Jeff Ruby, the founder and CEO of health engagement startup Newtopia, contributes this point of view on how to make wearables a sustainable ingredient in good health:
In the past decade, the tech industry has exploded. The awareness and enthusiasm of individual health and fitness behavior is at an all-time high. In fact, our fixation has never been more apparent as one in 10 adults over the age of 18 now owns some type of wearable tracker ranging from calorie and step counters to sleep and stress monitors.
Each year brings more innovation and offerings as evidenced by the latest and greatest displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show. Tracking accuracy has improved, GPS connectivity is common, and devices have expanded from clip-ons and wrist bands to stylish watches, rings, and clothing with built in sensors.
Given the investor and consumer uproar and the longevity of this fad, enough interest and time has passed to properly investigate whether or not wearables are a good investment for enterprises and personal use. Unfortunately, on their own, most devices fail to drive long-term sustained engagement. As much as 50% of users no longer wear their device within a few months of purchase. It is apparent that simply receiving data on our behaviors is not the Holy Grail for changing those behaviors. The data indicates that wearable owners are asking: “So what?”
The question then becomes what changes need to occur to uphold interest, excitement, and engagement. One report recently revealed three key areas which must be addressed for long-term use to occur. The device itself or the program associated with the device must include:
- Habit formation
- Social motivation
- Personalized goal reinforcement
The report explained, "The best engagement strategies for wearables will move beyond presenting data (steps, calories, stairs) and directly address the elements of the habit loop (cue, behavior, reward) and trigger the sequences that lead to the establishment of new, positive habits."
The device(s) of the future or the platforms associated with them will dive deeper into the psychology of the user than ever before. It is most important to understand the behavior or decision making process toward choices than simply to reflect on the choices themselves.
For long-term sustained engagement, social motivation must also be addressed. The social platform must offer at minimum two environments; the competitive atmosphere for those motivated by the results and exertion of others, and the more supportive environment for those motivated by the sharing and encouragement of others. Users must be able to either compete with or encourage and relate to an audience.
Lastly, sustained engagement must include the feeling of progress or goal reinforcement. Devices offering real time updates and creative feedback are more popular as they create a sense of being constantly connected. The constant connection to our devices leads us to remain constantly connected to our goals which proves to be more valuable.
This year sales associated with wearables are soaring. To make the investment last, long term engagement accomplished by addressing habit formation, social motivation, and goal reinforcement is critical. Currently, some advanced disease prevention platforms are choosing to incorporate wearables with an online platform addressing the mentioned behavioral areas. In this capacity the user jumps on board because of the initial excitement of a trendy and stylish device and stays on board because of the behavioral understanding addressed via the platform.
Our ability to move from ‘so what’ to ‘why is this meaningful to me and something I can’t live without’ is the key to sustainability and Wearables 2.0.