Fit­ness track­ers selling well, but en­thu­si­asm and us­age of­ten declines


Deepak Jayasimha’s fit­ness tracker is now with his fa­ther-in­law in In­dia, where it sits un­used. Annabel Kelly foisted hers off on the kids. Vir­ginia Atkin­son took hers off to charge the bat­tery and hasn’t picked it up since Fe­bru­ary.

Although sales of Fit­bit and other fit­ness track­ers are strong, many of their own­ers lose en­thu­si­asm for them once the nov­elty of know­ing how many steps they’ve taken wears off. One re­search firm, En­deav­our Part­ners, es­ti­mates that about a third of these track­ers get aban­doned af­ter six months. A health care in­vest­ment fund, Rock Health, says Fit­bit’s reg­u­la­tory fil­ings sug­gest that only half of Fit­bit’s nearly 20 mil­lion reg­is­tered users were still ac­tive as of the first quar­ter of 2015.

“The ques­tion for in­vestors is how long the mar­ket will con­tinue to grow at this rate, and whether Fit­bit can ex­e­cute on grow­ing en­gage­ment be­fore ... the num­ber of de­vices sold per year reaches sat­u­ra­tion,” Malay Gandhi, a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Rock Health, wrote on a blog.

Aban­don­ment af­fects all man­u­fac­tur­ers of fit­ness track­ers, which are rel­a­tively cheap at about $100 and are com­monly given as gifts. Fit­bit gets the spotlight be­cause it started trad­ing pub­licly last month and has 76 per cent of the U.S. mar­ket share by rev­enue, up from 64 per cent a year ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to the NPD Group.

In­vestors and an­a­lysts are bullish on Fit­bit’s prospects. Its stock value has more than dou­bled since the ini­tial public of­fer­ing. An­a­lyst Wil­liam Power at Baird Eq­uity Re­search said Fit­bit had room to grow world­wide, as only a quar­ter of its rev­enue came from out­side the U.S. last year. Power also wrote that Fit­bits re­main pop­u­lar among em­ploy­ers and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies look­ing for ways to keep peo­ple healthy. Fit­bit is also prof­itable, earn­ing $132 mil­lion last year on rev­enue of $745 mil­lion.

Fit­bit now has com­pe­ti­tion from Ap­ple Watch and other smart­watches that do what fit­ness track­ers do and more, such as show­ing news up­dates and board­ing passes for flights.

If peo­ple aren’t us­ing their track­ers, they won’t rec­om­mend them to friends and fam­ily or up­grade when a new model comes out, said Dan Ledger, an an­a­lyst at En­deav­our Part­ners. They also won’t pay for pre­mium sub­scrip­tion pack­ages, a po­ten­tial growth area for Fit­bit.

Jayasimha, a New Yorker who walks three to four miles a day, said his Jaw­bone Up stopped giv­ing him in­for­ma­tion he didn’t al­ready know. Af­ter it stopped work­ing one day, he didn’t bother get­ting it fixed for months. Even then, he never used it again. His wife used it for two weeks be­fore send­ing it off over­seas to her dad, who has yet to use it.

“I was just car­ry­ing through with the mo­tion,” Jayasimha said. “For some­one who is not phys­i­cally ac­tive, I think it will be use­ful. But once you get to a state where you are happy with the ac­tiv­i­ties you do, it loses its ef­fi­cacy.”

With smart­phones, tablets and game con­soles, IDC an­a­lyst Ra­mon Lla­mas said, you can down­load a new app or game to give them new life.


In this Dec. 15, 2014, file photo, fit­ness track­ers, from left, Ba­sis Peak, Adi­das Fit Smart, Fit­bit Charge, Sony Smart­Band, and Jaw­bone Move, are posed for a photo next to an iPhone, in New York. Although sales of fit­ness track­ers are strong, many of their own­ers lose en­thu­si­asm for them once the nov­elty wears off.

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