Work needed to convince us to buy a smartwatch
84% of Brits say they’re still not interested in buying one
In November 2014, Kantar Worldpanel ComTech asked its 15,000 strong panel in Britain about their intentions to buy a smartwatch and 84% said they were not interested. We asked the question again at the time of the Apple watch launch in April 2015 and the figure remained at 84%. Is this a clear signal that consumers haven't warmed to the idea, despite the Apple marketing machine beginning to kick into gear, along with a host of Android Wear smartwatches coming to the market too? Or perhaps it's just too soon for the impact to resonate.
Smartwatch penetration did actually increase slightly from November last year to April this year, with 1.3% of the British population now owning a smartwatch. A tiny fraction of these consumers also include those who pre-ordered the Apple watch in April. By comparison, fitness trackers or smart bands have been around for much longer and are currently still only owned by 2% of Brits. Of those who already own a smartwatch, the largest reason for purchase is an interest in 'owning the latest tech'. The top function they have been using their smartwatches for is notifications and health and fitness tracking, with over half saying they use their watches every few hours (other than to just tell the time).
Of the 84% who said they weren't interested in buying a smartwatch, the top reason is 'it's too expensive'. £299 for the entry level Apple watch is above the amount most consumers are willing to pay. Of those considering buying a smartwatch, only around 20% are willing to spend over £300. In November 2014, the top barrier was not seeing the use case as their 'smartphone meets their needs'. So, the amount of people who don't understand what a smartwatch is has dropped, suggesting the noise being made about smartwatches is being heard
Improving the uptake and growth of the smartwatch category as a whole may require the retail presence it currently lacks. You still have to book an appointment to try on an Apple watch, and inventory issues mean you can't buy any in store. The top retailer of smartwatches bought so far, is Amazon. If we look at tablets, the last new category to come to the market, the retail store environment played a significant role in the initial success of this category; of all tablets sold to date in Britain, over half were purchased in-store.
For now, if you want a smartwatch, chances are you're an early adopter in general and you've already sought out information and looked at some models online, and there lies the issue. The long term success of this category lies in the ability to appeal to the mainstream. These watches have to gain traction with people who aren't seeking them out and ultimately appeal to them beyond their current understanding. Perhaps this is the reason why Apple has announced a planned upgrade to the software on their watch to allow for more native app creation; more compelling and engaging apps may drive wider appeal.