Report: Wearables losing consumer interest, investment attention

While a slowdown in technology investment and consumer adoption of wearables is not likely to have too much of a negative impact on a company like Fitbit, it could prove challenging to middle of the pack companies in the space, as well as newcomers, according to a new report.

Research firm Argus Insights reports that mHealth wearables demand is slowing after a big surge in late 2014 during the holiday sales season. Based on 328,000 consumer reviews, the data indicates that while consumer interest climbed between 2014 and 2015--peaking in January 2015 with a fourfold increase in interest compared to the year prior--consumer interest in wearables for the second half of 2015 is significantly slowing.

"Our analysis of review volume for the wearables market correlates directly with unit sales volume, and we have seen a significant slowing in consumer demand for both wearables in general and fitness bands in particular," said John Feland, CEO and founder of Argus Insights, in the report. "Consumers expect their wearables to do more than simply count steps, just as they expect to do more than just make phone calls with their handsets.

Fitbit and other similar companies will need to add more to their offerings, he said, to keep consumers interested and engaged.

A similar opinion from a venture firm leader reveals investment in wearables technology has not only slowed but is at a near standstill, according to a Forbes article. Rock Health strategy manager Teresa Wang told Forbes that the key to reversing the trend, in part, will be requiring wearables vendors to develop new features and capabilities.

"There has to be some differentiation which may or may not be clinical," Wang said. "For instance, it could be more convenient such as battery life, more fashionable like Caeden, Misfit's Swarovski Shine or Tory Burch for Fitbit. Or, it would have to have a different form factor [i.e., not wrist worn]." 

A report published earlier this year stated that roughly two-thirds of Americans are enthusiastic about tapping digital tools for managing personal health, and that such eagerness likely will drive deeper adoption of wearables and consumer healthcare decisions.

However, more features and complexity may not re-ignite consumer interest as the aging population of the U.S. is leading more people to consider health tracking hard work, especially those dealing with chronic illness. But that challenge could be eliminated if providers become adopters and wearable users, Pua Cooper, RN, recently wrote in a post for HIMSS News.

Neither of those issues were cited by Wang. She told Forbes that successful wearables will grab those "creating a feedback loop and making data actionable while finding places where it can add value."

For more information:
- read the Argus research
- here's the Forbes article