Wearable Tech Device Awareness Surpasses 50 Percent: NPD

Among those consumers taking notice of the wearable technology market, one in three said they are likely to buy one of the devices on the market.

More than half (52 percent) of consumers say they’ve heard of wearable technology devices such as smart glasses, smart watches and wearable fitness tracking devices, according to research firm NPD Group’s Wearable Technology Study.

Wearable fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone enjoy the highest level of awareness among consumers and are making a big splash at this year’s CES convention in Las Vegas.

Among those consumers taking notice of the devices on the wearable technology market, one in three say they are likely to buy one of them.

"According to The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, the digital fitness category has grown to over $330 million," Ben Arnold, executive director and industry analyst at The NPD Group, said in a statement. "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."

According to the study, one in three consumers say they have heard of wearable fitness trackers, and among those consumers 28 percent say they are likely to buy a device.

Among likely buyers, counting calories (50 percent) and tracking the number of steps taken in a day (32 percent) are the most sought-after features. Demographically, women (58 percent) outnumber men among prospective buyers.

Although many wearable fitness device manufacturers factor in social media connectivity to their platforms, just 6 percent of consumers surveyed said they would be interested in sharing their fitness data on a social network.

Smart watches have a slightly higher rate of awareness among early adopters than other categories. More than one-third (36 percent) of those polled said they are aware of the devices, which include Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and the Pebble.

However, with relatively few products on the market—and middling reviews for the Galaxy Gear, despite a media-saturated launch--just 23 percent of consumers surveyed said they are likely to buy one.

The survey also indicated that 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 percent say the look and design of the device is extremely important to their decision to buy the device. Appearance is slightly less important for smart watches (42 percent) and much lower for fitness trackers (20 percent).

"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," Arnold said. "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."

While not yet on the consumer market, smart glasses like Google Glass enjoy a sturdy level of consumer awareness, with 29 percent of consumers aware of smart glasses. Among them, 20 percent said they expect to buy the device.

Among early adopters, smart glass awareness is nearly 50 percent. The most commonly sought after features cited by likely buyers were making and receiving calls (19 percent), browsing the Web (19 percent) and taking photos and videos (19 percent).