New research from market intelligence agency Mintel finds that UK sales of wearable devices more than doubled over the past 12 months to a record 3 million. One in seven Brits now own a fitness tracker or smartwatch.
Whilst smartwatch sales are set to soar in 2016, Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin and other fitness trackers out-stripped sales of smartwatches by almost two to one. All in all, 63% of wrist-worn wearable devices sold in 2015 were fitness bands, while 37% were smartwatches. If you compare that to 2014, smartwatches accounted for just 9% of sales. While Mintel didn’t give a breakdown on brand preferences, it is likely that the arrival of the Apple Watch since then gave smartwatch sales a boost.
Around 9% Brits say they plan to buy or upgrade to a new fitness band within the next 12 months, compared to 8% who say the same of smartwatches. But it seems that it is not new purchasers who are interested in investing in these devices as 40% of consumers planning on buying or upgrading a smartwatch or fitness band in the next year already own a wrist-worn wearable device.
Sara Ballaben, Technology Analyst at Mintel, said: “While fitness bands are, on average, less expensive than other wearables and have been on the market for relatively longer, higher adoption rates are also a reflection of the fact that wrist-worn devices offer a compelling practical benefit to active users”.
“While important product launches have and will certainly continue to accelerate consumer demand for smartwatches, the expected popularity of smartwatches in the short term is also the result of continued growth of the phablet market, which creates more compelling use cases for wrist-worn watches.”
Overall, 7% of Brits currently own a fitness band and 3% own a smartwatch. Consumers aged 16-34 show the strongest interest in wearables, being about three times more likely than those aged 35+ to own a fitness band.
“As consumers value ‘wearability’ and prioritise personal style over more technological features, strengthening consumers’ perception of wearable technology as customisable personal accessories rather than ‘techy’ gadgets will be key to boosting adoption. Moreover, everyday experiences, from in-store try-outs and demonstrations to real-world applications at different locations, including shopping malls, airports, train stations, cinemas and entertainment parks, can help familiarise consumers with the benefits of wearables.” Sara continues.
Mintel research indicates that despite the growing popularity of wearable devices, there are common concerns about the technology shared by many consumers. Nearly 60% of consumers say they would worry about the security of their personal data if it was stored on a wearable device, whilst over half say they do not see how wearable devices could add value to their daily routine. What’s more, two in five say that wearable technology represents an invasion of one’s privacy.
While consumers are open to receiving different types of information through their wearable devices, Bellaben adds that that preference varies.
“The gap between overall interest in receiving alerts through wearables and specific interest in each type of information alert suggests that there is significant variability among consumer preferences and no one-size-fits-all solution can be successful.
“As a result, it is fundamental that wearables do not overload users with information and, instead, filter selectively what information is disseminated.
“This suggests that customisation should go beyond a device’s design to allow users to personalise the use they make of their wearable, as well as the range and number of alerts they receive.”