Smartwatches, Fitness Trackers Interest Different Demographics

The NPD report indicated smartwatches haven’t caught on as quickly as fitness devices, with two percent penetration, and appeal to a different market.

smartwatches and fitness devices

Fitness trackers, which have a strong presence in the wearables market, have gained a large mainstream following, though income, and gender vary greatly among fitness tracker and smartwatch owners, according to a report from IT analyst firm NPD Group.

The company’s Connected Intelligence Consumers and Wearables Report found 36 percent of fitness tracker owners in the US are 35-54 years old, 41 percent had an average income of more than $100,000, and 54 percent were women. One-in-ten U.S. adults now own a fitness tracker.

"In all honesty, the best-positioned OEM's for the mass market are the big guys who have established a strong brand such as Fitbit and Jawbone," Weston Henderek, director of connected intelligence for NPD Group, told eWeek. "I know those sound a bit boring, but they have done the best job marketing their products and creating brand recognition. For example, many average consumers do not call these device fitness activity trackers, they call them Fitbits. That is almost like Kleenex for tissue paper. It will take a lot of effort to unseat them."

Henderek noted initially, fitness tracker customers were much more fitness oriented, but those users discovered that the functionality of the devices was very basic and didn't tell them much.

"However, the market has now shifted to a wider demographic which does not exercise as much and is perfectly happy just tracking basic things like steps and calories," he explained. "So it is a much wider demographic now."

On the flip side, the report also indicated smartwatches haven’t caught on as quickly, with only two percent penetration, and appeal to a much different segment of the market.

"The biggest challenge right now is that there is not killer app for smart watches, as they are mostly just companion devices for smartphones that users will be carrying around anyway," Henderek said. "The Apple Watch will certainly help given the mainstream hype it is receiving and the number of Apple customers who will likely buy the device no matter what. But in the long run, to be successful, it will need to stand on its own feet and have better use cases."

More than two-thirds (69 percent) of smartwatch owners are 18-34 years old and skew mostly towards the male population (71 percent) and nearly half (48 percent) had an income below $45,000.

"There will be some crossover between these devices, but for now, the demographics for both are very different as was pointed out in our survey," Henderek said. "I expect that to remain the case for some time. In the long run, we will see both types of devices gaining more capabilities. Fitness trackers will move more towards stress and sleep tracking, while smart watches will become more independent from the smartphone with cellular connectivity."