Wednesday, 04 May 2016 20:30

Kantar launches its first-ever wearable tech report, US takeup double that of Europe

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Kantar’s inaugural March 2016 wearables report revealed more than 1 in 10 US consumers own either a fitness band or smartwatch, nearly double European wearable ownership.

The Kantar Worldpanel Comtech report is famed for delivering smartphone OS marketshare reports on a global, quarterly basis, and now comes Kantar’s first wearables report, with its baseline data showing ‘broad difference in adoption between the US and four big European markets.’

The figures show 12.2% of consumers in the US (more than one in ten) is nearly double the penetration in the EU at 6.6%, with those four European markets being Great Britain, Germany, France and Italy.

Kantar said that ‘fitness bands dominate the US market, with three out of four “wrist wearable” devices owned falling in this category.’

Shannon Conway, a Kantar wearable tech analyst said: “For both smartwatch and fitness band buyers – brand, ease of use, and functionality are the top drivers of purchase, outweighing both design and cost.

“Fitbit established itself as an early market leader, capturing 61.7% of the US installed base by communicating a clear and simple value proposition to consumers. Apple accounts for 6.8% of the total number of fitness bands and smartwatches owned in the US.”

Despite smartwatch vendors promoting more advanced health and fitness capabilities, Kantar said ‘fitness bands have yet to show signs of wavering popularity among recent US-based owners.’

Article contines below, please read on.

1A-Kantar-wearables-report-March-2016

In addition, ‘gifting plays a larger role for the less expensive fitness bands, 43.1% vs. 33.3% for smartwatches in the US. But, smartwatches are well-positioned to threaten timepiece watches, with 31.9% of all smartwatches and 43% of Apple Watches replacing a traditional watch.’

Lauren Guenveur, a Kantar mobile analyst said: “"Market penetration in the EU4 stands at a comparatively low 6.6% of survey respondents owning smartwatches. This differs significantly from the US, where 22.9% of respondents own smartwatches, which comprises 55.2% of all wearable devices.

“Of the combined fitness band and smartwatch base, Fitbit remains the most-owned brand at 18.5%, but Apple and Samsung follow closely with 14% and 11.6%, respectively.”

In the four big EU markets counted in this report, Kantar said ‘the battle with traditional watches intensifies, with 39% of all smartwatches purchased to replace a timepiece, increasing to 49.6% among Apple and 41.5% for Samsung.’

Of the four European countries, Great Britain ‘most closely mirrors the US market, with a slight majority of fitness trackers (54.3%) over smartwatches (45.7%).’

Conway added: “Our first smartwatch data set reflects a relatively low level of market penetration – not unexpected for what is still a young category.

"In our next quarterly Wearables report in August, we will be adding some new elements, including data on whether non-owners of smartwatches intend to purchase one of these devices in the future. We expect that this will give us some interesting indications about where the wearables market is headed.”

The Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Quarterly Wearables Report is available here from 8PM ET in the US or 10pm AEDT in Australia on 4 May 2016 (today as I type, I'll update this sentence when the deadline passes). 

More below, please read on!

Kantar wearable tech analyst Shannon Conway also published a blog on Fitbit still being the ‘belle of the ball,’ with its brand dominating ‘among current US wrist wearable sales with a 51.4% market share.’

The text of Conway’s blog post is reprinted for you here:

“Three years after the release of its first fitness band, the Fitbit Flex, Fitbit retains its dominance in the US wearable market despite the rise in popularity of smartwatches and, specifically, sought-after releases like the Apple Watch.

“In the two months ending with March 2016, Fitbit claimed more than 50% of fitness band and smartwatch purchases with the sales period only partially covering its newest releases, the Blaze and the Alta. Apple and Garmin trailed in second and third, respectively.

“In this same period, Fitbit’s Flex continued to be one of the top-selling models among fitness bands and smartwatches combined, behind the Fitbit Charge and Charge HR. Overall sales of wrist-worn wearables were driven largely by online purchases (63%) and particularly through Amazon.com, which happens to be Fitbit’s top retailer.

“Is this town big enough for the both of ‘em?

“Fitness band vs. smartwatch showdown

“With only 12.2% of US consumers owning either a fitness band or smartwatch, there seems to be room for both segments to grow. In the fitness band versus smartwatch match-up, fitness bands continue to dominate sales in the US, with bands outselling smartwatches 2-to-1 in the two months ending March 2016.

“With the release of the Fitbit Blaze, its first smartwatch, and the Fitbit Alta, its revamped fitness band, Fitbit’s expanded product portfolio now straddles the two segments, raising questions around the potential for cannibalisation and whether Fitbit can, or should, compete with the likes of the Apple Watch or the Samsung Gear S2.

“At first glance, it appears that, no, fitness bands and smartwatches are not catering to the same consumers. Having been in the market for a few years already, fitness bands have a wider appeal with their lower price tag and ease of use, even reaching featurephone owners (accounting for 15% of buyers in the timeframe studied).

“On the other hand, smartwatch buyers are driven by a premium design and feel, and are more likely to purchase a smartwatch as an alternative to a traditional timepiece.

“Despite these differences, fitness band and smartwatch buyers do share the top driver for choice: brand. This is good news for Fitbit, which was able to establish its name as a market leader, yet this may still pose a challenge for Fitbit’s positioning in the smartwatch space as its brand image still lags behind the likes of Apple.

“Health and wellness is becoming a key selling point for smartwatches, with activity tracking accuracy falling second only to battery life as the top specifications considered by buyers.

“Beyond Fitbit’s overall strength in this area, the Blaze and Alta attempt to separate themselves from the competition by capitalising on potential gaps in the market; the Blaze combines a watch form factor with long battery life, whereas the Alta creates a space for band buyers driven by style and attractiveness of design – a driver currently reserved for smartwatches.

“Smartwatches will not usurp the place of fitness bands, but the spectrum is widening and lines between categories are becoming blurred, not only as fitness bands become smarter and as smartwatches market their wellness functionalities, but also as manufacturers such as Fitbit edge into other categories.

“With early indications that Fitbit’s new models will be a success, we’ll be following whether Fitbit is managing to steal consumers from the likes of fully functioned smartwatches, or if it has managed to put more distance between itself and its current competition,” Conway concluded.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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