Tech wearables, particularly those for
health and fitness, fail to keep the interest of users for more than a few
months. A survey of 6,223 US adults revealed that one in ten consumers age 18
and over owns a modern activity tracker such as Jawbone, Fitbit, Nike+ Fuelband
or Misfit Wearables. Yet, more than half of the survey’s respondents said that
they no longer use their activity tracker, and a third of those stopped using
the device within six months of receiving it.

The survey was conducted by Endeavour Partners and the results were published last month in a white paper, “Inside Wearables: How the Science of Human Behavior Change Offers the Secret to Long-Term Engagement.” The goal of
the paper is to help the manufacturers of wearables learn how to make their
products more enticing, and therefore, more successful.

Dan
Ledger, principal at Endeavour Partners, said the fast-growing
popularity of wearables was evident at this year’s CES, with more than 10 new
wearable devices introduced from manufacturers such as Sony, Pebble, Meta, LG,
Garmin and Razer. About 90 percent of these new wearables were activity
trackers designed to be worn on the user’s wrist, showing the strength of that
particular segment of the wearables market.

“The wearables that are very successful
are the ones that are designed to solve a very specific problem for someone
that a smartphone isn’t doing,” Ledger said.

Don’t make an ugly wearable

Having the right design ethic is crucial. Bill Geiser, CEO of Metawatch, spent
20 years designing health and fitness wearables for Fossil. Geiser said that it
comes down to one fact as to whether someone continues to use a wearable – the
design aesthetics.  Geiser said, “If
nobody wants to wear it, is it really wearable?”

 Ledger said about Geiser, “Bill’s whole
thesis is that you can have the greatest product in the world but if it doesn’t
have the right design aesthetic, no one is going to wear it more than a week.”

The white paper addresses the
challenges that wearables companies are dealing with, including the need for
products to fit well, be comfortable, and compatible with lifestyle. This can
be as simple as a product being waterproof, since it’s essential to be able to
shower with a wearable if it requires being worn 24/7 for accurate data.

The psychology of wearing wearables

Behavioral psychology also plays a
strong role in long-term adoption of wearables by the consumer. “They’re not
factors that are necessarily intuitive to your average product designer,” Ledger
said.

“Given my own experiences with these devices, and
conversations I’ve had with others, I have found that a surprising percentage
of devices in the market first fail to achieve even short term engagement for
many users because they suffer from one or more fatal user experience flaws,”
he said.

These
flaws are:

  • They are easy to
    lose
  • They break
  • They’re not
    waterproof
  • They’re a pain
    to sync with your smartphone
  • The battery
    doesn’t last long enough
  • They’re ugly
  • They’re
    uncomfortable to wear
  • They provide no
    material benefit

“Any one of these flaws is
enough to turn off a user — more than one often lands these devices in a desk drawer,
or even worse, the trash,” Ledger said.

Ensuring
long-term engagement

If a device makes it through
without any fatal flaws, then it next needs to give users a compelling reason
to continue using them. There are three main factors for long-term engagement:
Habit formation, social motivation and goal reinforcement, Ledger said.

According to the white paper, “Wearable devices can
help make the process of habit formation more effective and efficient than ever
before. The best engagement strategies for wearables will move beyond
presenting data (steps, calories, stairs) and directly address the elements of
the habit loop (cue, behavior, reward) and trigger the sequences that lead to
the establishment of new, positive habits.”

If users are effectively motivated, then they
will continue to wear a device. Social connections help with this, such as when
users share their goals with a group. This makes them more committed to
achieving their goals. It also helps to communicate goals on Facebook or other
social networks. Two examples of wearables that establish motivation by effectively
leveraging social connections are Polar Loop’s Flow Web service and the Nike
Fuelband SE/Nike+ service, according to the white paper.

Goal reinforcement, the third factor,
occurs when a user feels progress toward defined goals. Wearables are
persistent in that they’re always on, always worn, and that helps a user remain
connected to their goals and see their progress, according to the white paper.

Ledger
said, “Some companies are already beginning to embrace the complex science of behavior
change; however, there remains a great deal of potential for advancements in
this area. A greater understanding of habit formation, social motivation and
goal reinforcement will allow companies involved with wearables to create ever
more effective and successful devices and services to promote health and
wellness.”

To
learn more about the criteria for long-term engagement and the future of
wearables, download Endeavour’s white paper: “Inside
Wearables: How the Science of Human Behavior Change Offers the Secret to
Long-Term Engagement.”