Skip to content Skip to navigation

A New PwC Survey Looks at the Explosion in Consumer Adoption of Wearables—Now, What Are the Implications for Providers?

May 12, 2016
by Mark Hagland
| Reprints
PwC’s Vaugh Kauffman discusses the results of a just-released survey of consumers on wearables

What are the implications for healthcare and healthcare IT leaders of the surging interest among consumers in wearable devices? There are many, even as the current wave of interest in Fitbit, Apple Watch, Google Glass, and many other wearable devices—whether those devices are fitness trackers and fitness bands, smart glasses, smart watches, smart clothing, or any of a number of other emerging personal technologies.

Leaders at PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) released a study on May 12, based on a survey of consumers around wearable devices. The study, entitled “The Wearable Life. 2.0: Connected living in a wearable world,” was authored by a team of PwC industry analysts, and produced as part of the New York-based consulting firm’s “Consumer Intelligence Series.”

The study was based on the findings of a 1,000-respondent online quantitative survey conducted online in March 2016.  According to a PwC spokesperson, “The first 700 respondents were fielded without a quota for wearable technology users in order to obtain natural incidence of ownership. The remaining 300 respondents were terminated as necessary in order to reach the 50-percent quota.” Meanwhile, responses were adjusted to match the demographics of the U.S. population for ethnicity and race, as well as for gender (50 percent male, 50 percent female), and also adjusted for age, with 50 percent of the final sample being consumers 18-34 years old, and 50 percent being 35-64 years old.

Among those consumers surveyed:

>  45 percent own a fitness band
>  27 percent own a smart watch
> 14 percent own a smart video or photo device (such as GoPro)
> 12 percent own smart clothing

Meanwhile, 57 percent of consumers said they are excited about the future of wearable technology as a part of everyday life—up from 41 percent who said so in 2014.Also, 88 percent that wearable technology helps us exercise smarter (88 percent), helps parents keep their children safe (87 percent), relieves stress (81 percent), and makes us more efficient at home (80 percent) and at work (78 percent), with all of those percentages up from 2014.

At the same time, concerns of the use of wearable technology are falling, even as positive perceptions of wearables are rising. In this latest survey, consumers were less likely to agree that wearable technology will make us more vulnerable to security breaches (down 8 points from 2014), will invade our privacy (down 7 points), or hurt our ability to relate to other humans (down 4 points).

What’s more, the percentage of survey respondents saying that wearable technology would increase social interaction tripled between 2014 and 2016, going from 10 percent who said so in 2014, to 33 who said so this year.

Still, amid all this enthusiasm, there were some countervailing results as well. Over time, fewer consumers use their wearables daily. Consumers report a 33-percent decrease in wearing their smart clothing daily; a 22-percent decrease in wearing their smart watches daily; an 18-percent decrease in wearing their fitness bands daily; and a 16-percent decrease in wearing their smart glasses daily. As the report notes, initial enthusiasm can fade because of the lack of perception of a pressing need for their devices; the fact that some devices are easy to lose, or are unattractive or uncomfortable; the fact that they have a short-lived battery life; or because they don’t sync seamlessly with the smartphones they own. As the report’s authors note, “For consumers to commit to wearables for the long term a device, should not only be attractive and comfortable, but should also reach beyond data delivery to provide knowledge and benefits unavailable elsewhere.”

What factors do motivate consumers to make use of their wearables? The following were the most-cited motivators:

> A device has features that reward the frequent user of that device with monetary rewards (54 percent)
> A device has a gaming feature that allows the user to compete with others (45 percent)
> A device provides a consumer with information that that consumer would not otherwise have (45 percent)
> A device allows the consumer to cut back on spending (44 percent)
> A device has apps or features that reward frequent users with loyalty points (43 percent)
> A device looks good and coordinates with the user’s wardrobe (36 percent)

As the report’s authors note, “For a wearable to be ‘sticky’ in tech parlance, it needs monetary or other rewards attached to it. Like loyalty points. That’s what eight out of 10 current users—particularly women and millennials—told us. Meanwhile,” they add, “accountability is a major benefit of fitness devices. Wearables enable social connections for support in achieving fitness goals. And foster healthy competition, which is especially appealing to males and millennials. The ultimate connected device,” they add, “is a wearable with smartphone connective: 78 percent of respondents with a smartphone-connected wearable say they use it more frequently precisely because of that connectivity. And a whopping 97 percent are satisfied with the smartphone application supporting their device.”