As most of us know, it’s tough to fit all of our research into a quick 5 minute presentation. So here’s my followup blog on everything I may have missed about digital fitness.
For the purpose of my presentation, I chose to focus solely on FitBit, as they are the market leader with 85% market share. The other 15% of the fitness wearable industry, however, is extremely fragmented with several brands fighting for position. FitBit’s current lead is in no way guaranteed moving forward as there are many companies right at their heels fighting hard to take over. Several of them, like NikeFuel and Up by Jawbone, are very similar to FitBit in terms of products and features. Here are some of the most interesting stories about competitors that stood out in my research:
Many people wonder, how is Fitbit ahead when Apple offers a product that can do essentially all of the same things and more?
Still in its infancy, the Apple Watch gets scrutinized for not having a clear definition; it’s a combo of a fitness tracker, fashion accessory, notification center, and a traditional watch. So far, the Apple Watch hasn’t hit any of these features out of the park, which leaves consumers wondering what value it really adds. At this point, it is simply “expensive convenience gadget.”
In distinguishing Apple products, we also need to talk about price point. The AppleWatch Sport starts at $299 and ranges up to the stainless steel AppleWatch at 1,049. Compare this to FitBit prices, which range from 79.95 to 249.50. FitBit’s most expensive product doesn’t even cost as much as Apple’s cheapest. And right now, the additional features just aren’t worth the price difference.
Research has estimated that fitness trackers, like FitBit and NikeFuel, will dominate the wearables market until about 2018. It’s really going to take another two or three years for the smart watch to take over.
The criticism of most of these fitness trackers is that they don’t actually change behavior but are instead passive ways to simply monitor current behavior. A brand that seems to avoid this criticism is Moov, “your personal fitness coach.” Uniquely, this device actually speaks to you during your workout, giving you words of encouragement and telling you exactly how much harder you need to work to achieve your goal. Research shows that this style of interactive tracking is much more likely to actually change behavior. Moov is said to be “the difference between a trivial step count and actual improved health and fitness performance.” Perhaps in the future, competitors will catch on to this trend and add some sort of audible feature into their devices.
Even the legendary sports drink brand is trying to hop on the fitness wearable train with a micro-chip fitted smart cap that links to a sweat patch and tells you how much you need to drink throughout your workout. I took this as a clear indication of the growth of this digital fitness market insomuch as all fitness brands, even sports drinks, are attempting to get involved.
The Catch-22 of Digital Fitness
Like all technology, digital fitness doesn’t come without a dark side. Psychologists have studied that similar to the craving millennials get for likes on Instagram or Facebook to define themselves, some users of digital fitness devices become so wrapped up in online validation that there is severe disappointment if the effort is put in without any digital payoff in terms of online recognition. “Constant over sharing and validation-seeking behavior” can turn into unhealthy and obsessive habits.
FitBit or “QuitBit”?
One of the main concerns I mentioned is the long term success of fitness trackers. 42% of purchasers ditch their FitBit after just six months. This makes people wonder, is this all just a fad that will fade away?
The key is all in behavior. Many people assert that right now, Fitbit simply tracks behavior instead of changing it.In order to become a habit, the behavior must be changed from an intention to an action. All of us have good intentions, especially around January when New Years Resolutions are in full swing. “I’ll go to the gym every day. I’ll eat healthier. I’ll register for a half marathon.” But then by late spring, all of those intentions have fallen by the wayside and we are back to our same old, unhealthy habits.
Many authors suggest that while FitBit has the potential to change behavior, it simply hasn’t been successful yet. Why not? As I described with the hook model, rewards are key to motivating new behaviors. It’s in our nature to work hard knowing that we will get something at the end of the road. Some say that FitBit has not tapped into this enough-getting your wristband to vibrate when you reach 10,000 steps or getting a new badge is simply just not enough to motivate people to keep going.
How to Stay Relevant: Partnerships
I see the key to success for wearable fitness as being full integration into our everyday lives. This industry provides the perfect example of network effects, meaning that the more people that wear fitness trackers, the more valuable they become. More people will wear them if they fit right into our lives, meaning that they’re fashionable, convenient and add value. In my opinion, this is the only way they will stay relevant.
FitBit has already started to innovate through partnerships. Tory Burch offers fashion-forward FitBit bands to “transform your FitBit into a chic accessory.” Additionally, the newest FitBit Alta was featured on the runway during New York City fashion week by fashion brand, Public School. Making FitBit a fashionable part of an outfit is key to integration and longterm adoption.
Amazon Echo, a wireless voice control system, is yet another example of a valuable FitBit partner. Now, it’s possible to ask “Alexa” (essentially, Amazon’s version of Siri) how many steps, floors, calories, active minutes ect. you’ve had today. It’s an instantaneous way to get a fitness update as you would a news report.
In the future, once the kinks have been sorted out, I definitely see the SmartWatch trend overtaking fitness wearables for the sole reason that the watches will integrate even more smoothly into our lives. I see fitness trackers as this generations digital cameras; something that is revolutionary now but will eventually be replaced by a feature in a more comprehensive piece of technology. I’m rooting for FitBit, but realistically I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see the brand fade away as SmartWatches eventually take center stage.