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Wearable Tech Device Awareness Surpasses 50 Percent Among US Consumers, According to NPD

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, JANUARY 7, 2014 – Consumers are taking notice of the growing wearable technology market.  According to the NPD Group’s new Wearable Technology Study, 52 percent of consumers say they’ve heard of wearable technology devices such as smart glasses, smart watches, and wearable fitness tracking devices. Among those aware of the devices, one-in-three say they are likely to buy one of them.

Wearable Technology Device Awareness by Device

Source: The NPD Group Wearable Technology Study

Wearable fitness devices, like 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 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.  Just 6 percent say they would be interested in sharing their fitness data on a social network.  Demographically, women (58 percent) outnumber men among prospective buyers.

“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 The 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.”

Smart watches, despite being newer to the wearables market, 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 percent say they are likely to buy one.  Making and receiving phone calls (24 percent) is the most sought after feature among those who intend to buy a smartwatch.  Listening to music (20 percent) and fitness tracking (18 percent) 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 just under $300 ($298) on the device.

While not yet on the consumer market, smart glasses like Google Glass enjoy a sturdy level of consumer awareness.  Twenty-nine percent 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 percent. Making and receiving calls (19 percent), browsing the web (19 percent), and taking photos and videos (19 percent) were most commonly cited by likely buyers as sought after features.

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/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,” 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.”


To hear more about smart devices and the new NPD study, join us at our CES reception #NPDCES2014

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