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During the holiday season last year, Santa gave millions of individuals wearable device fitness trackers and smartwatches.  For wellness program administrators, at least those with the analytics and technology to assess their program in detail and in real-time, these gifts result in increased participation in January wellness challenges.  However, too many coordinators know first-hand that participation often dissipates as individuals lose interest in their device and the program.

The precise percentage of fitness tracker abandonment has never really been known.  When Fitbit filed the paperwork to go public, analysis of its filings and financials suggested that 70% of Fitbit users churn in less than 12 months.  These estimates are from 2015 and device technology has substantially improved since then in meaningful ways, such as in battery life, non-fitness related features like text notifications and payments, and more.  In 2016, Fitbit released reactivation statistics that suggested 20% of those were buyers who were coming back to the Fitbit community after they had been inactive for 90 days or more.

So what percentage of individuals can wellness coordinators expect to give up on their technology?  According to a Gartner survey of 9,600 online consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, 30% and 29% of the fitness trackers and smartwatches, respectively, are ultimately abandoned.  The study also suggests that top reasons for abandonment include lack of usefulness, boredom, or the device breaking.

The study also found that consumers think wearables are priced too high relative to their perceived usefulness.  This is partly being driven by numerous free app alternatives that track everything wearable devices can and more.  The survey found that people younger than 45 tend to think a smartphone can do everything they need.  This continues to make the argument that employers implement a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy for wellness.  A BYOD strategy for wellness allows organizations to embrace all forms of wellness technologies, including devices and apps from all brands.  It will enable consumer choice and result in lower costs for your program.  If employees want to use devices they can, but employers do not need to buy devices for the 30% that will ultimately abandon their devices (this number may be conservative since one would think that devices purchased by an individual on their own are less likely to be abandoned).

BYOD For Wellness
The study also reported on market adoption rates.  For fitness trackers, U.S. consumers lead usage at 23% followed by Australia at 19% and the U.K. at 15%.  The leading smartwatch country is the U.S. at 12%, while the U.K is at 9% and Australia at 7%.  The overall adoption was 19% and 10% for fitness trackers and smartwatches, respectively.

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