Sensor-laden wearable devices, with their unique ability to capture data generated by the body, are important components of a larger phenomenon we call “smart body, smart world.” Use cases for wearables could extend to anything from navigation to shopping to social networking to productivity. One scenario in particular – health and fitness – has inspired a
number of wearable devices that launched in 2012 like the Nike+ FuelBand, the Basis smartwatch, and the (relaunched) Jawbone UP. These new products spur the questions: Can the market support this many wearable fitness products, and who should these products target?

In a new Forrester report published today, we take a look at the market for fitness wearables. Using Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data, we find that overall, only 4% of US online adults, or about 8 million US consumers, fit a target profile predictive of buying a fitness wearable. What it means: A growing number of products are vying for a relatively limited pool of customers. The consumers that do fit the profile are an appealing bunch: They buy organic, enjoy working out, own smartphones, and feel positive about the role of technology in their lives. The problem is, there just aren’t many of them.

The prescription is twofold: The companies making these products must go deep to reach this narrow target, getting creative about distribution and content partnerships and tweaking their products to deliver more insightful coaching, not just stats and observations. In addition, they must broaden the use case for their product beyond health and fitness, integrating with disparate data sources to produce new types of insights.

We’re watching closely to see whether and how Google Glass can propel wearables beyond fitness. It’s a big jump from the wrist (where most of these wearables sit) to the face, from a quiet interface to one that is literally right in front of your eyes. We’re curious and optimistic, but we’ve seen Google struggle to productize its inventions in the past. We’re also watching to see how new IP like Valencell’s gel-pad earbud sensors and MC10’s conformable electronics make their way into consumer products. In this nascent market, there’s plenty of room for innovation with what can be done with body-generated data. Health and fitness is an obvious starting point, but we see even more potential for wearables once they break out of health and fitness scenarios.