Our understanding of wearables is: They are a prototypical example of Fashnology. That is, a combination of functions associated with fashion and technology. How can we explain Fashnology? Our recent research provides insights!
Fashnology = Fashion + Technology
Conceptually, wearables are ‘wearable devices’. Traditionally, technologies are (per definition) made to make a user’s life or work more efficient. For example, a person with a calculator (a type of technology) can calculate a given complex math exercise faster (and probably more accurately) than a person without a calculator (ceteris paribus). According to traditional technology acceptance research, this task-oriented evaluation of overall ‘usefulness’ is the main driving force of technology acceptance (besides many other factors). Wearables, such as smart glasses or smartwatches, are, without doubt, technologies We have investigated technology acceptance factors, for example, in this research.. They can improve a user’s efficiency by making his/her daily tasks more efficient.
But in addition to that, wearables are not just ‘used’, they are also ‘worn’. Traditionally, people did not wear technologies; they wore fashion (i.e. clothing). So do fashion components matter for wearables? YES, according to our recent research.
What drives Fashnology?
People that are familiar with a particular device category (e.g. smart glasses or smartwatches in general) tend to have a better understanding of what a particular device within this category (e.g. Google Glass) is. Results of our research consistently show that people with a high degree of familiarity on a wearable product category evaluate particular devices higher in terms of fashion and technology (i.e. Fashnology). In other words: People who are familiar with smart glasses (i.e., people who know well what smart glasses are, have experience with it, etc.) ‘know’ that smart glasses have both a technology and a fashion component.
In addition, the design of a wearable device impacts the fashnological perception. Specifically, consumers perceive all of the studied smart glasses devices as equally ‘technological’, but varied in terms of ‘fashion’.
Does Fashnology Matter?
Sure! Consumers tend to evaluate wearable devices based both on fashion and technology components. This evaluation (in psychology, this is called ‘categorization’) influences which criteria consumers use to evaluate a given wearable device. To test our conjectures, we proposed two hypotheses: If consumers perceive a device as a technology, they tend to evaluate it mostly based on its perceived usefulness. If consumers perceive a wearable device more as a form of fashion, it becomes more important how it impacts their appearance. While we found strong empirical support for the first one, the results were only close to significant for the fashion effect, but still in the proposed direction.
Technologists, Fashionists, and Fashnologists
In a second study, we looked at consumer perceptions in general. Our theorizing was that people could be classified into three groups. First, those consumers that perceive wearables as a useful technology. We labeled this segment ‘Technologists’. Second, there should be individuals who predominantly see the fashion component of wearables. These users are so called fashionists. Finally, there should be Fashnologists. Fashnologists are consumers who see both the fashion and the technology value of wearables. We used a large, US-representative consumer sample in which respondents evaluated smart glasses with regards to various technology and fashion related factors. We then applied a finite mixture model to identify latent heterogeneity in the data. Results support the three proposed factors: About 75% of the sample are Fashnologists, whereas the remaining 25% are equally assigned to Fashionists and Technologists
What do these findings imply for managers? First, the fashion-technology-fashnology distinctions are important in explaining consumer reactions. That is, these factors should be considered in market research studies, such as segmentation approaches. These findings can also help in developing appropriate devices that target a particular consumer segment. On the theoretical front, we show that traditional technology acceptance models may provide a solid framework to study wearables. However, these models need to incorporate the fashion aspects of technology.
Rauschnabel, Philipp A.; Hein, Daniel. He, Jun.; Ro, Young; Rawashdeh, Samir; Krulikowski, Bryan : Fashion or Technology? A Fashnology Perspective on the Perception and Adoption of Augmented Reality Smart Glasses. i-com – Journal of Interactive Media, forthcoming. DOI 10.1515/icom-2016-0021. Special Issue on Smart Glasses. Link: Research Gate.