Omdia projects a 20% year-over-year increase in wearable unit sales between 2019 and 2020, shaped in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple, the market leader in smartwatches, reported a 22.5% year-over-year 1Q20 revenue increase in the Wearables, Home and Accessories category, with the company highlighting a quarterly record for Wearables. This growth in sales leads to a larger addressable wearable device ecosystem, consisting of both experienced users as well as the emerging “novice” segments of users who are unfamiliar with fitness or technology.
The drivers behind the surge in wearable shipments are the same as they have always been—user fitness and health. Consumer interest in these two factors, however, has skyrocketed since the beginning of the outbreak. This will be further heightened by the lifting of restrictions in the summer months, leading to a stronger focus on outdoor exercise and even more interest in the devices.
Some doctors have linked COVID-19 patients’ blood oxygen saturation levels to severity of their infections and other medical professionals have focused on the impact of the virus on the heart. Both blood oxygen saturation tracking and heart rate tracking can be found in recent devices from key wearable players such as Garmin and Google-owned Fitbit. Apple’s flagship Apple Watch has heart rate tracking capabilities and is rumored to come with oxygen tracking by the end of the year.
While Fitbit and Garmin’s device releases weren’t driven by COVID-19, both players have smartly linked their devices to the pandemic with Fitbit publishing “The Impact of Coronavirus on Global Activity” and Garmin more forwardly publishing an article entitled “Can Your Garmin Detect Coronavirus?” These types of devices and their associated marketing campaigns will lead to higher wearable adoption, helping contribute to this year’s 22.5% year-over-year growth in wearable installed base (per Omdia’s Wearables Unit Sales, Installed Base, and Hardware Revenue Forecasts).
This growing addressable ecosystem of hundreds of millions of wearables allows for new engagement avenues for existing mobile app publishers (e.g., music apps, fitness apps, commerce apps, etc.). App publishers should assess how many of their users are using wearables (i.e., by using in-phone data or asking users if they’ve connected a new device) to determine the reach of this approach. For relevant users, app publishers should prompt and seamlessly enable downloads of their wearable app. Some during/post-pandemic customer engagement examples include exercise-based offers (regardless of the type of app), location-based deals, on-the-go features, and more.
Wearable vendors, fitness app publishers, and health app publishers also need to consider the needs of newbie fitness users. For example, a new user who has never had a consistent exercise regimen before will look to a wearable to help guide their exercise patterns. A great way to capture interest from these types of users is to offer bundles for online classes, customized workout plans, or free one-year app subscription with each wearable device purchase or app sign-up.
There is also a high likelihood of novice technology purchasers like the at-risk elderly interested in wearables. Some of these users might not be as well-versed in technology and will likely need help deriving insights from their data. Prompting the user to indicate level of assistance needed during device activation (i.e., from simple directions through to a customer service representative walkthrough) would be extremely valuable. Additionally, expanding the breadth of automated notifications when a user’s biometrics are impacted is critical (e.g., oxygen or heart rate variation).
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