Walk in to any store from Target to Tory Burch, and you’ll see that health trackers and wearables are everywhere. There’s no denying it: The old-school pedometer has gotten a facelift. And with Apple’s recent announcement, we can be sure it’s certainly not going away any time soon.
The new wearable devices and mobile apps not only track your steps, they can also help you keep tabs on activity minutes, sleep patterns and other health and wellness indicators. That’s not all. Some employers are using wearables and apps to help employees not only be more productive, but also more active and fit.
And we know this first hand. Earlier this year we partnered with Fitbit to host an employee wellness challenge called “Ready Step Go” that helped employees reach a goal of walking 10,000 steps a day. But we wanted to find out more. So we talked with Christine Evans, director of business-to-business marketing at Fitbit, to get an inside look at the wearables market and to see how Fitbit devices and other health trackers are gaining acceptance.
BCBSNC: How has the fitness tracker evolved since 2007 when the Fitbit idea took shape?
Christine Evans: At Fitbit, we have always had a mission of helping people live healthier, more active lives and have been a pioneer and leader in the space since we founded the company in 2007.We understand that there is no “one size fits all” option in fitness, as consumers have a wide range of needs and preferences. We started with the original Fitbit Classic in 2009, and have since built Fitbit into a comprehensive line of four products – three fitness trackers (both wristband and clip designs), and a WiFi smart scale that tracks weight, BMI, lean mass and and body fat percentage over time.
BCBSNC: How do wearables help make fitness a part of someone’s daily routine?
CE: By empowering people with information about what they’re doing, challenging them to set goals, and motivating them to reach their objectives with fun and engaging experiences on our mobile apps or website. Everyday fitness needs to be easy and automatic. All of our products sync wirelessly and automatically to more than 120 leading iPhone, Android and Windows devices, so progress is always up to date and users can access their health stats and social motivation tools on the go with the phones of their choice.
People wear them 24/7 to track daytime activity and nighttime sleep quality, so comfort and wearability of the design is key. We wanted to create designs that could be shown off when a user wants to but also can disappear both in terms of comfort and size when you want it to.
Ultimately, everyday fitness isn’t just about having an extra gadget in your life. It’s about leading a healthy and active lifestyle. We believe in heightening awareness around the little steps that add up to big results – such as walking meetings, taking the stairs versus the elevator, or parking in the furthest spot in the parking lot. This motivation happens via little things like the tracker display or push notification to get the user off the couch and social. In fact, Fitbit users take 43 percent more steps after 12 weeks with their Fitbit Tracker
BCBSNC: Do you see smartphone fitness apps as competitors?
CE: Smartphone fitness apps are a great complement to Fitbit products. In fact, more than 30 of the most well-known fitness apps, such as MyFitnessPal and LoseIt, can integrate data collected from Fitbit trackers. We also of course have our own free health and fitness app, which works with all of our products.
We believe that a dedicated tracker is an incredible foundation for improving everyday fitness habits. Not only is it a more accurate way of tracking activity, but you get the benefits of activity and sleep tracking when your phone is not on you, including 24/7 tracking, better battery life, water resistance, tracking more stats like stairs climbed and sleep, and constant motivation.
BCBSNC: How does Fitbit integrate the motivational aspects of being social and competitive?
CE: Humans are social creatures, and we believe that making the Fitbit experience social keeps our users both engaged and satisfied with their quests for everyday fitness. Fitbit’s motivational and online tools allow users to see their progress over time and challenge friends. Users can share accomplishments, encourage each other and direct message friends and family who are also using Fitbit. Results show that Fitbit users with one or more Fitbit friends tend to be 27 percent more active.
We offer Fitbit users the ability to automatically connect with their contacts and Facebook friends on Fitbit.com or on our native app. Fitbit users can also participate in activity groups and discussions. Fitbit Wellness, offered to organizations to power their wellness programs, gives employees a way to get motivated by their coworkers as well.
BCBSNC: What are your thoughts about the future of the health trackers?
CE: With lots of manufacturers starting to compete in this space, devices will become more user-friendly, more socially driven, and pack more of a punch into the same tiny space. We’ll continue to add more advanced sensors to our next generation products, but will be smart about it and focus on what makes the most sense for wearable health and fitness devices.
Wearables, and health trackers specifically, have a very bright future and the outlook for the wearable health and fitness category continues to be enthusiastic. An IDC study earlier this year estimated that wearable computing devices will reach 19.2 million shipments by the end of 2014 and that fitness-related accessories will lead the wearables market through 2018 as users continue to embrace their ease of use and low price points.
How about you? Are wearables a part of your present and future?