Wearables makers target new demographics, functions
Garmin is focusing on further developing its activity trackers for children with the introduction of Disney licenses, including Star Wars and Marvel, for its Vívofit Jr. In addition to tracking steps, sleep and kids’ activity on the way to their recommended 60-minute daily play goal, the Vívofit Jr. comes with a free, parent-controlled mobile app. The Vívofit Jr. band is designed for children ages 4- to 9-years old, and is available for $79.99.
Earlier this year, Fitbit launched its smartwatch Fitbit Ionic at just under $300. The Fitbit Ionic delivers advanced and innovative health and fitness features, such as GPS, enhanced heart rate tracking, on-device guided workouts and automatic sleep tracking with Sleep Stages, all powered by up to five days of battery life and cross-platform smartphone compatibility. It is available in three-color combinations: silver gray tracker and clasp with blue gray band, smoke gray tracker and clasp with charcoal band or burnt orange tracker and clasp with slate blue band.
NeuroMetrix has entered the wearable space with a chronic pain relief device that uses TENS technology with its Quell device. It’s similar to other wearable devices in that it tracks pain-related data as part of its app, and is much more than a typical TENS device in that it is worn around the calf as opposed to the area of the body that’s hurting. Recent added functionalities for the $249 device includes an activity tracker and gate tracking.
Shipping in early December, Nokia recently announced the launch of Nokia Steel HR, an activity tracking watch with heart rate monitoring, smartphone notifications and personalized coaching programs. Nokia Steel HR utilizes a technology called photoplethysmography, which Nokia says monitors heart rate using green LED lights to detect variation in the level of blood in the wrist. Pricing is expected to range between $179.95 and $199.95. Nokia Steel HR’s heart rate algorithm has been developed to provide accurate measurements, especially during workouts when it’s used most.
Walgreens app makes health tracking easy
Walgreens is using its popular app to help consumers connect to many brands of fitness trackers outside of the store. The retailer, which is marketing Striiv, its own branded activity tracker, allows members of the company’s Balance Rewards program to also connect through 40 different devices and 27 apps, according to the Walgreen’s website.
“We do not sell the Apple Watch, but fitness data tracked on that device can be relayed through our mobile app to link up with Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices,” Jim Graham, Walgreens senior manager media relations, said.
Walgreens currently has more than 88 million active members of its Balance Rewards program through its mobile app, which earned a 5-star rating on the Apple App Store. Walgreens Balance Rewards for healthy choices has 1.2 million active users each with 1.6 healthy lifestyle goals met. These positive behaviors translate directly to reduced healthcare costs for participants, their employers and payers, Graham said, and noted that it allows the company to play a larger role in patients’ health.
“Our mobile app is an important part of our broader effort to make Walgreens a trusted healthcare partner, easily and immediately accessible, when you are tracking exercise with your wrist device, when it’s time to take your medication or when you are looking to save with coupons or redeem Balance Reward points.”
In addition to syncing with a patient’s preferred fitness tracker, the mobile app’s most popular features include a prescription refill, refill status check, photo print ordering and coupon generation, as well as its refill-by-scan feature, which enables patients to scan their pill bottle label.
Getting on track with wearables
Are retail pharmacies late to the party when it comes to the health wearables market?
The booming category, which includes such devices as activity trackers and chronic pain relief devices, offers mass retailers — especially those operating a pharmacy — an opportunity to build sales and profits, not to mention a stronger relationship with consumers seeking answers. But, thus far, it appears that other retailers, as well as the digital marketplace, have outpaced retail pharmacy operators in this category.
Offering a broad selection of product across multiple price points, Walmart and Best Buy have captured a big share of the wearables market. Amazon.com and other digital entities also have gained significant market share by stressing selection and, of course, price.
In fact, the unit market share for online-only sellers of fitness trackers for the past year was 26%, according to Weston Henderek, NPD Group’s director of connected intelligence. Mass merchants took 16% in market share and electronics retailers occupy 12%. Fitbit and Garmin led the activity tracker market with unit shares of 71% and 13%, respectively, while Apple and Samsung led the smartwatch market with unit shares of 50% and 20%, respectively.
That these companies are leading the pack is not to say that some retail pharmacy operators aren’t doing their part to get into the category. Walgreens, for example, was one of the early adopters of offering wearable health products. The Deerfield, Ill.-based retailer markets tits own brand activity tracker Striiv, and incentivizes the use of the best-selling activity trackers through its mobile app. Through the app, users are rewarded with 20 Balance Rewards points every time they record a blood pressure measurement, clock 1 mile in steps or weigh-in.
“Wearable devices, paired with our 5-star rated Walgreens iPhone mobile app, are not just a passing fad,” said Jim Graham, Walgreens senior manager of media relations. “Fitness and health-tracking technologies have tremendous potential. Once you begin tracking things like heart rate, blood pressure and medication adherence, you open up wonderful opportunities for patients, pharmacists and physicians to share real-time data to modify treatments and improve health.”
“[We] found it very easy to use, pretty seamless and integrates with the app,” said Carl Jorgensen, director of thought leadership at Stamford, Conn.-based Daymon, which recently test marketed Walgreens’ Striiv. “It’s an early entrant with a private-brand approach, and we’re surprised not more retailers are doing that. Retail today is all about differentiation, what can you be doing differently to provide compelling experiences to your shopper that your competition is not providing.”
Outside the drug channel, mass retailers need to stay on top of the fast-changing segment and have to play a bit of catch-up to become relevant players in the category, according to some industry experts. The industry currently is transitioning from first-generation trackers that focused primarily on tracking steps to devices that capture a broader selection of health metrics.
“Where the basic activity tracker market came on hot and heavy and lots of units were sold over the past five years, we’re seeing people transition [to more advanced features],” said Andy Beckman, director of North American sales and marketing for Garmin’s fitness division, based in Kansas City, Kan. “The key is training the customer that your place is a destination to find those [products].”
NPD Group’s Henderek said the wearables market is becoming more specialized, which could make specialty devices the best bet for retail pharmacy.
“With the Apples, Fitbits and Samsungs, the channels where those [products] are being bought are already very defined,” he said. “It would be very difficult to break through that barrier outside of specialty devices.”
Those specialty devices are coming, however, as many of the activity tracker manufacturers incorporate disease management tools into their product lineups.
“The highest category in terms of growth for health is growing outside of pharmacies,” said Alexis Norman, head of B2B digital health at Nokia’s Murray Hill, N.J., North American headquarters. She added that the real opportunity with wearables in pharmacy is in the programs that could be built around aggregated consumer data, including programs for weight loss, diabetes management and heart health.
Like Nokia, San Francisco-based Fitbit is building on its ability to assist in a disease management capacity. In November, Fitbit chairman and CEO James Park said that in its more than 10 years in business, it has tracked 90 billion hours of heart rate data, 167 billion minutes of exercise data, 5.4 billion nights of sleep and more than 85 trillion steps.
“Not only does this data allow us to deliver personalized health-and-wellness coaching and guidance, it also has the potential to help us detect more serious health conditions,” Park said, adding that the company was focusing on such conditions as diabetes, sleep disorders and mental health in an effort to open up revenue streams outside devices.
That opens the door to health-and-wellness services many retail pharmacies already offer.
“Wearables as a trend [are] not going away,” said Frank McGillin, chief commercial officer at Waltham, Mass.-based NeuroMetrix, which makes wearable pain relief device Quell. “From a retailer’s standpoint, they need to continue to look at how it fits into their mix, innovate and experiment. It’s a fast-growing segment, so it’s going to evolve, but demonstrating leadership will definitely pay out for people who are on top of the trends and [are] meeting the needs of their consumers.”