Fitbit must construct different merchandise and products and services round its units industry, each to make it extra defensible competitively and to offer extra possibilities for growth.
Jan Dawson is the founder and Chief Analyst of Jackdaw Research, an advisory company targeted at the shopper generation business, from smartphones and pills to track and video products and services to cloud garage and e-trade. Jan follows Fitbit and used to be gracious sufficient to percentage his feelings with iMore. — Ed.
Fitbit is the marketplace percentage chief in health wearables. It sells extra fitness devices than another corporate each and every quarter, and has persisted to take action at the same time as Apple and a wide range of Android providers have entered the smartwatch marketplace above it, and as Xiaomi and different low-finish competition have introduced reasonable wearables beneath it. Yet there are purposes to be involved concerning the long term viability of Fitbit's industry.
Rapid growth and nice margins
One of probably the most spectacular issues approximately Fitbit's efficiency is its skill to keep growing at a speedy price in a marketplace the place few others appear so that you can promote so much of anything else. In the fourth quarter of annually, Fitbit achieves a step-amendment in its sales that is in contrast to virtually some other shopper electronics corporate O can assume of. It has ceaselessly published over 200% yr on yr growth in sales, and this previous fourth quarter published an outstanding 92% growth in sales and 56% growth in units bought in comparison with the fourth quarter in 2014. Fitbit sales
Perhaps similarly impressively, Fitbit's margins have remained wholesome in spite of this speedy growth. Given that shopper electronics firms are normally fortunate to succeed in top unmarried-digit running margins, the truth that Fitbit's margins were within the 20s for so much of the remaining years is relatively one thing. Taken in combination, the speedy growth and respectable margins recommend that Fitbit has controlled to distinguish itself effectively in spite of expanding festival. In that feel, it seems to be so much like Apple, any other corporate which has been in a position to pressure top growth and care for margins even within the face of a lot of merchandise which nominally do the similar factor at lower cost issues.
Growth challenges coming
Despite all the ones heartening metrics, despite the fact that, there are a couple of indicators that Fitbit's long run may well be tougher than its previous. One of Fitbit's largest challenges all through its historical past has been the top abandonment price related to health units, one thing that is been similarly real for massive units like treadmills and extra private units like wrist bands. When Fitbit first went public, S did a few research that exposed that the corporate's lively customers at any given time limit have been round 50% of its registered customers – in different phrases, round part of individuals who had registered a tool had stopped the use of it frequently. O additionally calculated that the typical consumer deserted their tool after round six months of utilization.
There are indicators that Fitbit's long run may well be tougher than its earlier.
More up to date numbers recommend that Fitbit has been seeing fairly decrease abandonment charges, however it nonetheless handiest keeps round 58% of its customers longer term, and in 2015 on my own, 28% of folks that purchased a tool had stopped the use of it via the top of the yr. This is an actual problem for a shopper electronics corporate, so much of which industry closely on consumer loyalty and the power to upsell present customers with new units. In Fitbit's case, many of its customers prevent the use of the software they have got lengthy ahead of they may believe upgrading to a more recent or higher one. That signifies that, in an effort to stay promoting extra Fitbits, the corporate has to stay discovering new consumers, one thing that turns out not likely to be sustainable over the years. One of the opposite wrinkles is that 3 quarters of the corporate's income comes from america, one thing that hasn't actually modified during the last a few years. The top abandonment price is much more tricky if Fitbit can not increase its addressable marketplace out of doors the United States considerably.
Presumably no less than in part according to all this, Fitbit has been ramping up its gross sales and advertising spending considerably over the last yr. Even despite the fact that gross sales grew strongly, gross sales and advertising spending on the corporate grew from 10% of sales in 2013 to 15% in 2014 and 18% in 2015. In reality, it spent extra on gross sales and advertising in 2015 than it made in income in 2013, and so much of that went to TV promoting for the primary time. All of this reinforces the feel that Fitbit is having to paintings more difficult and more difficult to seek out new consumers and persuade them to shop for its units, one thing that still feels unsustainable over the longer term. As a end result of this upper advertising spend, the ones spectacular margins we discussed in advance have in reality dropped during the last couple of quarters, right down to the mid-teenagers.
Fitbit is straying out of its area of interest
One factor that is value noting approximately Fitbit is that it now sells a range of fitness devices, priced from $60 to $250. But its moderate promoting worth has remained stubbornly underneath $90, suggesting that its consumers see so much worth in its decrease-finish units, which carry out fundamental purposes smartly. Incidentally, because of this despite the fact that Fitbit is the marketplace percentage chief via shipments, Apple generates considerably extra income from its wearables than Fitbit.
Blaze seems like an try to depart Fitbit's convenience zone and move face to face towards an expanding array of sexy smartwatches.
All that is what makes its up to date determination to release its first smartwatch, the Fitbit Blaze, so baffling. The Blaze seems like an try to depart Fitbit's convenience zone and move face to face towards an expanding array of sexy smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, LG, and a wide range of different Android companies. And but the software itself is clunky, unsightly, and lacks many of the options of the ones actual smartwatches. Investors did not just like the declaration – they despatched the inventory sharply downwards at the information – and device reviewers have not been all that inspired both.
It's comprehensible that Fitbit needs to amplify its marketplace through shifting into new segments of the wearable business, however that is precisely the flawed method to pursue. It's been a success exactly as a result of it is created and defended a distinct segment among the inexpensive knockoffs and the top class smartwatches presented on each side of it. If Fitbit is to keep growing because it has prior to now, the solution does not lie in increasing into extra wearables classes, however the use of its units to create extra of an environment. In this feeling, Fitbit faces to a perfect quantity the similar problem as some other unmarried-class corporate: GoPro. Both firms be afflicted by the truth that they make necessarily one product (albeit in several variations), with restricted overall addressable markets, and expanding festival from smartphones and phone makers.
The base line
What Fitbit must do is construct different merchandise and products and services round its units industry, each to make it extra defensible competitively and to offer extra possibilities for growth. That most probably way partnering with different firms in addition to creating new natural functions and probably obtaining functions it can not develop in-space. That's a large shift from the corporate's technique up so far, and it is going to be a tricky transition, however it is arguably essential if the corporate goes to proceed its earlier trajectory.