Wearable device adoption is growing, but engagement still drops after six months

By Aditi Pai
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Endeavor PartnersAlthough one third of consumers who own wearable devices stop using them within six months, the rate of adoption of smart wearable technology has increased, according to a survey of 1,700 device owners from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Endeavour Partners.

In the survey, Endeavour Partners only looked at wearable trackers worn persistently throughout the day and avoided wearable trackers that are designed for set workout sessions, including GPS and running watches, and heart rate straps. The researchers also avoided healthcare-specific wearables, for example cardiac event monitors, glucose monitors, and hearing aids.

The survey, which was conducted from May 2014 to June 2014, is a follow-up to a survey the research firm did in September 2013 of 500 wearable device owners. In the previous survey, the researchers found a third of consumers who own a wearable device stopped using it within six months.

Since then, the number of consumer who have stopped using their wearable device has not changed, but in the most recent six month period, three times as many US consumers said they have obtained a wearable device compared to the previous six month period. While in the last six months, 1,024 consumers obtained wearable devices, in the six months before that, only 322 did.

In another survey of 502 wearable device owners from Endeavour, researchers found that the greatest number of respondents, 29 percent, received the activity tracker as a gift. Following that, 28 percent purchased their tracker in a physical store, 26 percent purchased it through an online retailer, 14 percent purchased it from an online manufacturer, and 6 percent received theirs from an employer.

Study author Dan Ledger predicts that one factor for growth is that these devices have gained more visibility recently. He explains some of this comes from media attention and air time in television advertisements.

One such advertisement aired in June 2014. Apple released a commercial for its iPhone5s called "Strength", which showed people using various fitness and sports devices as well as health tracking apps. Devices and apps shown in the ad spot included: Misfit Shine, Wahoo Fitness, Nike+ Running, Adidas miCoach, SprintTimer, and Withings’ Health Mate. But these devices have also been getting air time for at least the past couple of years.

In August 2013, Vogue magazine called the Nike FuelBand “the A-list’s chicest accessory”. The magazine's social editor chronicled the rise of the FuelBand, but also mentioned Fitbit, Jawbone UP and BodyMedia’s armband.

And earlier, in February 2013, Misfit Shine, an activity tracker from Misfit Wearables, appeared on television gameshow Jeopardy! when its device, which had not been launched yet, was featured as part of one of the last clues in the semi-finals edition. The clue was: “The Misfit Shine is a high tech one of these that tracks how much you not only walk but bike or swim.” The correct question was “What is a pedometer?”

Ledger adds that another factor is that wearables have been getting space at brick and mortar stores, though, in June 2013 MobiHealthNews found that there was already a variety of digital health wearable devices at several brick and mortar stores.