The Increasing Popularity of Wearable Devices

The wearable technology market has grown tremendously in the past several years. Previously an average consumer used less than one wearable device. However, now consumers will purchase multiple wearable devices as technology continues to evolve. Wearable technology includes items such as Google Glass, Apple Watch, and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. With all these new devices, marketing departments face difficulties not only in differentiating their products from competitors but also in creating marketing strategies for these devices.

Wearable technology will play a critical role in bringing change to consumer behavior and preferences, leading brands to research their next moves. Manufacturers and software developers are looking to create wearable devices that are on par or better than current devices such as mobile phone, laptops, and tablets. Marketers are finding that in order to get consumers to purchase wearable technology, consumers must understand how the technology can enhance or support their everyday lives.

As the wearable device industry is still relatively new a lot of companies recognizing the potential opportunities. Apple, who released a first generation Apple Watch device in April, just 5 months ago, has already released an updated version, the Apple Watch 2. Apple is aware of the great potential in the amount of customers willing to purchase a wearable device. Furthermore, forecasters have predicted that by 2019, the Apple WatchOS will capture almost 50 percent of the market share with over 40.3 million units to be shipped.

A white Apple Watch with the Apple logo next to it.
Apple, although they only released the first generation Apple Watch 5 months ago, have already released an Apple Watch 2 due to its popularity and consumer demand. Source: Google Images.

As online communication has increased, marketers of wearable devices are increasingly looking at different ways consumers are accessing information. Starbucks has leveraged this technology with a wearable Android app called “Wearbucks.” This app, designed for smart watches, allows the wearer to pay for Starbucks and sends the consumer targeted marketing messages if a Starbucks store nearby by reminding the user to redeem reward points or to have a well-deserved coffee break.

Within the wearable devices, the popularity of fitness trackers has grown tremendously. According to an article found on AdWeek, wearable health trackers are about consumers getting smarter by taking information and acting on it, leading to a more informed lifestyle. Of the 18.1 million wearable devices shipped out in the last two quarters, FitBit, one of the most popular activity fitness device producer, shipped out 4.4 million of these wearable devices. As fitness and other wearable devices have increased in popularity, jewelry and accessory companies have also seen their sales increase. As some consumers, specifically women, want to hide some of their wearable devices, like the FitBit, companies such as Tory Burch, a jewelry designer, have created fashion-forward accessories in which wearable devices can be hidden in a bracelet or necklace.

Several types of FitBit (fitness activity tracker) devices, such as a watch and a belt clip, lined up.
FitBit is one of the leading providers of fitness activity trackers and to date has sold over 20.8 million devices. Source: Google Images.

The worldwide market for wearables is being driven not only by a growing list of vendors, such as Apple and Android but also driven by the abundance of devices offered at various price points. The future of wearable device shipments are expected to reach over 76.1 million units, which is an increase of 163.6% from 2014, when 28.9 million units were shipped. Although many of the devices currently offered lack a display or have sophisticated computing power companies are continuing to develop and produce new wearable devices for the technology savvy consumer.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • Research how some companies, such as Apple and FitBit, are marketing wearable devices to consumers.
  • Do you think wearable devices will gain popularity, or do these devices just duplicate something that a consumer already owns?
  • What kind of marketing opportunities exist for the different application of the devices?