Consumers are getting bored with smartwatches and fitness trackers: Gartner

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Users are abandoning their smartwatches and fitness trackers at double-digit rates in large part because they don’t find them very useful, indicating that wearables players need to develop better value propositions for their devices – and in a way that doesn’t simply ape what smartphones can already do, according to a survey by Gartner.

The survey found that the abandonment rate of smartwatches is 29%, and 30% for fitness trackers, because people do not find them useful, they get bored of them or they break, said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner.

“Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry,” McIntyre, said. “The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate. To offer a compelling enough value proposition, the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide. Wearables makers need to engage users with incentives and gamification.”

According to the survey – which aims to gain a better understanding of consumers’ attitudes toward wearables, particularly their buying behavior for smartwatches, fitness trackers and virtual reality (VR) glasses – smartwatch adoption is still in the early adopter stage (10%), while fitness trackers have reached early mainstream (19%). Only 8% of consumers have used VR glasses/head-mounted displays (excluding cardboard types).

The survey found that people typically purchase smartwatches and fitness trackers for their own use, with 34% of fitness trackers and 26% of smartwatches given as gifts.

“Continued growth in the adoption of smartwatches and fitness trackers will now be from mainstream consumers instead of early technology adopters,” said McIntyre. “The greatest hurdle for fitness tracker and smartwatch providers to overcome is the consumer perception that the devices do not offer a compelling enough value proposition.”

Survey respondents indicated that wearable devices are priced too high, given their perceived usefulness. Gartner believes that wearable providers that do not have a strong brand name will find it more difficult to grow market share, competing directly with popular brands. Instead, they should accept lower margins and provide an alternative that is priced significantly lower than top brands, but still has good quality for price-sensitive consumers.

The survey also revealed that the designs of smartwatches and fitness trackers are not appealing to consumers. To overcome this concern, Gartner recommends wearable providers partner with companies that design, brand, market and distribute watches and fashion accessories because they have experience setting style trends, marketing lifestyle devices and have established retail channels.

“The key to creating a value proposition to interest mainstream consumers is lifestyle messages around health tracking and the convenience of receiving alerts on the wrist, instead of via the phone,” said Ms. McIntyre. “The benefit will increase as these devices gain the capability to function more independently from the phone.”

Gartner adds that fitness trackers have reached the early mainstream stage, but 29% of survey respondents said fitness trackers are unappealing devices. They said they would not wear them or that the designs are neither fashionable nor attractive. “Fitness tracker cases and wristbands designed by fashion brands are sold as higher-priced upgrades, which may be a barrier to purchase,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Younger people less than 45 years old tended to think a smartphone can do everything they need. People at least 45 years old state that they do not plan to purchase a fitness tracker because they are too expensive for the value.

“More fitness trackers will be sold as replacement devices rather than first-time purchases from now until the middle of 2017,” said Kitagawa. “It’s important for providers to market lower-priced fitness trackers to the older user segments, especially to older women.”

Gartner clients can read more in the report: User Survey Analysis: Wearables Need to Be More Useful

The 2016 Gartner Personal Technologies Study surveyed 9,592 online respondents from Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. between June and August 2016.

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