But as the Washington Post detailed in an article last week, fitness tracking devices and apps aren’t just a new category of product for brands like Nike and Under Armour.
Instead, for companies that are aligned to health and fitness-conscious consumers, they may be the real-world equivalent of the web beacon.
The Post’s Drew Harwell explains:
…the easier [brands] make it for sweaty shoppers to start tracking all their workouts, the more linked those brands will be in shoppers’ heads when they go to buy new gear.
Under Armour’s online fitness community in January logged more than 100 million workouts, the company said: That’s a lot of mid-exercise thinking about comfier running shoes and sweat-wicking shirts.
He goes on:
But the fitness connections can go much further than simple suggestion. Through a deal with online shoe superstore Zappos, Under Armour’s MapMyFitness app uses an exerciser’s workout history and sends alerts that her sneakers could soon need replacing, adding a Zappos link on where to buy.
Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank said Tuesday the fitness trackers help connect “us to our consumer like no other brand on the planet.
Just how effective can the fitness tracker-based targeting be?
Harwell notes that some executives in the sportswear market believe that the ability to track consumers’ activity and target them based on that activity could eventually do more for sales than the costly pro athlete endorsement deals that have been a mainstay for these brands.
“The apps offer personalized detail and encouragement for the everywoman exercise crowd, even those who couldn’t care less about major sports,” Harwell notes. “And unlike athlete endorsement deals, they don’t leave the company at risk of a bad game or career-ending injury, and could offer a sales bump in every season.”
Of course, fitness trackers as real-world web beacons probably aren’t a panacea for brands looking to connect with fitness-minded consumers.
As the marketing applications become more apparent, greater concern over privacy is likely to emerge. And the costs of playing in the space are significant. Creating wearables and the apps that make the data they collect meaningful can be an expensive undertaking.
Already, Under Armour has spent $700m buying up already popular apps, something that has weighed on the company’s profits and stock price.
But in the long run, there’s good reason to believe that the investments brands are making in wearables and fitness tracking apps will pay off.
The wearables trend shows no signs of slowing down, and with the debut of Apple Watch shining a spotlight on the market, health and fitness-aligned brands that don’t have offerings will risk losing their relevance even if these devices prove not to be effective real-world web beacons.