The wearables market just won’t quit. Nearly five years after the first Apple Watch debuted, sales of wearable technology continue to grow. In 2018, 172 million devices shipped — nearly 30 percent more than the year prior. Although many of those sales were made by major players, there’s still space in the wearables sector for startups. As the tech behind them becomes more capable, more use cases are emerging. More use cases means more target markets, and more target markets spells more opportunity for new entrants.
What’s the best way to get a slice of the wearables boom? Take these five tips from the pros.
1. Skip smartwatches.
Every one in three wearables sold is a smartwatch. The reason the smartwatch segment is so large is that tech giants like Apple and Samsung have invested huge amounts of money to build it out. They’ve developed every feature they could dream up, and they’ve got loyal customers coming back for each new edition. Rather than try to compete in a crowded market, why not opt for an open one? Get granular. Myia Health, for example, works with clinicians to create wearable kits to allow patients with heart failure to monitor their biometrics at home. The more specific your niche, the fewer competitors your startup will have to contend with.
Related:Who Needs Smartwatches? These 7 AI Wearables Can Boost Focus, Fitness and Health
2. Identify a moment of need.
Wherever you go, wearables go with you. Use that truth to help you identify a use case. LEAF, for one, chose women’s safety. Wearers of its security-embedded jewelry can press a button to call for help, after which on-ground security personnel are dispatched to the user’s destination. Identify a similar “emergency” moment for your wearable. Maybe it’s car accidents for professional drivers. Why not sell shoes embedded with impact sensors to professionals like truckers and delivery drivers? If a crash is detected, the shoes could dispatch emergency medical services to the wearer’s vehicle.
3. Don’t forget kids.
Because wearables go with their wearer, they’re great picks for parents and children. Take the Owlet Smart Sock, a baby monitor that wraps around a child’s foot. Any time the sock is removed or the wearer’s heart rate and oxygen levels dip, the Smart Sock sounds an alarm. Think about all the things babies do that their parents might want to monitor. Can you track their feeding patterns? What about how frequently they use the bathroom? Think about school-aged children, too. Could you create a wearable that notifies parents if the wearer leaves the schoolyard?
4. Create a sense of community.
One thing smartwatch makers got right? They nurtured communities around their products. Fitbit’s companion app allows users to join groups of like-minded athletes, find nearby events related to their fitness interests and create private groups of friends and family.
If you’re just starting out, one way to create a community is to put your product on a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter. Not only is doing so a great way to raise capital, but it ensures your product has a user base before it’s even on the market.
Once you’ve got a product on the market, create opportunities for user interaction. If you’re working on a wearable translator, set up forums for people learning the same language. Say you’re developing a sleep tracker for people with sleep apnea. Create a conversation space for people with the condition, or perhaps just for people who want more restful sleep.
5. Prepare to pivot.
Like all technology markets, the wearables sector moves quickly. Just a few years ago, Jawbone was at the top of the Bluetooth headset market. After shutting its doors in 2017, it’s returning as Jawbone Health, a medical subscription service that hopes to help people prevent and catch lifestyle diseases earlier. No matter what segment of wearables you have your eye on, have a backup plan. Consumer trends change. Enterprises roll out new products all the time. Just remember: Software products are easier to pivot than hardware ones. If you want to make smart eyeglasses that translate text, could you use a similar package to display turn-by-turn directions or highlight the best deals at the grocery store?
The wearables market only seems like a crowded space until you use your imagination. Who needs another fitness tracker? Do something different. Pick a new audience, a new need or a new type of hardware. There are plenty of niches still in need of a pro.