Wearable Technology Struggles To Grow Consumer Interest

Smart devices and clothing—items embedded with internet-connected electronics—are a struggling market segment, and a study by market research firm AYTM suggests consumers’ interest is modest in the near term. In a survey of consumers over age 18, roughly one fifth (18 percent) had bought a wearable device or smart clothing, and less than half (46 percent) were at least somewhat likely to do so over the next five years.

AYTM’s data shows that wearables holding the most appeal are health-related, with 84 percent of those owning the devices using them to track fitness or physical activity. Other popular features include smartphone connectivity (53 percent) and location-based services (22 percent). Furthermore, among those who already own a wearable device, 78 percent said that they were likely to purchase more in the next five years.

In 2015, eMarketer forecast that the wearable market would grow by 60 percent in 2016 but later pulled back its estimate to 24.7 percent. Prospects for the segment have cooled, as smart watch shipments dropped by 50 percent year-over-year in third quarter 2016, the industry has consolidated and manufacturers have reported declining sales—Fitbit’s fourth quarter 2016 revenues were down 19.3 percent year-over-year.

While eMarketer’s research estimates that wearables will reach 17.6 percent of the population in 2017, they will be more popular among younger people. It found that roughly 30 percent of adults aged 18-34 will use them in 2017. It also noted a gender shift, with most wearable users being women by 2018.

For more on AYTM’s survey of smart products, click here.

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