What draws consumers to buy digital health products?

A study from eMarketer predicted that 39.5 million American adults will use wearable devices on a monthly basis in 2017. The data emerging from that market is revealing what features people find most useful in these products and will continue to attract more consumers. It's becoming clear that devices geared toward health and fitness are driving massive interest, which could have huge implications for future development and innovative product design.

"Devices geared toward health and fitness are driving interest in wearables."

Health rules

In recent years, wearables have been released in a variety of designs, with a multitude of functions like notifying users of new email messages or providing access to augmented reality experiences. For the makers of mobile devices and tech industry observers, the big question is which features and aesthetic choices will draw new users in the years to come. YouGov conducted a study that provided new insight by examining the factors that get people interested in purchasing a wearable device for the first time.

The survey included 1,000 current owners of smartwatches, fitness trackers and smartwear, as well as 2,000 people who had not yet made any such purchase. According to the findings, a recognizable, trusted brand name like FitBit or Apple could make a difference in the buying decision, but 72 percent of people still planned on performing research before choosing a product.

When consumers looked into the devices, they were attracted by particular features. The most popular – at 56 percent of respondents – was the ability to measure the user's heart rate, closely followed by other fitness-related capabilities like counting steps or calories. Most also wanted the device to display the time and date, but far fewer were interested in social features that would allow them to compete against friends.

eMarketer analyst Cathy Boyle commented on consumers' preferences and sensitivity to price in a press release.

"Without a clear use case for smart watches—which have more features than fitness trackers, but significant overlap with smartphone functionality—the more sophisticated, expensive devices have not caught on as quickly as expected," Boyle said.

These trends may redirect the efforts of tech companies as they tailor devices to meet the demands and lifestyles of potential buyers. Sales figures and consumer responses both suggest that features for gathering individualized health and fitness data are a big motivator when it comes to adopting a wearable device. That means there are opportunities for new medical products that embrace this technology and fit into people's overall wellness plans. 

Looking ahead

Wearable devices are still a relatively new technology, and it remains to be seen precisely how manufacturers will respond to consumer needs and desires. However, the Motley Fool noted that the market in wearables and the prospects for medical product design hold more possibilities than many observers acknowledge. Increased used of mobile devices for medical purposes could be a major source of growth in this sector. In addition, new medical products can be tied to software and services to offer new possibilities for purchasers and sources of revenue for businesses.

This focus on how wearables can be incorporated into a routine health regimen may be bolstered by increased use in clinical settings. Recent developments have shown that doctors are interested in finding ways to take advantage of wearable devices and mobile health apps. For instance, the American Medical Association announced a set of principles for safely incorporating digital products into treatment while protecting patient information and privacy.

As more medical professionals begin to adopt digital health products in their practice, it could have a significant impact on the future direction of product design. Health and fitness look likely to continue to drive purchases of wearable devices, resulting in products that are more specialized and precise.

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