Wearable device maker seeks ‘need-to-have’ role

Dec. 7, 2016

Fitbit might be having trouble keeping up the pace. Georgia Wells in The Wall Street Journal writes, “These days, Fitbit is struggling to develop its next hit and attract new users. Last month, Fitbit for the first time revealed it was facing weak demand for its gadgets. Production problems are cutting into holiday sales, when many people buy the trackers as gifts.”

Wells quotes Ramon Llamas, analyst for International Data Corp., as saying, “The novelty for fitness trackers is not there any more. Consumers are a very fickle bunch.” Wells writes, “About 30% of people in the U.S., U.K., and Australia who had ever worn a fitness tracker no longer use the device, according to a survey this summer by market-research firm Gartner Inc.”

In response, Fitbit is trying to reposition its products from “nice-to-have” to “need-to-have,” according to Fitbit chief executive James Park, as quoted by Wells. The goal is to have doctors prescribe the devices to, for example, monitor patients’ heart conditions.

One problem is that smartphones duplicate many of the functions of Fitbit-like devices. And, writes Wells, “…a raft of medical studies have called into question the accuracy of Fitbit’s trackers.”

She concludes by writing, “Fitbit needs to improve its sensors and persuade doctors and medical providers to use them, Mr. Park says, adding, ‘I think if we can do this the opportunity here is pretty tremendous.’”

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