Consumer Awareness of Wearable Tech Devices Rises

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Google Glass on the runway

Google Glass on the runway

Las Vegas—Reports out of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) have a commanding presence in news feeds this week. That notoriety prompted The NPD Group, Inc., a leading purveyor of consumer insights, to ask consumers just what does all this expanding market of tech devices mean to them.

Apparently very much. According to the NPD Group’s new Wearable Technology Study, 52% of consumers say they’ve heard of wearable technology devices such as smart glasses, smart watches, and wearable fitness tracking devices. Moreover, more are ready to purchase them: one-in-three say they are likely to buy one of the devices.

“According to The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, the digital fitness category has grown to over $330 million,” said Ben Arnold, executive director, industry analyst at NPD Group. “The market is now large enough to accommodate a variety of products aimed at all levels of athlete–from serious performance-minded consumers to hobbyists–a sure sign of maturity.”

Time for Smart Watches?

Wearable fitness devices, such as the Fitbit and Jawbone UP, enjoy the highest level of awareness among consumers. According to the study, one in three consumers say they have heard of wearable fitness trackers, and among those consumers 28% say they are likely to buy a device. Among likely buyers, counting calories (50%) and tracking the number of steps taken in a day (32%) are the most sought after features. Just 6% say they would be interested in sharing their fitness data on a social network. Demographically, women (58%) outnumber men among prospective buyers.

Despite being newer to the wearables market, smart watches have a slightly higher rate of awareness among early adopters than other categories. Thirty-six percent of those polled say they are aware of the devices; however, with few products on the market only 23% say they are likely to buy one. Making and receiving phone calls (24%) is the most sought after feature among those who intend to buy a smartwatch. Listening to music (20%) and fitness tracking (18%) also ranked highly.

When asked what would prevent them from buying a smart watch, aware consumers most commonly cited the bulk or size of the device, short battery life, and an easily damaged screen as the top obstacles to purchase. On average, consumers who intend to buy a smartwatch say they expect to spend $298 on such a device.

While not yet on the consumer market, smart glasses like Google Glass enjoy a sturdy level of consumer awareness, too. About 29% of consumers are aware of smart glasses and among them, one-in-five say they expect to buy the device. Among early adopters, smart glass awareness is nearly 50%. Making and receiving calls (19%), browsing the web (19%), and taking photos and videos (19%) were most commonly cited by likely buyers as sought after features.

Design Important Too

While the functionality of wearable tech products is important, so too is the design and look of devices. Among consumers aware of smart glasses, 50% say the look/design of the device is extremely important to their decision to buy the device. Appearance is slightly less important for smart watches (42%) and much lower for fitness trackers (20%).

“Design has always been a key motivator for technology purchases, but for wearable devices there is a greater focus because the devices are worn externally,” said Arnold. “For device manufacturers, this is an opportunity to differentiate their product lines with special colors or designs or even to partner with other fashion or design focused brands.”

About The NPD Group, Inc.

The NPD Group provides global information and advisory services to drive better business decisions. By combining data assets with unmatched industry expertise, NPD helps clients track their markets, understand consumers, and drive profitable growth. Sectors covered include automotive, beauty, consumer electronics, entertainment, fashion, food/foodservice, home, luxury, mobile, office supplies, sports, technology, toys, and video games.


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