How to Increase User Engagement in Wearables

How to Increase User Engagement in Wearables

Since the past few years, wearable technology has gained widespread popularity in numerous business sectors, communities and lifestyles. Devices such as smartwatches and activity trackers have changed the whole idea of health, fitness and medical record-keeping for a lot of people out there.

Health, Fitness & Medical Wearables

In recent times, wearable technology in healthcare has become an integral part of our livelihood. Since these devices can monitor your health factors and track your fitness goals and workout routines, more and more people are opting for these devices. According to a report, the use of wearable technology, particularly in the health and fitness niche, has tripled in the last four years.

Devices such as Fitbits and smart watches are some of the health wearables that we see a lot of people using nowadays. The primary goal of these devices is to collect the user’s health, medical and exercise data in order to let the user know about the status and progress of their health and fitness regimes. According to Accenture, in 2018, use of health and fitness wearables increased from 9% to 33% in the United States alone.

Here are some of the commonly-used health wearable devices:

  • Wearable Fitness Trackers
  • Smart Health Watches
  • ECG Monitors
  • Blood Pressure Monitors
  • Biosensors

Business Insider estimates that fitness and medical wearables will grow at an annualized rate of 10% to amass 120 million by 2023.

What is User Engagement?

User engagement refers to the level of interaction and interest that users have with a product or service. It can be measured by various metrics such as time spent on a website, number of clicks, shares, likes, comments, or purchases. High levels of user engagement are typically associated with positive outcomes such as increased brand loyalty, customer satisfaction, and revenue.

Top 5 Strategies to Drive User Engagement in Wearables

A study from Endeavor Partners found that even with a sharp increase in the global sales of wearable technology, one-third of its users stopped engaging with their wearable device within a period of six months.

This gives a clear indication that manufacturers need to drive user engagement in wearable technology, or else, just like any other modern-day innovative technology, users might switch to a competitor product real quick. But the question is, how to increase app engagement in wearables?

Here are some of the ways:

  1. Focus on Information Relevance and Speed
  2. Use of Gamification Concept
  3. Data Privacy to be Taken Seriously
  4. Improved Battery Life
  5. Heuristics for Mobile Wearables

Focus on Information Relevance and Speed

One of the most important factors in this market niche is the relevance of information and the overall speed at which this information can be delivered to the user on his or her smart device. According to Justin Leong, the Lead Product Designed at Olio Devices, if a user has to spend more than 3-5 seconds to find the required information on a wearable device, it defeats the whole purpose of wearing a smart device in the first place and the user might as well use his cell phone for that.

Similarly, the user should be able to find relevant information quicker than using a cell phone. Whether it is a reminder notification, an email alert, calls or texts – it should take a user no more than 3-5 seconds to get the information and perform the next applicable call for action.

Use of Gamification Concept

In December 2019, the International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research published a detailed study that was conducted by Mohd Kamal Othman, Nicklos Ugap and Nur Diyana Rahman. The study talked about how to increase user engagement with Play4fit, a health and fitness app, using the gamification concept.

Using various methods and procedures, the study concluded that use of gamification positively impacted the user engagement metrics in the health and fitness wearable app niche. Using Game Experience Questionnaire (GEQ) analysis, the findings in this study showed that sensory and imaginative immersion components impact a user when using their Play4fit fitness and health app.

Whilst this is not the only method to increase user engagement in wearables, it certainly is a starter! The use of gamification can certainly assist developers and manufacturers to increase engagement in wearables watches, trackers, health monitors, etc.

Data Privacy to be Taken Seriously

Since health and fitness wearables and trackers use GPS tracking technology or have the ability to connect to a user’s cell phone to retrieve GPS information, this allows the app to have sensitive and personal data of a user that includes location details. In addition to the app storing the location details, some apps can even show a user’s location and the total number of hours he or she was in deep sleep.

Needless to say, this sort of information needs to be safeguarded by the app developers to win a user’s long-term trust towards the app and the device itself. We are well aware of data breaches that have happened in the past, like the one that hit UnderArmour’s MyFitnessPal app in 2018. It leaked private information such as usernames, passwords and email addresses of over 150 million users. In order to avoid these sorts of attacks from hackers, app developers need to ensure foolproof security and data privacy of its users’ information at any given time.

Improved Battery Life

People usually do not want to carry a power bank or any other external charging device these days. Same is the case with a wearable device, too. App developers need to focus more on coming up with optimized app solutions that consume as little device battery as possible. If not much, the wearable should at least match the battery consumption of any other device it is connected to – for example a cell phone. In an ideal situation, the wearable device battery should go way beyond that.

Heuristics for Mobile Wearables

According to a 2017 study that was largely based on Healthcare Technology Self-efficacy (HTSE) questionnaire assessment of 34 users from two famous fitness trackers – FitBit and JawBone, the motivation and user engagement in fitness tracking was closely monitored over a course of four weeks. The whole concept of user experience (UX) was thoroughly studied in mobile and health wearables, since it is a key element that helps users understand, interpret, derive motivation and act on their personal data.

The empirical analysis and detailed findings of this study implied that users’ motivation and self-efficacy are very much dependent on successful data, content design, sending context and having the ability to provide valuable and appropriate feedback to the user regarding their health and fitness activities.

Self-determination Theory (SDT) framework was found to be one of the deciding factors in future app design and UX guidelines incorporating self-efficacy and heuristics in the mobile healthcare and fitness wearable technology. This should be part of user engagement strategy for product designers and app developers of wearable devices to gain maximum results in this market niche.

Wearable Technology Trends from 2019-2020 and Beyond

When considering how to increase user engagement in wearables, looking at the trends is probably a great place to start! Even though the world has been hit by a major pandemic lately, the year 2020 is still seen as a massive year of growth in the wearable sector – specifically the health and fitness devices and technologies such as AI, 5G, 3D Printing and Wearable technology, Digital Twins, etc.

Statista reported a total revenue of $27 billion in the global wearable technology industry in 2018. By the end of 2020, this figure is estimated to increase to $44.4 billion.

The upward trend in the wearable industry clearly shows the enormous opportunity for health and fitness wearable manufacturers and app developers to meet the ever-increasing demand of existing and potential new users.

Wearable Technology Fashion for the Adults

Emarketer reports that in the initial years of wearable technology, growth was mostly witnessed in the low-priced fitness tracker niche. However, wearable devices such as smartwatches, hearables, smart glasses and smart clothing are gaining substantial market share and constantly attracting new audiences from all walks of life and age brackets.

The aforementioned report further suggests that wearable technology mostly attracted the younger people for a few years. In 2015, 24% from the age bracket of 25-24 owned a wearable device in contrast to the 6.5% from the age bracket of 55-64 having one of those devices. In 2019, the younger audience is still the largest group to own a wearable device, with an increase of 38%. However, old age consumers were also expected to increase to a 13.2%. With this being said, wearable technology holds a big opportunity in the coming years for the older generation as well – one of the signs why Apple offered new health features in their latest Apple Watch.

Google Acquisition of FitBit

In November last year, Google acquired FitBit, the leading health and fitness wearable brand, for $2.1 billion. Even though there has been widespread criticism regarding the acquisition, with many speculating the deal could pose a serious threat to users’ privacy, this deal is still considered and predicted to be vital for both the parties involved.

According to Google device SVP Rick Osterloh, Google has made substantial in-roads in the wearable industry in recent years – mainly by partnering with Wear OS and Google Fit and this deal could pave way for more innovation in Wear OS and introduction of wearable devices that are made by Google.

On the other hand, FitBit did enjoy a huge amount of success initially since they were the pioneers in the wrist-worn tracker industry. However, in recent years, the brand has struggled since the introduction and growth of smartwatches that has taken over the health and fitness tracker market to a great extent. According to FitBit CEO and co-founder James Park, the brand is expected to accelerate innovation in the wearables technology using Google’s global platform.

The Rise of Assault Protection Wearables

A disturbing statistical report published by National Sexual Violence Resource Center showed that 1 in every 5 women in the United States have been raped or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, while 1 in 71 men have gone through similar sexual assaults. The use of wearable gadgets are expected to bring the number of these incidents down in the US and elsewhere around the world.

It is a gadget which is camouflaged as a piece of garment and can effectively work in case of a fall or use of force. The device is connected to the phone via Bluetooth and the user can either close the function in case of a false alarm or enable an emergency rape button if the assault is actually taking place. In addition to this, the phone will still be able to send distress signals to the concerned authorities in case the attacker overpowers the user and the user is unable to close the app within 5 seconds from the first point of fall or force detection.

Case Studies for Wearable Technology

Let us now have a brief overview of three renowned organizations that have made effective use of wearable technology into their respective business environments:

BP – a global energy organization, began using wearable technology way back in 2013. At present, more than 75% of participants enroll themselves in the company’s annual Million Step Challenge and more than 79% achieve their goal.

In order to add more goals beyond the one million steps, and smaller goals for those who are less active, BP has modified the program over the years to meet the expectations of its participants.

Emory University in Atlanta – launched Healthy Emory, a wearable program, in 2014. Using its results from five sites, Emory made further modifications and redesigned the program’s effectiveness and offered it to all its employees the following year. The Move More Challenge was a fun activity for its participants to encourage team-based social support and friendly competition.

In 2015, the program expanded with 6,300 Emory employees participating in the challenge. It was observed that 82% of those employees remained active for the complete 8-week period. A survey was conducted once the program ended and two astonishing stats were uncovered – 67% stated that this was their first experience with a wearable device, while 82% said they used the wearable device every day of the challenge.

Ochsner Health System – a New Orleans-based regional hospital network, started a program in 2008 that focused on offering its employees a free wearable device and giving them an incentive upon reaching a target number of steps.

Over the years, it has been learnt that Ochsner employees who regularly use wearable devices have lower medical costs in comparison to those employees who do not.

So, Now You Know How to Increase User Engagement in Wearables!

The technological sphere is evolving more and more in recent times. The wearable industry is constantly witnessing new additions of gadgets and devices like bracelets, headphones, clothes, glasses, running shoes, rings, etc. This industry is all set to grow at a higher rate in the coming years – giving a clear indication of the importance of user engagement in wearable technology.

Health and fitness wearable devices have already made noticeable progress in recent times. It is just a matter of time when every other person around us will be owning one of these wearable devices.


Berkem Peker

Berkem Peker is a growth strategist at Storyly. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the Middle East Technical University. He/him specializes in growth frameworks, growth strategy & tactics, user engagement, and user behavior. He enjoys learning new stuff about data analysis, growth hacking, user behavior.

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