Fitbit aims to become the “check engine” light for the body.

… But first it needs to convince consumers that wearables are a “need-to-have” versus a “nice-to-have” product.


Between Fitbits, Apple Watches and other “wearables,” I suspect the holiday season this year will be full of gift-giving of these and other types of interactive gadgetry.

The question is – how many of these items will still be being used by the end of the next year?

According to a recent online survey of ~9,600 consumers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia conducted by market research firm Gartner, many of these wearable devices will be destined for the dresser drawer.

The abandonment rate for smartwatches is expected to be ~29%, while for fitness trackers, it’s forecast to be nearly the same at ~30%.

Part of the problem is that while most people typically purchase these products for themselves, more than one-third of fitness trackers and more than a quarter of smartwatches are given as gifts.

When gadgets like these are gifted, often it’s “easy-come, easy-go.”

The Fitbit company knows about these dynamics all-too well. According to an article earlier this month in The Wall Street Journal, the company is struggling to develop its next generation of products and to attract new users.

While that’s going on, for this holiday season, Fitbit’s sales are forecast to grow only in the 2% to 5% range, as compared to double-digit increases in prior quarters.

Essentially, what Fitbit and other brands need to do is to move consumers to start considering wearables as “need-to-have” rather than “nice to have” products — and to avoid the dreaded “fad” moniker (as in “for-a-day”).

This imperative helps explain Fitbit’s attempts to position its products as ones that measure long-term health conditions rather than being simply fitness trackers.

The notion is that physicians could start prescribing Fitbit devices to track patients’ vital signs in heart health, or physical therapists doing the same to help monitor their patients’ at-home exercise routines.

Fitbit is also working on developing trackers that can detect and diagnose long-term health conditions. To that end, what’s critical is to come up with defining functions that other gadgets can’t perform.

Otherwise, consumers are less likely to be interested — figuring that they can get the same kind of functionality out of other devices they already own.

In the meantime, look for wearables to be under the tree this holiday season … and then for many of them to be stuffed in a drawer someplace by next summer.

Are wearable devices wearing out their welcome?


So-called “wearable” interactive devices – products like Fitbit and Apple Watch – aren’t exactly new. In some cases, they’ve been in the market in a pretty big way for several years now.  Plenty of them are being produced and are readily available from popular retailers.

And plenty of consumers have tried them, too. Forrester Research has found that about one in five U.S. consumers (~21%) used some form of wearable product in 2015.

That sounds pretty decent … until you discover that in similar consumer research conducted this year, the percentage of consumers who use wearables has actually declined to ~14%.

The findings are part of Forrester’s annual State of Consumers & Technology Benchmark research. The research involves online surveys of a large group of ~60,000 U.S. adults age 18 and over, as well as an additional 6,000 Canadian respondents.

Not surprisingly, the demographic group most likely to be users of wearables are Gen Y’ers – people ages 28 to 36 years old. Within this group, about three-fourths report that they have ever used a wearable device … but only ~28% report that they are using one or more this year.

Forrester’s research found the same trend in Gen Z (respondents between 18 and 27 years old), where ~26% have used wearable devices in the past, but only ~15% are doing so currently.

The question is … does this mean that wearables are merely a passing fad? Or is it more a situation where the wearable technology isn’t delivering on consumer expectations?

The Forrester research points to the latter explanation. Gina Fleming, leader of Forrester’s marketing data science work team, put it this way:

“Younger consumers tend to have the highest expectations for technology and for companies. They tried these devices, and oftentimes it didn’t meet their expectations in their current use case.  Young consumers tend to be early adopters, but are also fast to move on if they’re not satisfied.”

One interesting finding of the survey is that among the older cohorts – respondents over the age of 36 – their usage has increased in the past year rather than decreased as was found with younger respondents.

Among the respondents who currently use at least one wearable device, there are no real surprises in which ones are the most popular, with Fitbit and Apple Watch heading the list:

  • Fitbit: Used by ~40% of all current wearable device users
  • Apple Watch: ~32%
  • Samsung Galaxy Gear: ~27%
  • Microsoft Band: ~21%
  • Sony SmartBand: ~19%
  • Pebble Smart Watch: ~17%

Looking to the future, although marketers of wearable devices might be happy to see positive trends among older consumers, the usage levels in broad terms tend to be significantly lower than with younger consumers.

It’s within that younger group where the high degree of “churn” appears to offer the biggest opportunities – as well as risks – for wearable device purveyors.

What about your own personal experiences with wearables? Have you found yourself using wearable devices less today than a year ago?  And if so, why?

Digiday ID’s the most “overhyped” marketing developments of 2015.

Digiday logoWhat were the most overhyped marketing stories in 2015? Media company Digiday‘s brand reporter Tanya Dua has come up with a list of four that she feels fits the bill.  See if you agree.

Apple Watch

Apple WatchDua notes that the Apple Watch was announced with so much fanfare that developers began making apps for it a half-year before the product hit the shelves — including big consumer players like Target and American Airlines.  But sales of the Apple Watch have been tepid at best.  There’s no way the marketplace performance of the product has come even remotely close to the company’s hopse for it.

Thom Gruhler, a CMO at Microsoft, says it well:

“When it [comes] down to the Apple Watch, one big question has still not been answered: Will anyone end up really ‘needing’ to engage with this shiny new technology?  What happened in 2015 was a disappointing start.”

Others appear to be even less charitable. A few are even equating the launch of the Apple Watch with that of another product that was similarly hyped:  Remember the Segway?  Everyone was supposed to end up having one of those — whereas the reality is closer to no one having them, with the exception of a few security cops and a few “trendy” businesses with long hallways.

Wearable Tech

wearableMany prognosticators were expecting that the “big data” promise of using wearable technology for experiences that were predictive and personalized would be fulfilled in 2015.  That’s hardly what’s happened.  According to Dua, wearables have yet to deliver anything like that in any meaningful way.

She quotes Julie Lee, Managing Director of marketing communications firm Maxus USA’s Chicago office:

“Technology, design and user experiences still need to be worked out. Though many companies are making great strides, we continue to watch this space to see if ‘what’s possible’ can truly become possible.  Wearables still hold great potential, but we’ll need to address today’s obstacles before we can become a ‘wearables-first’ market.”

Tanya Dua cites two other developments she feels were overhyped in 2015: Influencer Partnerships and Virtual Reality.

The problem with influencer marketing is when there’s little natural synergy between brands seeking to connect with their consumers more directly. “Authenticity” matters — and too often influencers are rather awkwardly tied to products few people would ever associate with them.

As for virtual reality, the problem is one of practical implementation and adoption by consumers; it hasn’t been happening — mainly due to lack of content and available hardware. Without those pieces of the puzzle in place, marketers simply can’t justify the cost having their brands present in the mix.  Instead, look for this trend to gather more steam in 2017 and years further out, Dua contends.

What do you think? Is Tanya Dua correct in labeling these marketing trends as “overhyped”?  What else would you add to the list?  Please share your thoughts with other readers here.

Is the Apple Watch already proving the naysayers wrong?

Apple WatchI’ve blogged recently about the market reception to the Apple Watch, which seemed to be somewhat less “ecstatic” compared with previous Apple product introductions — at least in the first few weeks after its unveiling.

Now we have several months behind us — as well as some field research that suggests that the Apple Watch is being very well-received by early adopters.

logoThe findings come courtesy of a research panel of 145 Apple Watch owners who were contacted in late July and early August 2015 by consumer market research company 451 Research. The research sample was drawn from the company’s ChangeWave network of ~25,000 business and technology professionals.

The overall satisfaction level with the Apple Watch among these respondents is ~83%, with ~54% stating that they are “very satisfied” with the product.

In terms of how well the watch is performing in relation to owners’ expectations, almost the same percentage (~79%) state that the Apple Watch is meeting them.

The three attributes of the Apple Watch that are most well-liked are these:

  • Notifications/alerts: ~49% mentioned
  • Health and fitness monitoring: ~41%
  • Design aesthetics of the product: ~30%

The three concerns about the Apple Watch mentioned most frequently are these:

  • Battery life is too short: ~37% mentioned
  • Tied to the iPhone: ~31%
  • Product is not waterproof: ~25%

The battery life issue really is one to “watch,” as it were:  Tracking surveys of Apple Watch owners reveal that more people are checking their battery status at least once per day than are checking their watch faces for the time (!).

Not surprisingly, the Apple Watch poses a competitive threat to more traditional digital watches, as more than four in five respondents report that the Apple Watch has replaced the traditional watches if they had worn one earlier.  (On the other hand, about one third of owners didn’t wear anything on their wrist at all before acquiring their Apple Watch.)

Fitness monitors: Odd man out?
Fitness monitors: Odd man out?

The popularity of the Apple Watch’s health and fitness monitoring capabilities portends problems for competing monitors as well. Nearly half of the Apple Watch owners surveyed by 451 Research reported that they have previously planned on purchasing a monitor, but have since decided not to, thanks to the Apple Watch’s functionality.

As for whether the Apple Watch is becoming an indispensible part of the fabric of daily life with these users as compared to being more of a novelty gadget, the behavior is looking a lot more like the former:

  • Use daily for health and fitness monitoring: ~79% of respondents reported
  • Send and receive text messages daily: ~63%
  • Check weather information daily: ~52%

Perhaps the best indication of how satisfied these early adopters are with the Apple Watch is how they responded to the question, “Would you recommend the Apple Watch to a friend or colleague?”

The answer? More than four in five respondents (~83%) answered in the affirmative: ~55% reported “very likely” and ~28% reported “somewhat likely.”

If consumer response continues along the same lines in the upcoming months, it may well mean that the Apple Watch is on the path to gaining impressive adoption figures — and proving the naysayers wrong.

The real proof will be in the sales figures, of course.  But seeing these indications of early adopters being quite satisfied ith the product’s performance — and willing to recommend it to friends and colleagues — is a very good first step.

If you have begun using an Apple Watch, I’m sure other readers would be interested to know what appeals to you most about it — and what attributes might not be living up your expectations. Please share your experiences here.

What’s happening with the Apple Watch these days?

Not all that much, it turns out.

Apple Watch LineWhen is the last time you heard about a product introduction where initial sales were off by 90% barely three months after coming on the market?

If you’re thinking the Blackberry 10 … you’re wrong.

It’s the Apple Watch. Its introduction in April was made with a big amount of fanfare, promoted before and after the launch by PR, TV and online advertising, and even outdoor billboards.

But the hard truth is that aside from the tech community, few people are buying the Apple Watch.

According to Slide Intelligence, weekly Apple Watch sales have plummeted from around 200,000 per day at launch to fewer than 20,000 per day now. Moreover, most sales have been of the least expensive Sport model ($349).

Even worse, of those who have purchased an Apple Watch, fewer than four in ten would recommend the device to others.

You know there’s a problem when a new product engenders ridicule such as this brief, highly dismissive video review.

It may be too soon to write off the Apple Watch introduction as an abject failure. But I know one thing: The market’s (lack of) receptivity so far can’t be what Apple execs were hoping for.

It must be quite a comedown for a company that experienced the dizzying popularity of the iPod, iPhone and iPad right out of the box — and where those product sales continued to climb at an increasing rate for months or years after their debut.

google-glass-fashionSome people are comparing the Apple Watch introduction to what happened to Google Glass – likewise the victim of tepid sales to the point where Google quietly removed the product from the market after making a go of it for about two years.

Actually, I’m not quite sure the comparison is completely apt.

For starters, Google Glass didn’t come on the market backed by a ginormous PR and advertising campaign. In fact, it wasn’t really presented as a full-blown product – but more like a project with a beta test component.

Also, it was never made available in wide release; some people I know who wanted to “kick the tires” with Google Glass had difficulty finding out how they could do so.

But besides the very different rollout strategies, another factor might explain a more fundamental difference – and which has hugely negative potential impact on the Apple Watch.

Whereas Google Glass offered its wearers some truly new functionality, what does the Apple Watch deliver besides being merely a miniature version of an iPhone?

When something is less user-friendly (too miniature for many) … doesn’t offer any new functionality over alternative products … and is pretty expensive to boot, is it any wonder that the Apple Watch’s debut has had all the pizzazz of a cold mashed potato sandwich?

Speaking personally, I don’t consider a multipurpose device about an inch square in size as a “must-have” gadget, and I’m pretty sure others would agree with me.

Technology writer and CRM specialist Gene Marks cautions that the Apple Watch’s future isn’t likely to be much brighter than its less-than-impressive performance to date because of this fundamental liability: “The Apple Watch is not making people or companies quicker, better or wiser,” he contends.

In the world of technology and gadgets, that’s not recipe for success. Just ask Blackberry.

Now … let’s hear from Apple Watch users.  What’s your take?

Google Glass: Far-sighted … or fuzzy?

Google Glass fashionI’ve been blogging about Google Glass forever, it seems — or at least as far back as 2009 when the early conception of the product, then known as “Google Goggles,” was in its preliminary stage of development.

The Google Glass product was “soft-launched” in 2012, but it’s only become available to the broader consumer marketplace since the spring of this year — at about $1,500 a pair.

So … how has Google Glass done so far?

“Underwhelming” might be one way of putting it.

As it turns out, there are a number of key factors that are hindering consumer acceptance of this new piece of electronic gadgetry. Consider these points:

  • Substandard quality of images and video compared to a ~$200 smartphone:  oversaturated colors, lack of depth and dimension and all.
  • Battery life in normal use that is far less than promised: only about three hours instead of a full day.
  • Although somewhat streamlined compared to the beta versions of the product, it remains a somewhat “clunky” wearable device — or as Forbes magazine puts it, a “fashion failure.”
  • The general “creep-out factor” of constant surveillance remains a psychological barrier to many consumers.

Indeed, the jokes haven’t abated about the kind of people who make up the cadre of Google Glass “early adopters.”

“Glassholes” is one of the not-so-nice monikers they’re being called.

Going forward, Google Glass faces even more competition in the “wearables” category as computer power migrates into watches, jewelry and clothing in addition to eyeglasses. Even as these concepts become more mainstream, I suspect that Google Glass will continue to lag behind other products which seem to be harnessing the “high-tech-meets-high-fashion” concept more effectively.

We saw clear evidence of that this past week with the introduction of the Apple Watch.

Whereas Google has taken a “brute force” approach in the technological aspects of Google Glass (with design playing second fiddle), Apple has taken its technological innovation and packaged it in a way that resonates with the marketplace at a more visceral level.

If you glance quickly at someone wearing Apple’s watch, you’d be hard-pressed to think it’s anything much different from an analog version.  If Google hopes to have the same kind of success that Apple is poised to have, it needs to start thinking along those lines, too.

But one wonders if Google is “hard-wired” that way …