Are We Already Seeing The Demise of Wearables?

October 3, 2016

10:40 am

Do you feel naked if you leave the house without your FitBit? Are you completely lost when you head to work and forget your favorite smart watch? Well, that feeling might not last very long. A recent study found that most people ditch their wearables within six months of purchasing them.

This may seem like a death knell to some. On the other hand, big brands are still investing money into wearable technology, including the likes of Google and Disney. So, is the trend dead, or is their still life left when it comes to wearables?

Wearable Evangelist

If you ask FitBit CEO James Park if the wearables trend is coming to an end, you will hear an enthusiastic no. He cites the steady growth of his company from 80 to 270 employees, outreach into retail outlets, and new markets as proof that his product and other wearables aren’t going anywhere. Other enthusiasts point to the fact that the wearable technology industry as a whole has surpassed predictions when it comes to overall sales.

Roadblocks to Wearables Success

One very relevant, yet frequently ignored question is, ‘Are activity trackers effective?’  The answer is, maybe not. It has been shown that wearing fitness trackers may not contribute to weight loss. This may be the result of a common belief that increasing activity means that it's okay to consume more calories. For most people, this is simply untrue. This might contribute to the frequent appearance of these devices on eBay and other similar websites. It might also explain why wearable owners often admit that the devices they do own are collecting dust.

There are also behavioral and technological troubles. Battery life in wearables is infamously short. Then there's the challenge of creating behavioral changes that will make wearables useful to consumers. When customers have to upload data or download product updates, customers are less inclined to incorporate a wearable device into their daily lives.

An Inherent Marketing Mistake

Travis Bogard is the head of marketing and project strategy at Jawbone, another company that produces fitness related wearables. He believes that the issues plaguing the wearables industry isn’t about product effectiveness, pricing, or reliability. He claims there is an issue with marketing.

According to Bogard, there is too much focus on product features and technology, and not enough focus on the benefits of using the products. This isn’t a new marketing concept, so it could very well be that the man has a point. After all, Theodore Levitt did say, “People don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole!”

Rising Customer Expectations

If the wearable industry is going to survive, companies are going to have to reach higher to continue to meet customer expectations. For some, this might mean making the technology significantly more discreet, or even more fashionable. After all, it’s difficult to envision going out on the town donning your plastic fitness tracer around your wrist. This could pave the way for embedded technology in clothing or jewelry.

Of course, customers are going to expect more from the performance of these devices and the data they receive. There is no doubt, that wearable manufacturers who want to stay relevant already have their engineers working on meeting these new expectations.

It is likely that wearables, at least as we know them today, are slowing going away. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a future for wearable technology, however. There is a lot of space here for disruption, and also potential to reach out to a more elite audience with even higher end products. Whatever direction companies take, they’ll need to take their clues from consumers.

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien