Consumers' acceptance of wearable technology: Examining solar-powered clothing

Hwang, Chanmi
Major Professor
Eulanda A. Sanders
Committee Member
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Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management

Unlike mere technological devices, wearable technology is complex, since it is considered both a device and a garment, integrating attributes of clothing and technology with the human wearer. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine the effects of various factors that influence acceptance of wearable technology, specifically, solar-powered clothing. Solar-powered clothing was chosen as the topic of this research due to the increasing focus and development of the product by researchers (Cho, 2010; Schubert & Merz, 2009) and the pro-environmental attributes of the product.

Based on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), this study extended the model and examined the effects of seven consumer-oriented variables on consumers' attitudes towards purchase intentions for solar-powered clothing: TAM variables (perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use), perceived performance risk, Functional, Expressive, Aesthetic (FEA) elements of clothing (perceived comfort, perceived compatibility, and perceived aesthetic attributes), and environmental concerns. Further, this study examined the differences between Gen Y and Baby Boomer on their perceptions and attitudes towards purchasing solar-powered clothing; these two groups were selected, because both groups have been of significant interest to social psychologists as well as marketers in the past (Morris & Venkatesha, 2000).

A convenience sample of college students and faculty at one of the United States mid-western universities was recruited for the web-based survey with both open and closed-ended questions. The sample for this study consisted of 18-33 year olds and of 50-65 year olds, both male and female, who were in the bracket of targeted ages for Gen Y and Baby Boomer generations. A total of 720 useable responses was selected from the returned questionnaires based on the completion of the questionnaire for data analysis. Multiple linear regression, simple linear regression, and independent samples t-test were used to test the research hypotheses along with a thematic analysis of open-ended responses.

The results revealed that both dimensions of technology acceptance and clothing attributes are important factors influencing acceptance of solar-powered clothing. Specifically, perceived usefulness and perceived performance risk from the dimensions of technology acceptance significantly influenced consumers' attitudes towards purchasing solar-powered clothing. From the FEA dimensions of clothing, perceived comfort and perceived compatibility showed significant positive effects. Further, environmental concerns also positively influenced consumers' attitudes towards purchasing solar-powered clothing. Contrary to expectations, the perceived ease of use and perceived aesthetic attributes did not have significant effects on attitude. In terms of comparing Baby Boomers and Gen Y, all of the variables except perceived ease of use and perceived performance risks showed significant differences.

Examining the effects of various consumer-oriented variables contribute to the growing body of research on development of wearable technology and bridge the gap in understanding consumers' perceptions of and purchase intentions for solar-powered clothing. The research also confirmed the important influences of multiple dimensions on wearable technology and further validated the TAM model in explaining new technology adoption in the context of solar-powered clothing.