Where Have All The Wearables Gone?

Every day a new article about wearable tech -- particularly wearable fitness tech -- appears, but research shows these products haven’t yet hit the streets. Canalys expects 17 million wearable fitness bands to be sold this year, but actual sales figures to date are hard to find.

As a market research firm, we're in continual conversation with consumers. When it comes to 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 it’s not departing the field entirely. There are rumors Nike will partner with Apple, which is smart. The company is sticking with what it knows best -- 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, with an array of products and some hype, but wearables still have not achieved “must have” status. They need to progress from being perceived as "nice to haves" for enthusiasts to "must-haves" for the general consumer. Fifty percent of the consumers we spoke to don’t plan to purchase a wearable tracker because they seem unnecessary. Keeping up with the latest smartphones and tablets leaves less disposable income for other devices; 55% of consumers think they’re too expensive.

Another barrier to entry is that Americans lead 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. 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 becoming 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% over the next five years. Fitness technology, in one form or another, is expected to become ubiquitous since, 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.

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 -- a change from consumers' usual viewpoint, with most saying 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 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 a purchase, wanting to do more research and compare products, there are clearly opportunities for marketers to educate and influence consumers in this category.

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 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 consumers want in fitness technology 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 to improve 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 really want in a device, what they are willing to wear and how best to reach them so they can develop and market their devices to meet their needs.

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1 comment about "Where Have All The Wearables Gone?".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , July 17, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.
    Wearables are too expensive and we are going to pay big time for them and not just in a financial sense. "We are begging to be controlled."