For US online adults, wearable technology is no longer the stuff of myth. Over the past year alone we’ve witnessed the launch of the Apple Watch and iterations on early wearable products. Wearable devices are now making their media cameo across a variety of channels and topics ranging from politics to pop culture.
According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data, around one-fifth of US online consumers use a wearable gadget. While the adoption rate is higher among young, wealthy males, wearables are already breaking into segments that aren’t typically considered among the early adopters. Most individuals tend to use the technology for health- and fitness-related activity; however, consumers demonstrate a growing interest in using wearables for several different functions:
In 2015, wearables will hit mass market: With Apple’s much-anticipated Apple Watch slated for release early next year, the already hype-heavy conversation will reach new heights. My colleague Anjali Lai wrote a report analyzing the true addressable market of Apple Watch from a quantitative and qualitative data perspective – covered right here on the Data Digest– to interject some strong data-driven analysis into the conversation.
The unveiling of the Apple Watch in early September left consumers and industry analysts with more questions than answers. After the sluggish sales of smartwatch predecessors, what is the actual market opportunity for Apple’s wrist-based wearable? Will consumers’ perception of the technology motivate them to make a purchase? And what type of consumer is most receptive to this device?
In my recently published report, I leverage Forrester’s Technographics®360 multimethodology research approach to answer these questions. So far, reaction to the Apple Watch has ranged from skepticism to enthusiasm, and our data shows that the story of Apple Watch adoption is indeed two-sided. Our evaluation of consumer behavior and attitudes reveals an immediate market opportunity for the device as well as psychological barriers to adoption:
However, the story doesn’t end there. Between the advantages and challenges of Apple Watch adoption emerges a third reality, which synthesizes the two. Apple Watch uptake will evolve, with early adopters, motivated by excitement, biting first and a second wave of mainstream consumers – who can see and experience the benefits of the device – buying next.
Forrester has been analyzing device adoption since the launch of its Consumer Technographics® studies in 1997. Over the years, it has become evident that although demographics and attitudes influence technology adoption, these elements alone do not predict consumer behavior – subtle factors like context and psychological needs must be taken into account to piece together the technology adoption prediction puzzle. This is because of two essential contradictions that exist between:
What consumers say they will do and what they actually do: The concept of introspection illusion reveals the discrepancy between stated intent and subsequent behavior. Consumers are bad predictors of their own technology adoption patterns and are often conservative when estimating their own device usage.
What consumers say they want and what they really want: As Steve Jobs famously put it, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And even then, consumers might not recognize the benefits of the product – needs are transient, circumstantial, and often conflicting.
A recent opinion piece in The New York Times describes the unique beauty of ecotones, an environmental term for the border between two habitats where cultures merge — where forest meets grassland or water meets shore. According to the article, people are deeply attracted to these areas of convergence and interaction because the edge is where the action is. Like the periphery’s significance in ecology, the edges we create in our society generate energy and are the places we push things to for the best results — borders between diverse urban communities, schools of thought that intersect and cross-pollinate, and, now, our relationship with technology.
Are we ready to live on the edge? Consumers say yes. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that a tenth or more of US online adults are interested in wearing sensor devices on their wrist, embedded into clothing, embedded in jewelry, or as glasses: