CCS Insight’s Wearables End-User Survey

High Category Awareness for Wearables but Key Selling Point Eludes

CCSInsight_logo_blogA new product category can linger under a haze for years before striking a chord with its audience — raising a general level of awareness is usually the first obstacle to success. For makers of wearables, there’s encouraging news in this regard: most modern consumers are at least aware of the products. The challenge now is converting this cognition into sales.

CCS Insight recently completed a survey of 3,000 smartphone users in China, the UK and US to determine the status of smartwatches and fitness trackers. The results indicate a level of industry achievement and required action.

An impressive 90% of those surveyed said they were at least aware of the availability of smartwatches, up from 80% a year ago. There is greater general awareness of smartwatches than of fitness trackers for the first time, with about 77% of those surveyed conscious of the product class.

Every industry needs a champion

The results of our previous wearables survey have been somewhat surprising, with consumers indicating a much higher level of product knowledge than expected. However, we anticipated the Apple Watch effect in 2015, with the company’s high-profile product launch having been preceded by months of generic rumours and specification leaks. Among those surveyed who knew what smartwatches are, 84% had heard specifically about Apple’s watch. This is more than two times greater than the next best-known smartwatch brand and much higher than all other smartwatches competitors, including well-established rivals. Apple is already the industry leader in mindshare, though other companies have found very dedicated followers.

A product looking for a problem

Our survey shows that there are still significant obstacles for makers of smartwatches and fitness trackers. The high level of product awareness doesn’t translate into a high level of near-term buying interest. The handset business quickly enjoyed the benefits of portable knowledge from fixed-line phones, but the benefits of wearables aren’t as clear. Consumers who said they have no plans to purchase a smartwatch or fitness tracker cited seeing no point in using such a product as a main reason.

The cynical might say that smartwatches and trackers are solutions still looking for problems to solve, but we believe they’re simply products in need of a key selling point. The point of smartwatches in particular remains elusive, especially given current pricing and their perceived redundancy owing to other mobile devices. The survey results also uncovered other factors that need to be addressed to give wearables true mass appeal.

Our survey provides reassuring signs for device makers, but also reasons for concern. The wearables segment is still new and looking for footing. It lacks the advantages of a network effect and is continuing to experiment with designs and feature sets. The many unknown variables include reactions from legacy players, with the survey finding particularly interesting results about traditional watch usage.

The survey provides information on market shares for smartwatches and fitness trackers, buying habits and intentions for each market, usage patterns, most-used features and limitations. Manufacturers must address these to drive sustained usage, preventing wearables from hitting the bottom of drawer after a few months.

For more information about our survey, please see Seasonal Gifts Boost Wearable Device Sales in Fourth-Quarter Leap.

For companies interested in a full copy of the survey, please contact

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