One Size Doesn’t Fit All For Health Tracking

In a new report out today, my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps writes about the emerging but limited market for fitness wearables like the Nike+ FuelBand and the Jawbone UP. The report finds that only 4% of US online adults, or about 8 million consumers, fit a target profile predictive of buying a fitness wearable. Why so few? It turns out that mainstream consumers’ attitudes are very different from the health-conscious tech optimists buying these products today.

A few months back, we set out to understand how mainstream consumers feel about these devices using our Market Research Online Community (MROC) of 1,500 general US online consumers. As I’m using a wearable health-tracking device, I was excited to learn whether these consumers saw the same value that I saw in these innovative products.

Well, they don’t. In fact, “excited” isn’t even in their vocabulary when it comes to wearable devices. “Waste of money” was more how they described them.

Consumers feel that they know what to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle and use the concept of “moderation” to monitor their health, rather than fancy devices. In general, though, they lack self-awareness of their own unhealthy habits, they don’t feel accountable for their own health, and they expect their primary care doctor to monitor their well-being over the long term. Their perception is that wearable devices are for people who are chronically ill, need help with weight loss, or have obsessive personalities.

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Wearables Deserve Attention, But Fitness Wearables Are Overhyped

Sensor-laden wearable devices, with their unique ability to capture data generated by the body, are important components of a larger phenomenon we call “smart body, smart world.” Use cases for wearables could extend to anything from navigation to shopping to social networking to productivity. One scenario in particular – health and fitness – has inspired a
number of wearable devices that launched in 2012 like the Nike+ FuelBand, the Basis smartwatch, and the (relaunched) Jawbone UP. These new products spur the questions: Can the market support this many wearable fitness products, and who should these products target?

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