Every day we read a new article about wearable tech, particularly wearable fitness tech, but we’re not seeing this product really “hit” on the streets. Canalys expects 17 million wearable fitness bands to be sold this year but actual sales figures to date are hard to find.
In speaking to consumers about their health and fitness behavior, we found that while nearly half of consumers rely on technology to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle, only a small amount of people own wearable monitors or plan to purchase them in the next 12 months. Even with robust media coverage, few people own these devices and, more surprisingly, haven’t heard of the top products and brands in this category such as, Nike’s FuelBand, Fitbit or Jawbone. Nike recently announced layoffs in its FuelBand department but they’re not departing the field entirely. It’s rumored they will partner with Apple, which is smart. They’re sticking with what they’re best at—performance sneakers and apparel—but remaining a part of this segment as a branding partner.
Where is the “must-have” wearable?
The wearable market is evolving quickly and proving difficult for consumers to latch on to because while there is an array of products and some hype, wearables haven’t achieved “must have” status. They need to progress from being perceived as “nice to haves” for enthusiasts to “must-haves” for the general consumer. 50% of the consumers we spoke to don’t plan to purchase a wearable tracker because they seem unnecessary. Also, keeping up with the latest smartphones and tablets leave less disposable income for other devices. 55% of consumers think they seem too expensive.
Another barrier to entry is that Americans are leading, primarily, sedentary lives. To be effective, wearable fitness devices require a person to change behavior which means commitment and compliance to some sort of fitness routine. While obesity rates in children are decreasing, they are expected to increase in adults. This statistic is startling and, hopefully, a motivator for all of us to increase activity and, in turn, enhance our fitness. If a fitness tracker gets a person doing something as simple as walking more that will, literally, be a step in the right direction. Technology is supposed to make our lives better and that should include being healthier.
Consumers are listening and waiting for the right wearable.
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, personal health and wellness product sales, software and service revenues will grow 142 percent over the next five years. Fitness technology, in one form or another, is expected to become ubiquitous as, according to The New York Times, leading fitness chains are adopting wearables to improve client results and satisfaction. The Times also reported on a “high-fashion” attraction with designers like Tory Burch debuting an accessory line featuring fitness trackers soon.
Also, despite reports of high abandonment rates, the owners we spoke to are happy; 68% say their wearable has had a positive impact on their healthy lifestyle. And, for those who own wearables, nearly half were motivated by advertising. We speak to consumers every day and, on average, very few admit to being swayed by ads. Most will say they don’t believe they are influenced by advertising and want to seem independent in their decision by “doing their own research.” The difference here was surprising and could be seen as indicating that there are not enough of these devices on the street for “word of mouth” to sell them.
With about half of consumers indicating they are considering purchase, wanting to do more research and compare products, there are clearly opportunities for marketers to educate and influence consumers in this category. Consumers want to want this technology, but they need to be educated about how a fitness wearable can better fit seamlessly into their life.
How do marketers get their wearable to be the wearable?
Good design and understanding what consumers want are the keys to success. In turn, marketers need to take stock in the fact that consumers are listening and open to marketing to navigate this quickly evolving and competitive landscape.
Ads for wearables are working, according to owners, and there is interest in the product from consumers. Marketers need to:
- Invest in strategic marketing campaigns to educate consumers about how their wearable stands out from the pack of products potentially coming down the pike.
- Conduct more research to understand what the consumer wants in their fitness tech and how best to reach them.
- With tech giants like Apple and Samsung as competitors, smaller brands need to get in front of consumers to differentiate themselves and stake a claim to their market share.
It’s an exciting evolution of technology that our devices can truly help us better our health and wellness. The technology is there (or, just about there) but a connection to consumers is missing. Brands and marketers need to take a look at what consumers are really wanting in a device, willing to wear and how best to reach them so they can develop and market their device accordingly.