Your customer bought a fitness tracker…or is it a dumb smartwatch?

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Recent data from TraQline shows just how confused some consumers are about the nomenclature when they buy a smartwatch or fitness tracker. Findings indicate that many people classify their wrist device for this relatively new category according to their primary use. 

The Internet of Things, the use of devices that collect and use data to communicate to and connect with the world, is here, and there is no turning back. Indeed, Forbes predicts that the IoT market will reach $267 billion by 2020. A significant and growing part of this boom comes with a wristband. Today’s smartwatch has caught up to the once far-fetched world of James Bond and Maxwell Smart. Wearable technology now connects people to the world at large, whether through apps and communication or by capturing and sending biometric data into the cloud.

Even so, the smartwatch market remains in its infancy, with nomenclature and use both developing slowly. Two years after the first Apple Watch hit the market, and more than seven years after the first Fitbit tracker, these remain not only dominant in the market, but the main players in what many continue to see as separate spaces entirely.

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Purchasing on Categories and Concepts

A key element in understanding why people purchase wearable technology comes from the category to which they assign it. Consumers differentiate smartwatches and fitness trackers not based on how the makers characterize it, but rather on how the consumers intend to use it:

  • Consumers categorize only 89% of Apple devices as smartwatches, though it sells none of its products as “fitness trackers.”
  • Android devices are considered 63% smartwatches and 37% fitness trackers, even though every android device is marketed as a smartwatch.
  • Fitbit markets four of its fourteen devices as smartwatches, but consumers consider 92% of its technology to be fitness trackers.

Where consumers associate brand with purpose, the reasons for purchase follow. Features dominate reason for purchasing fitness trackers. Brand remains the main focus for the leading smartwatch brands, and price differentiates among Android devices bearing watchmaker brands rather than tech brands:

  • 47% of Fitbit users identify the features as the primary reason for purchase, followed by 33% choosing for price.
  • 45% of Apple Watch buyers and 42% of Samsung watch purchasers identify the brand name as the primary reason for their selection.
  • For other Android OS devices, 48% of purchasers identify price as the primary reason rather than either brand name or features



Self-Fulfilling Purchases

The statistics tell a story of a young market defining itself differently from the way consumers currently identify it. Consumers who consider themselves to be buying a smartwatch tend to focus on brand, much as those purchasing smartphones tend to do. For Apple and Samsung purchasers, almost half initially purchase an Apple Watch or Samsung smartwatch because of the brand itself. For those buying a fitness tracker, though, the specific purpose for the purchase leads to a focus on the features and how well they fulfill the customer’s needs.

Outside of the primary name brands in the wearable device market, though, price drives choice more than any other factor. This is not surprising, as the market is still relatively young. First movers still benefit from their names being associated with the market itself. Over time, one can expect android competitors to push ahead with smartwatch owners, and the smartwatch category itself to grab more of the fitness tracker segment from Fitbit as consumers come to understand the smartphone biometric tracking technology better. As in all technology markets, price will become more important as competitors to Apple and Samsung gain ground in both perception and actual capability.