Adoption of Wearable Fitness Trackers

Note: The intention of this blog was to focus on Fitbit in particular, however there is very little information on one specific brand. Thus, this post will focus on wearable fitness trackers as a whole.

There was a dark time in our country when “super-sizing” meals was the norm, and eating healthy was a message that needed to be spread because obesity was on the rise. Luckily, as we emerge out of that time period, people are making conscious efforts to improve their overall wellness. From a new desire for improved health and fitness, workout routines – such as CrossFit and Zumba – protein shakes, and tracking progress have gained popularity. In 2014, wearable fitness trackers first came onto the market as a response to this developing trend. At first, these devices were marketed toward serious athletes, with a need for serious tracking. However, as time passed the group among which these trackers became increasingly popular was the mainstream consumer – specifically those in the 35 to 54 age range. While this may seem like a large group of people, when you look at the data, only 9% of consumers use an app or other tech to track their activity – in comparison to the 60% of Americans who keep track of their health and activity at all.

This graphic shows a break down of the 60% of Americans who track their weight, diet, or exercise routine – and what they use to track those items:

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(Source)

While not everyone uses one of these devices, awareness of wearable fitness trackers among consumers has grown considerably over the past few years. For instance, in 2013 only 30% of consumers from the United States were aware of this technology, and this number grew to a staggering 82% in 2015. Although this seems like an impressive number, only 12% of consumers own a fitness tracker. As time goes on and the market for wearable technology expands, and fitness trackers converge with smart watches, there is a fear among those in the market, that wearable fitness trackers are on the decline. While only 12% of American consumers own a fitness tracker, technology such as the Apple Watch is generating a great amount of excitement due to their many functions – as compared to the fitness trackers, which only serve one purpose. Because of this new technology skewing the wearable tech market, fitness trackers saw a 2% decrease in sales between 2015 and 2016. From this, it is safe to say that wearable fitness trackers have not yet reached critical mass. Only a small percentage of American consumers own a fitness tracker and sales of the devices have seen a decrease. However, companies that produce fitness trackers are doing everything they can to catch up with the smart watches that are taking away their consumers, and continue their growth.

If we again use the Fitbit Charge HR and the Apple Watch in a comparison between a fitness tracker and a smart watch, you can begin to understand why consumers would pick one over the other. While Fitbit has been deemed the “Wearable Fitness Tracker of the Year,” the Apple Watch offers the same services as the Fitbit Charge HR – tracking distance walked, amount of steps taken, heart rate, calories burned, and tells the time – and also has the compatibility of application that can be found on the iPhone. Thus, to some the Apple Watch is the better value because it offers what the Fitbit Charge HR does, and then some. In order to keep up with its competitors, Fitbit has introduced  other models of the fitness tracker, that offers additional features such as a touch display and the ability to sync with a smartphone, in order to display notifications. Therefore, since Fitbit has been known to have a great reputation as a reliable fitness tracker, if it gained some of the other technical aspects that the Apple Watch has, it would be a very strong competitor in the wearable technology market.

Although there is a group that finds great use in wearable fitness trackers – and their ability to motivate activity – there is a group that has yet to adopt this wearable technology. This group of people who have not yet adopted this technology is the late majority. People of this group are often highly skeptical of innovation and have low financial liquidity. Due to this, they wait until most other people have adopted the technology in question, and then decide for themselves if it is worth the purchase. Once these consumers begin to purchase wearable fitness trackers, it is quite possible that the technology will be able to reach critical mass.

This video does a great job describing people who are often skeptical when faced with adopting a new technology – the late majority and laggards:

(Source)

As mentioned in my previous post, Fitbit became “wearable tech’s biggest success story.” The company began with the faith of investors believing in the fitness tracker, after only seeing a circuit in a wooden box presented to them by the future CEOs of Fitbit. The development of this company and its product – which showed great potential from the amount of preorders placed before production began – contributed greatly to the success of the technology. This technology has been gaining popularity, and will continue to do so as other technologies advance. The ability to pair wearable fitness trackers – via bluetooth – to a smartphone and observe statistics and progress is as aspect that draws consumers to the product. By being able to do this, users are able to set goals for themselves, and can get more out of their device. With applications that go along with the pairing of the fitness tracker, there are algorithms that are used to analyze the user’s personal data, and provide an overview of that person’s fitness. These additional components contained in applications that pair with the fitness trackers, have taken this wearable device and made it more than just a pedometer and a watch, it became an experience. Users can now stay updated on their activity for the day, and turn it into a competition with friends by comparing statistics. Moreover, the technology behind the fitness tracker’s correlating smartphone application continues to increase the number of fitness tracker users, by drawing in people by tapping into their social needs and need for cognition.

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