What to Watch: The Continued Rise of Wearable Wellness Devices

Rings, watches, bands, oh my!

Wearable devices that track wellness data continue to gain traction — Oura is valued at $2.55 billion, according to the company; 50 million consumers used an Apple Watch in November 2022, according to a Pymnts report, and a new ring, Evie from Movano Health, is set to launch this fall.

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McKinsey cites wearables as a key area within the wellness category, estimating it to be a $10 billion to $15 billion market in the U.S. and growing in double digits year-over-year, with a 40 to 50 percent penetration rate. Consumer adoption continues to increase, likely due to post-pandemic wellness trends, experts say.

“Consumers could not go to the doctor or the hospital for a period of time,” said Anna Pione, a partner at McKinsey and coleader of the firm’s global research on the future of wellness. “During the pandemic, we just saw a real acceleration of it, partly by need, partly by consumers having more of this awareness of their own health and wellness… [With] fitness and general health and wellness, consumers are pretty happy with the offerings that they have today.”

While the category continues to accelerate, there is room for opportunity, according to experts, especially when it comes to the nutrition segment and more specific use cases like women’s health, elder care and chronic conditions.

“There’s real potential to continue scaling,” said Pione. “Diet and nutrition…offerings just aren’t quite there on the market yet, but the consumer demand is huge.”

With this, Pione pointed to technology like continuous glucose monitors as the main option on the market now for nutrition, though she expects brands to research more seamless, pain-free options for automated tracking in this space. But continuous glucose monitors, like Nutrisense, have gained traction as they allow users to track blood sugar levels in real time and adjust eating habits and other behaviors.

“Our core base when we first started was biohackers,” said Nutrisense senior nutrition manager Carlee Hayes. “We’ve seen that shift to a more broad, general lay audience over the past four years… This technology and the ability to make those long-term behavior changes is reaching everyone now.”

Continuous glucose monitors pose several barriers for consumers, however, as they require inserting a needle into the arm, require a prescription and can be pricey. With increased interest, experts say the device will likely become more accessible in the future.

“Consumers like the continuous nature of these [continuous glucose monitors],” said Pione. “The price point is definitely quite high. If that starts to come down, you’ll see more adoption… I imagine they will become cheaper and more accessible.”

Evie, which retails for $269 from Movano Health, is a new ring expected to launch in November entirely focused on the women’s health segment — it will provide data around menstrual cycles, health metrics, sleep quality and activity. With this, the brand has positioned itself as a health care wearable, as it is a medical grade device following Food and Drug Administration standards.

“We want to take it to the next level. We want to integrate a health care lens to it all,” said Movano Health chief executive officer John Mastrototaro, noting the brand plans to integrate with health care systems for patient management. “Women have often been underserved in health care… It was high time to develop a wearable solution specifically for women.”

While the product — which will not require a subscription, per consumer feedback — hasn’t launched yet, the brand has collected more than 80,000 emails of people interested in trying the ring upon launch.

Oura has also tapped into the women’s health segment through its partnership with Natural Cycles, where users are able to use their ring to track their temperature and in turn their fertility status. This partnership is indicative of two key strategies at Oura: addressing women’s health and providing multidimensional health data for consumers to learn more about their physiology over time.

“We want to move from just looking at one dimension of your health and wellness,” said Oura CEO Tom Hale. “It’s going to be pretty interesting to think about how you start to look at those more holistically and you start to look at them across a longer period of time… Women’s health [is] such an interesting place for people to do passive tracking because if you have a cycle, and understanding the different stages of that cycle and how you feel and how your scores reflect in the cycle, there’s lots of learning for people to do there.”

With Oura’s success and Evie’s entrance into the market, more rings are expected. Fitbit, Samsung and Apple have all filed for patents for smart rings. Pione of McKinsey said one of the biggest drivers for rings is the battery life — only requiring to be charged every few days. Therefore, brands with other modalities may look into expanding battery life, as Whoop has done with its band — the Whoop 4.0 battery lasts four to five days and comes with a portable charger so the wearer never has to take off the device.

While experts expect new offerings to shake up the market, pioneers in the space are constantly looking to update their tech and better engage with consumers. For example, Oura responded to the social wellness trend by creating Circles, which allows ring wearers to join groups and react to one another’s wellness data. Since launching the Apple Watch, the brand has expanded its tracking capabilities to include custom workouts, crash detection, an array of mindfulness offerings and more.

The emphasis on mental well-being resonates across the wellness category and especially with wearables when it comes to the effect of stress on sleep. Whoop recently added stress indicators to its band; Hale of Oura calls it a key area of the category to pay attention to, and Apollo, a touch sensor device, detects a user’s stress and provides vibrations to calm the nervous system.

“The real unlock with Whoop members is starting to actually quantify how much stress they’re incurring outside of activity during the day and how that relates to sleep at night,” said Kristen Holmes, Whoop vice president of performance science and principal scientist, noting consumers are connecting the dots between data and behavior change. “There’s a data point for someone to be like, ‘Oh, wow, OK. I need to actually be more proactive in managing my stress throughout the day.'”

Key Takeaways:

  1. Consumers are happy with wellness wearables that address general health and fitness — expect continued features and enhancements from these brands, especially around stress.

  2. Wellness-minded consumers are looking to continuous glucose monitors for in-depth data, but they are widely inaccessible.

  3. There is a strong market opportunity for wearables that address specific use cases, such as women’s health, elder care, chronic conditions, nutrition, etc.

  4. Look out for the development of new wellness-tracking rings as several tech brands have filed patents.

  5. Battery life is a key driver for wellness-tracking rings — to be competitive, brands should aim to extend battery life and provide more convenient charging options.

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