Americans, still early in the new year, are trying to keep their health and fitness resolutions on track. Fitness trackers to help people attain their goals is one of the most competitive categories in consumer tech. According to Hitwise data, there has been a 245% increase in searches for fitness tracking devices since 2014, such as the Fitbit.
Fitness trackers are part of the “wearables” market, a fast changing and sometimes confusing array of products. The market, as tracked by researcher IDC, grew by 3% in Q3 2016, the latest figures available. Of the wearables market, 85% are actual fitness trackers vs. the multi-use smart watches offered by Apple and Samsung.
Compared to 2015, fitness trackers experienced double digital growth in 2016, led by new new product releases and an expanding customer base. Fitbit is the clear leader with 23% market share in Q3 of 2016 up year over year from 21.4% in Q3 2015. Other leaders are Xiaomi, strong in the U.S. and Asia, Garmin with a focus on hard core athletes, and of course Apple and Samsung who have seen disappointing sales from their smart watch offerings. Other smaller players such a Pebble and Jawbone make up nearly 45% of the market.
“It’s still early days, but we’re already seeing a notable shift in the market,” said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “Where smartwatches were once expected to take the lead, basic wearables now reign supreme. Simplicity is a driving factor and this is well reflected in the top vendor list as four out of five offer a simple, dedicated fitness device. Meanwhile, from a design perspective, many devices are focusing on fashion first while allowing the technology to blend in with the background.”
Fitbit holds a strong market position thanks to recently released new models and refreshes like the Charge 2 which are selling well; and received excellent reviews including a PC Magazine’s editor’s choice. Based on Hitwise data Fitbit was the second most popular “hot” gift during the 2016 holiday shopping season.
A key to Fitbit’s success is their single-minded focus on health and wellness according to an interview with CEO James Park in Fortune Magazine. He doesn’t see Fitbit as a device or tech company; rather a company that helps customers maximize their wellness and in turn enhances their lives. This subtle and smart distinction makes them a lifestyle brand which confers greater affinity and loyalty from customers. Loyalty keeps buyers upgrading and staying on the Fitbit product lifecycle path. A strategy ironically perfected by Apple, who can’t seem to get their expensive and complex Apple Watch on track with consumers.
With Fitbit positioned as a health and wellness company, a deeper look at the audience shopping and purchasing Fitbit trackers provides more insight to their success. We again turn to Hitwise data compiled over the last 12 weeks of of 2016.
The primary audience for Fitbit are women, in fact, overwhelmingly so with a 72% to 27% dominance vs. male buyers. However, since fitness trackers are often given as gifts, this could point to the reality mothers are the primary gift buyers in a family.
As for age, 35-44 is the largest segment of the Fitbit audience. This is the age when people begin to get serious about their health and have the resources to purchase a fitness tracker. In fact, the largest income group buying trackers has a house hold income over $100,000.
An interesting aspect to the Fitbit audience are the web sites and retailers they visit; giving us a glimpse into their mindset. They are “middle-of-the-road” consumers who are are very likely to engage with mid-market retailers such as Kohl’s and Old Navy, which are their most visited stores.
You can find this audience on websites such as All Recipes and doing business with Amazon Smile, showing their caring and nurturing side. With the Fitbit Charge 2 retailing for around $130, it is a more practical and fitness focused purchase than the multi-purpose $349 Apple Watch 2.
We are just at the beginning of what will be a vibrant and fast changing market for wearables and smart devices used to track fitness and wellness. The early results show that laser focus on keeping consumers moving and healthy is a successful strategy.
Want to learn more? Hitwise explores the numbers behind fitness trackers, athletic wear, gym movements, diets and other health trends in the 2017 Clean Living Report.
Source: Hitwise data based on weekly search variations of activewear brands and fitness trackers, measured year over year for 2014 and 2016.