Will Corporate Wellness Save Fitbit?
Is it time to feel a bit of pity for Fitbit? For that matter, maybe the corporate wellness industry deserves some sympathy. Both of them have hit some bumps lately and some observers are suggesting they can help each other out.
The Motley Fool says corporate wellness programs “could be a game changer” for Fitbit. It says everyone would be better off if companies strapped these gizmos on all their employees.
Unfortunately, that scenario isn’t grounded in reality. Corporate wellness is unlikely to save Fitbit. And neither Fitbit – nor any other fitness tracker – is likely to help corporate wellness programs generate better health outcomes.
Fitbit’s Ongoing Slide
Two years ago, after Fitbit issued a spectacular IPO, the stock price hit its peak. Since then, the decline has been relentless. Fitbit continues to lead the market for fitness trackers, but competitors are steadily chipping at the company’s lead. First it was Apple with its smartwatch. Then Garmin took a chunk and Android devices grabbed some share. Most recently, a low-cost competitor from China – Xiaomi – has been threatening Fitbit’s #1 position in the market.
But the bigger problem is the possibility that the market for tracking devices is nearly saturated. That’s what the latest report from IDC suggests. Consumers are getting bored with fitness tracking. And it doesn’t help that studies are showing that health outcomes are not much better when people use them. A systematic review published recently in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine concluded:
Accelerometers demonstrated small positive effects on physical activity and weight loss. The small sample sizes with moderate to high heterogeneity in the current studies limit the conclusions that may be drawn.
A randomized, controlled trial recently published in JAMA had even harsher results. People who wore a fitness tracker lost less weight than people who didn’t.
No wonder people are losing interest.
Bad Press for Wellness
The wellness industry is having an especially bad time in the press right now. A bill permitting employers to penalize workers who don’t submit to genetic tests in wellness programs is drawing howls of protest from all quarters. Our friend Timothy Caulfield sums it up in beautifully in this tweet:
— Timothy Caulfield (@CaulfieldTim) March 13, 2017
Though this legislation came from CEOs with a political agenda, the wellness industry’s reputation is taking a hit.
The Real Solution: Real Innovation
Fitbit can climb out of its hole only through innovation that engages consumers once again. Real innovation can keep people engaged with their brand. They have the technology and the talent to make it happen. With a little bit of luck, a hit product could turn the tide.
And likewise, the wellness industry needs to deliver genuinely better health outcomes. Gimmicks, stupid coercive schemes, and cost shifting will just keep generating bad press.
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March 15, 2017