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Report: Wearable usage continues to decline

When the Apple Watch debuted to much fanfare in 2015, Apple-watchers looked for signs that the Apple reality distortion field would remain intact post-Steve Jobs. Would Apple once again take an existing product line - in this case, wearable computers - and enact another tech-driven transformation of consumer life? Unlike the smart phone, which has transformed the consumer economy more profoundly than any product since the personal computer, wearables now appear to look far more like a fad than a trend. So says the latest report from eMarketer, which reveals that wearable use is declining - with no signs that the products will achieve critical mass any time soon.
 
By Rick Ferguson
 
For wearables manufacturers, the numbers are disheartening. A few stats from the eMarketer report:
 
  • By 2020, only around one in five US adults will use a wearable device on a monthly basis.
 
  • An AYTM Market Research poll revealed that less than one-third of US adult internet users plan to purchase a wearable device in the next year, while nearly half said they were unlikely to do so.
  • An IAB and Maru/VCR&C poll found that only 32 percent of US consumers aware of health trackers planned to buy one.
 
Money quote from eMarketer:
 
"For marketers, the wearables user base is intriguing but not truly viable yet. 'Marketers are interested in innovative wearables-based campaigns as well as basic notifications,' said Nicole Perrin, author of a new eMarketer report on wearables. 'But they don’t see the technology in place yet to unlock wearables’ full potential for brands.'"
On the good news side, the report also notes that a slight majority of those consumers who have purchased wearables do use them regularly; According to the IAB/Maru/VCR&C survey, a majority of those consumers who purchased fitness wearables report that they are always on, while 43 percent of smart watch owners say the same. 
 
For marketers, the lesson is obvious: technology solutions in search of a problem are seldom the path to building strong customer relationships. Technology enables, but imagination wins.
 
Rick Ferguson is CEO and Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group.