The Wearable Fitness Craze
With one in ten Americans over 18 owning some sort of activity tracker, wearable fitness devices are gaining significant popularity and are the newest necessity for your everyday life. An industry forecaster has forecasted that sales of wearable technology will grow from $8.6 billion in 2012 to nearly $30 billion by 2018. Such promises of growth have prompted several companies to enter the market in hopes of capturing the increasing demand. Notably these include Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike Samsung, and most recently Microsoft. If you are unfamiliar with the gadgets out there, take a look at this article, which compares the up and coming wearable technology. Microsoft’s product looks to operate with all operating systems, connect to social accounts, while monitoring heart rate, calories, stress, and even sun exposure. Clearly, companies are increasingly looking to create a differentiated, seamlessly integrated experience with a somewhat fashionable look. Fitbit took the design to a new level by recently teaming up with Tory Burch to make fitness into fashion. With an overwhelming amount of options on the market, consumers look to design, the abilities, and ease of adaption in choosing a fitness device. However what can surpass that is the social aspect that allows users to create a team, keeping them on track.
The Power of a Team
While the technology alone is cool enough, it is the social aspect of these wearable devices that have helped the growth of this market. It is no secret that research shows the best way to stay committed and motivated in a fitness program is to work out with friends. Wearable fitness does just that by leveraging technology and virtual teams on social networks that help you reach your personal goals faster. Data from companies such as Fitbit and Jawbone have shown that the social aspects of interacting with fellow users through taunts or encouragement or seeing the activity of others, prompts users to be more active. Specifically, Fitbit found that users who join with friends are 27% more active and for every friend added to your team, your activity increases by 750 steps a day. Likewise, both Nike and Jawbone stats show that the greater your network on the app the greater your activity level. Similarly, with customized settings and goals, many devices alert you to your daily progress by sending updates, motivational words, and even advice. Additionally, these bands allow users to connect several different apps one may already be using, such as a food app, to integrate into the device’s app, or vice versa if consumers use a separate app for recording specialized activities.
Is wearable fitness a fad or can the social aspect keep it afloat?
However, though the social aspect motivates and holds people accountable, as always, exercise is a tricky activity to push people to do. Once people stop wearing their bands, many stop going the extra mile (pun intended). In fact, in a 2014 study, it was found that more than half of those who owned a modern activity tracker no longer use it. One third of those people give up their device within six months.
Pushing to better understand the habits that make up your lifestyle and the areas of wellness in which you are lacking, is the aim of every wearable fitness device. However, without network effects and being able to have a team on your respective device, can wearable fitness continue to take hold? Furthermore, while posting your fitness goal on Facebook or Twitter is sure to hold you more accountable, it seems the main goal should be to leverage the network within a device’s own community. Lastly, there are currently limits to these trackers in the effective ability to record certain exercises like weight lifting, swimming, or spinning. Users can get discouraged if they are being active but that isn’t translating on their device. Perhaps one indication of the difficulty of this market, is that Nike recently announced its exit from the wearable fitness industry. Surprisingly, Nike had one of the most active fitness communities in Nike+, yet it wasn’t enough to keep them in the hardware business as they faced competition with more seamless tech giants.
With all this said, I think (and hope!) wearable fitness will continue to evolve. Until there is more cross-platform collaboration between wearable devices, users will be restricted mainly to their device community, restricting the social aspect significantly. If gyms continue to add ways in which to better incorporate them into the experience and bands look to become more sophisticated and seamless, wearable fitness can hold more traction and effectively gain users by pushing the motivating social experience.