Jen Quinlan is the Senior Marketing Director at Mutual Mobile, an emerging technology agency.


The quantified-self movement, which started in 2007 with small groups of personal trackers who kept logs of what they ate, how long they slept and how many steps they took, has morphed mainstream. Today, a tiny device worn around your wrist can monitor all of these pieces of data and more, no excessive journaling required.

Wearable tech gadgets, specifically directed at fitness but able to monitor practically anything, are being launched by every major player in the tech space as well as a slew of start-ups. And with recent announcements from Google, Samsung, and much speculation on something from Apple, this is clearly a fad that has pivoted to a viable business opportunity.  

The sheer volume of wearables flooding the market is a boon for consumers and a terrifying prospect to marketers. Devices are being made to meet consumer needs of all types. Want to track your steps? Done. Want to track your pace? Done. Want to track your calorie intake to lose weight? Done.

But what keeps your consumer loyal once they buy? What is to keep them from switching to a different device? Certainly not price – the price point for wearables is dropping every day, making it completely reasonable to just buy another one if the first option didn’t work out.

Marketers and device manufacturers are looking for a way to ensure their product remains in use. The good news? There is a way to make your wearable stickier (and not in a gross way).

Start your user relationship early

The most powerful marketing effort is to engage your target audience in the prototype phase to help inform the product that is actually built. This tried and true technique has been used by Google (gmail, Google Glass) time and time again.

Even if you cannot afford a large-scale user study, investing in user research can be well worth your money to ensure you’re building something people need, want and will continue using. Also, those early adopters who participate in your research become your first product enthusiasts, evangelists and social ambassadors.

Demand commitment

The first interaction with your audiences needs to secure a commitment. Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence pinpoint commitment and consistency as an essential step to getting your user engaged. He notes even the tiniest commitment makes a user more likely to see an activity through to completion. This is why coupon cutting works so well for grocery stores and brands – cutting the coupon is a tiny commitment to that brand that you will buy the product.

Ask for daily check-ins, or daily use for a month. The strongest surge of motivation your users will have is the first couple of days after purchasing it – get them committed to a long-term engagement to encourage consistent use.

Inform your users’ goals

Most people purchase a wearable device with a specific goal in mind and the devil is in the details. ‘Lose weight’ is very different from ‘lose weight to go to my reunion’ which is light years away from ‘lose weight for wrestling weigh-in.’

Poll your users, determine what their goals are and then help them set attainable goals that will keep them coming back for more. Statistics Brain reports a mere 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s Eve resolutions – likely because they are not feasible.

Becoming a trusted partner to your users in setting and helping them achieve their goals creates an emotional bond that is near impossible to break. 

Encourage your users

As we know, setting and meeting goals is a heady drug. Once reasonable goals have been set with your user, remind them, support them, and congratulate them. When users see improvements (improved sleep, improved weight management, improved hydration) through the use of your wearable, they are more likely to keep using it.

A word on user support: this has to be personal without being creepy. A truly successful wearable will feel a lot like Big Mother, knows everything about you (because it should) and has your best interests at heart. It will feel nothing like Big Brother, serving up ads and advice to meet its needs rather than the users. 

Rewards galore

Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. This is more than just an online badge to gamify the experience. Give them something physical, something they can hold and feel pride in. All the fuel points in the world don’t compare to a medal for your one-millionth step. This is Volvo Heritage Club 101.

Think about rewards as the personal connection you can have to your user base. Companies like YouEarnedIt have applied the personal reward model to employee engagement with overwhelming success. Giving management and peers an easy way to acknowledge coworkers that, in the end, results in physical goods, promotes teamwork, accountability and increases enthusiasm. 

How can I help you today?

Customer service is essential for wearables – both good customer service and personal customer service. Wearables are the epitome of a personal device – they are tracking something that is of the utmost importance to their user. A tiny glitch can relegate your device to the desk drawer in an instant.

If you see a fall-off in activity, follow up with the user within 24 hours with a customer service rep to see what is happening and how you can help them get back on track. If you hear grumblings on social media about a problem, address it. Fast. The information you are tracking is not just data points to your users. Respect that, and let them know it. 

Wearables have the potential to be life changing for your users, which makes it critical to have a user-centric approach to the creation of your physical product, software product, and ongoing customer service experience. Keeping the user front and center as you design, implement and improve your product will ensure your users stick to their wearable.