Projections of the wearable and fitness app market’s future sales have been all over the place. One obstacle has been less-than-enthusiastic adoption of the benefit as part of the benefits package offered by employers.
The fact is, fitness apps and wearables are making inroads, especially among the younger generation and those who see themselves as “early adopters.” New data produced by PwC suggests these nascent fitness aids could be about to cross the tipping point and really take off, with millennials giving a big push.
PwC surveyed 1,000 consumers, wearable technology influencers and business executives, and monitored social media chatter, to produce The Wearable Future report. Among its chief findings: already 20 percent of adults own a wearable device.
“While fitness bands, smart watches and other wearables are already established in the market, many of them have under-delivered on expectations,” PwC said in its report. “Consider that 33 percent of surveyed consumers who purchased a wearable technology device more than a year ago now say they no longer use the device at all or use it infrequently. Price, privacy, security, and the lack of ‘actionable’ and inconsistent information from such devices are among consumers’ main apprehensions with the bourgeoning category. In fact, 82 percent of respondents were worried that wearable technology would invade their privacy and 86 percent expressed concern that wearables would make them more vulnerable to security breaches.”
In other words, the industry can get people to give wearables a try. But those users have too many reasons to stop using them, so most do.
Meantime, the PwC data did offer some good news. More than half of millennials and early adopters said they were excited about the technology’s future, and many cited the following benefits:
- Improved safety: 90 percent said wearables could play an important role for parents by helping them track their children;
- Healthier living: More than 80 percent of consumers said the technology could support eating healthier and exercising smarter, as well as help them access more convenient medical care;
- Simplicity and ease of use: 83 percent of respondents cited simplification and improved ease of technology as a key benefit of wearable technology.
Millennials could well be the key to how fast and far the wearables industry grows. Among the feedback PwC reported:
- 73 percent of respondents expect wearable technology to make media and entertainment more immersive and fun, and the expectations were even higher among millennials at 79 percent.
- 64 percent of millennials said they’d be excited to try a wearable technology product introduced by an entertainment or media company, compared to 42 percent of the general population.
- Millennials, who were three times as likely as the general population to list real-time social media updates as an important benefit of wearables.
- After dietary, exercise and medical information, an enhanced retail experience was at the top of the list of information millennials would like wearable tech to provide them. Fifty-one percent of millennials said this would be information they’d like to know, compared to 45 percent of the general population.
Health care and health insurance continue to represent large potential markets for wearables, and the PwC survey underscored this, but resistance remains, largely around the issues of cost and privacy. Among the findings:
- More than 80 percent of consumers said an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make health care more convenient.
- 68 percent of consumers would wear employer-provided wearables streaming anonymous data to an information pool in exchange for break on their insurance premiums. Moreover, consumers are more willing to try wearable technology provided by their primary care doctor’s office than they are from any other brand or category.
- Few consumers are interested in using wearables to share health data with friends and family, and, citing concerns about privacy, consumers trust their personal physicians most with their health data.
- Consumers might need a human touch to help them choose a device and its associated apps. An “apps formulary” of apps vetted by medical teams (and available in a virtual apps pharmacy) could help consumers wade through the thousands of health apps and devices.
- Employees are generally okay with the inclusion of wearables in benefits packages – 70 percent of respondents say they expect their workplace to permit the use of wearable technology. But many don’t want to pay for them – 46 percent say they think their company should fund the wearable technology.