The growing world of wearable technology in outdoor is presenting great opportunities for the outdoor industry to attract a new market of consumers. The Outdoor Industry Association conducted a report based on a social media listening research methodology to analyze the future possibilities for brands in this market. Below we have summarized the major trends and insights.

A Growing Industry

According to the 2014 Outdoor Participation Report, there was a 32% increase from 2012 to 2013 in Millennials fitness monitor use in outdoor recreation. In addition to this increase they are also trying more activities, rather than focusing on mastering a single hobby. This increase in wearable tech use, and uptake in a broader range of outdoor activities, has lead to the creation of ample opportunities for technology brands. Opportunities now exist for technology to enhance a wide range of outdoor activities that now includes a broad range of areas spanning from fitness and adventure to performance and lifestyle. Whilst the portable/wearable technology industry is far from new, Garmin and Go Pro especially have been household names for some time now; there has been significant growth in the market recently. Portable/wearable technology brands exhibiting at the Outdoor Retailer exhibition have grown from 31 to 74 in the last four years.

Industry Growth Spurred By Changing Consumer Behavior

This growth can be attributed in large part to the growing consumer awareness and desire for maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle. A recent Accenture study found that more than half of all global consumers interested in wearable technology are specifically looking to track physical activity and manage their personal health.

The levels of consumer driven conversation on social media regarding wearable technology back up this increase in the consumer desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle with the assistance of technology. There were 10 million mentions from August 1, 2012 – August 1, 2014, and a 53% increase in conversation year-over-year.

Opportunities and Consumer Expectations

With over 10 billion devices currently available the industry is expected to exceed $1.5 billion in 2014 and is projected to grow to 50 billion devices by 2020, making it a $1.9 trillion dollar industry.

As the market grows, so do consumers expectations from wearable tech. The following were highlighted as key:

  • Sport and activity trackers
  • Training and coaching capabilities
  • Seamless integration with their lifestyle, routine and goals
  • Foresight capabilities and need anticipation

There is a relatively small amount of negative conversation surrounding wearable technology and associated applications. When concerns are vocalized they tend to focus on three main areas:

  • Tracking inaccuracies
  • User interface issues
  • Data ownership & privacy concerns

This is not particularly surprising, as many technology brands, wearable or otherwise, would be dealing with the same concerns over their products. If future iterations of their products address the above concerns the wearable technology industry will only continue to flourish.

The Generational Difference in Usage Motivation

When evaluating the conversation by demographic it becomes clear there are different motivations behind each generations motivation for using wearable technology:


Social: wearable tech gives Millennials yet another avenue for staying connected with their peers via social media and allows them to share “life well lived” activities and aspirational updates.

Generation X

Predictive: Generation X consumers seek performance monitoring and the ability to stay ahead of issues to proactively manage their health.

Baby Boomers

Preventative: Baby Boomers are using wearable technology on a different level, seeking to proactively address a health concern or potential health risk, giving them an insight into vitals that were previously only accessible through a doctor’s visit.

In Summary

Dominated by Health and Fitness Applications

At present the wearable technology market is dominated by health and fitness applications with this sector making up almost half of the online conversation about the category.

Wearable Tech Must Compliment a Lifestyle Choice

Consumers are using wearable tech as an entry point to outdoor activity, at the same time they seek applications that integrate seamlessly into their existing lifestyles.

Motivations and Expectations Differ Between Generations

The motivations for using wearable technology vary greatly between generations. In turn, consumers expectations and relationships with wearable tech are becoming increasingly complex and personalized. Moving from simple performance tracking to performance enhancing, health monitoring and life assistance.

Final Thoughts

Clearly there are inherent links between the outdoor industry and wearable technology, with many opportunities available. Especially for brands entering the health and fitness wearable technology and associated mobile application space.

However, as expressed by Apparel Magazine, “the key to success in this area is creating something because it is needed or desirable, not simply because it is possible”.

Therefore, it is important for brands to remember the motivations behind each generation’s use of wearable tech and ensure they are creating something relevant to the consumer.

When marketing their devices brands must not forget to look beyond the product and its features and ensure they leverage the emotional betterment value in outdoor and wearable technology.