitness monitoring. However, there will be many more segments to be invented, for example, in the areas of remote medical care, personal authentication, ambient sensing, and even more —the only limit is your imagination!
  2. Disrupt an existing market: Startups can use the Smart Ring to redefine the utility and user-experience of existing products or services in the market today. The Smart Ring can introduce deeper intelligence, higher security, and a further ease-of-use; into existing products, and this can translate into higher customer value, and differentiation, which, in an ideal case could become a disruptor in the market.
  3. Develop a physical dimension for a service: The current service provider space could open opportunities for startups to radically change the markets. Imagine if there was a Smart Ring combined with an online service, such as gaming, gambling, car sharing, or security surveillance; or, an ecosystem or community. The Smart Ring could be the physical dimension of the service, providing the users with better security and privacy, more effortless authentication, or easier payment! This differentiation strategy could set a startup apart from the competitors!
  4. Develop a vertical or enterprise application:According to a recent report by Gartner, by 2020, more than 60% of organizations will be using wearables for business purposes. Some ideas include the monitoring of performance levels of employees through parameters such as keeping tabs on their heart rate, blood pressure, and skin temperature. Just imagine how useful it would be to assure that people on duty have the required physical and mental preparedness to carry out their tasks – this would include air carrier crew, taxi and bus drivers, field service technicians, emergency responders, public safety officers among others. Smart Rings could also improve worker safety by monitoring their health under challenging environments and sending out alerts, in case of emergencies.

Define the best value model for your Smart Ring product

The Smart Ring, like any other consumer electronics market, is highly price-sensitive. How can you maximize the economic benefits in the Smart Ring market? This depends on the product and pricing strategy you will choose. Here are three alternatives to consider:

  1. The one-off hardware pricing strategy is the simplest and straight-forward way to convert customer value into revenue. However, this is what everyone is doing today.
  2. Instead of a one-off price, you can develop the Smart Ring to be an ecosystem like smartphones – and ensure that customers buy new applications and features for your ring.
  3. As a service provider startup with a recurring pricing model, you could capture the value of the Smart Ring through monthly service fees, instead of a one-off sale fee.

Choosing the optimal product development strategy is crucial!

The Smart Ring is a highly demanding form-factor. It is the ultimate technical challenge for the developers. Choosing the right product development strategy is crucial for your success in the markets. Now I will share the three most common product development strategies and their pros and cons.

  1. With in-house development – you can build up an internal organization and competence and invest in the resources required for developing your Smart Ring product. With this strategy, you have full control over the development process, and future product roadmap, and, if successful, you will sustain a competitive advantage in the market. On the flip side, the Smart Ring industry is still new; so there is very little competence out there, and you might end up wasting a lot of time.
  2. You can buy and rebrand a third-party white-label Smart Ring product, and enhance it with your own custom features. The white-label strategy is fast, and you save time in the beginning. However, the downside is that you will not have full control of the product features, quality, data security, and roadmap.
  3. You can also outsource product design, development, and manufacturing to a high-end product development company that has prior experience in the Smart Ring market. This strategy provides you with a fast time-to-market with a well-designed, high-quality product, thanks to working with an experienced development team who can foresee and avoid problems. With a long-term partnership, you can develop a product customized for your needs, and plan your roadmap ahead. With this strategy, however, you will not accumulate all the technical competence assets in-house.

In conclusion

The Smart Ring is more than just a product. It is a versatile innovation platform that can help startups to create new, unforeseen products, services, and user-experiences. It gives you the opportunity to disrupt existing products and services in a completely new way. Just make sure you have the right strategy and partners with you! Our Smart Ring whitepaper gives you a deep-dive into the market and technologies, lists the 11 functional segments today, and helps you further with the go-to-market strategy!

Main image credits: Amazon

Guest post by Ville Ylläsjärvi, co-founder at Haltian – one of the most successful spin-offs from Nokia Globally.

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The editorial team of Silicon Canals brings you technology news from the European startup ecosystem. 

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