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Adoption & Use of Wearables

Client: Aalto University


There has been a growing concern about the reduction in daily physical activity and a tendency toward sedentary behavior. Healthcare systems are facing challenges such as a widespread obesity epidemic in society and the development of chronic health conditions. Low levels of physical activity and the health conditions resulting from this could have a significant impact on the economy due to increased healthcare costs and decreased productivity.


Technology has been seen as negatively related to physical activity. However, in the past decade, there has been a trend in developing health and lifestyle technologies such as wearable fitness devices and mobile health applications which promote an increase in physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. These technologies collect and monitor users' data on physical activities and can act as a medium for delivering information and recommendations to the user. Since users regularly use mobile and wearable devices, these could be good tools for motivating and encouraging them to improve healthy behavior and physical activity.


This project aims to gain a better understanding of why an individual acquires a wearable device, how effective wearables are in influencing healthy behavior, why a high percentage of users stop using their device after a certain period of time, and how the design and usability of wearable devices can be improved.

So the main objective of this project is to: Provide a more holistic understanding of the factors influencing consumers' adoption and use of wearable technologies.

wearable technologies illustration


The project kicked off in November 2018 with desktop research. Over two months, I reviewed around one hundred articles related to wearable technologies, technology adoption, and human behavior. Reviewing these articles enabled me to narrow down the focus of the research and construct a theoretical framework to guide me throughout the empirical study.


Next, it was time to design the empirical study and select data collection methods. I chose Netnography as the method to gather empirical data. Netnography, or ethnography on the internet, is a qualitative research methodology that adapts ethnographic research techniques to the study of cultures and communities emerging through computer-mediated communications. Netnography consists of five steps: The first step is defining research questions.

I formulated two research questions to address the objective of the project:

RQ1: What are the factors behind a consumer's decision to acquire and use a wearable device?

RQ2: Why is the retention rate of wearable devices low?

wearables perceived value framework

The second step was online community selection. I identified several online communities such as Amazon reviews, online forums, and social media pages. I selected Amazon as the most suitable online community because it is a well-established e-commerce platform, all wearable devices can be found there, and many product reviews are available from which a sufficient number are very detailed and rich.


The third step was data collection. To further narrow down the focus of the project and make the data collection manageable, only three trackers were selected: Fitbit Charge 2, Garmin Vivosmart HR+, and Polar A370, based on several criteria including brand, price, specifications, and release date. I collected the data for this study from the first 20 customer reviews of each product. The combined length of all 60 reviews was about 15,000 words.


The fourth step was data analysis. Since the empirical data collected for this project is qualitative and in text format, I selected Atlas.ti for analyzing the data. Atlas.ti is a software used for analyzing a wide range of qualitative data such as textual, graphical, audio, and video data. After the data was analyzed and coded, Atlas.ti provided the possibility to quantify the data by calculating how frequently each code was used.


The last step is reporting the findings. In this stage, I presented the findings as frequency tables combined with highlighting relevant quotes from users to emphasize the importance of key features, functionalities, and user experiences.

wearable technologies research process


The findings of this project provide meaningful and actionable insights for wearable brands. First, the most important reason why consumers buy a wearable device is its usefulness. Therefore, it's important to make sure all core functionalities of the wearable device work perfectly. In the case of activity trackers, sensors must pick up activity data consistently and accurately. Otherwise, there is a high chance that customers will feel dissatisfied and stop using the device. One suggestion would be not only to test the product in laboratory conditions but extensively in real-life activities, for instance by launching it to a restricted audience or specific markets (e.g., soft launch).


Second, wearable devices, especially activity trackers, are meant to be used continuously. Therefore, it's important to build these devices out of durable material resistant to water, hot and cold temperatures, and relatively resistant to force and pressure. Customers get very disappointed and sometimes even quit using the device if, after a few months of use, the wristband needs to be replaced or the screen is cracked. In addition to high build quality, it's recommended to have customizable designs. Wearable devices such as fitness trackers are visible in public. So, they are not only considered fitness items, but they should match with users’ outfits in different situations. Providing a wider variety of designs and colors would allow users to purchase a product which is suitable for their lifestyle and outfit.


Third, customers expect an easy-to-use and smooth user interface and functionality from wearable devices. Especially for devices with a wider set of functionalities, customizability of the user interface is very important. Moreover, wearable devices are meant to be compatible with a large set of devices, especially smartphones. Wearable manufacturers should perform extensive tests to make sure their device is compatible with other devices and that the synchronization is fast and effortless.


Finally, it's not only important to have a high-quality product, but also superb customer service. Customers want to have some assurance that they won't be alone if they face any problem while using the device. Setting up an active customer support team, who is trained about the most common issues, is very important to make customers satisfied and ensure they do not abandon the device due to annoyance and frustration.

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