Function is secondary to fashion-conscious consumers
TORONTO, September 2, 2014 – The crossover between fashion and technology is becoming increasingly mainstream, but Canadians are not prepared to sacrifice style for function. Design has always been a key motivator for technology purchases, but according to the Wearable Technology Trends Study from leading global information company The NPD Group, many Canadians contemplating the purchase of a fitness tracker, smart watch or smart glasses would not even consider going through with it if they did not like the esthetic.
Currently two-thirds of Canadians have said that they are aware of wearable technology, and that awareness is generally highest among males, consumers between the ages of 16 and 24, and shoppers with household incomes greater than $70,000. Of this group, 43 per cent are likely to make a purchase, and fitness trackers are at the top of one in four shopping lists. This device is most popular with women, however, and since calorie tracking is its primary intended use, there is little desire for more complicated technology. In comparison, smart watches and glasses, most popular with men, are expected to have the same features available in a smartphone.
“Functionality is important to consumers, and brands are taking note, but depending on the device, features like making and receiving phone calls, texting, GPS navigation, taking photos or videos, and surfing the Internet may not be what drives shoppers to the checkout stand,” said Mark Haar, director of Consumer Electronics at The NPD Group. “Since it’s a priority for Canadians to be able to wear a piece of technology that integrates seamlessly into their wardrobes, manufacturers may have more success gaining market share if they focus on style as a point of differentiation from competitors.”
Though smart fashion pieces are a growing trend, the industry prices necessary for brands to profit are not entirely in alignment with what Canadians are willing to spend. Across all three devices, four in 10 consumers likely to make a purchase cite cost as their primary barrier, the biggest price discrepancy occurring with smart glasses. Instead, demand is strongest for the more affordable devices, making widespread sales most realistic for brands manufacturing smart watches and fitness trackers.
In addition to cost and style, many consumer concerns are linked to comfort. Fitness trackers are often criticized for being too heavy, bulky or fragile, while smart glasses can be thought of as distracting or unattractive. Consumers in the market for a smart watch, however, place high priority on the device’s size, its battery life and the display’s durability, all of which must meet or exceed expectations in order to justify the investment.
“There are certainly wearable technology enthusiasts who have already purchased and swear by their favourite devices, but much of the Canadian population is still trying to navigate this emerging industry, and is unsure about whether or not these products are right for them,” continued Haar. “Moreover, the principal features in some of the more ambitious products, such as smart glasses, outpace the level of sophistication of what’s currently on the market, and consumers are unlikely to entertain making a purchase until manufacturers are able to close this gap.”
Interestingly, while social media integration and access to a variety of platforms is a fundamental element in these devices, it is not always of value to shoppers. Looking once again at fitness trackers, those Canadians who are considering buying one have very little interest in making their progress public, further emphasizing the notion that a simple, fashion-forward device is still likely to appeal to today’s consumer.
An online survey was fielded in June, 2014 to a Canadian representative sample of adults (18+) and teens (16-17) from The NPD Group’s Proprietary Online Registered Panel. Panel members were asked to visit the NPD Online Research Survey Site in order to complete and submit the survey. As an incentive to complete this survey, respondents were offered points that can be redeemed for prizes.