Wearables like Nike’s FuelBand and Fitbit’s Flex and Force have tremendous potential for athletes and non-athletes alike. By stopping development on FuelBand1 Nike could be walking away from a potential all-star that only needs sound coaching.
Here are six ways the FuelBand could still lead the wearables market either on the current hardware or through partnership other manufacturers and device platforms.
1. Make the FuelBand for elite athletes: Nike keyed in on the Bill Bowerman quote; “If you have a body you’re an athlete” in designing the FuelBand. Nike’s proven path would be to design the FuelBand for highly trained athletes. Nike should deliver a tool for elite athletes and everyday athletes will follow.
2. Inspire through social competition: With the launch of FuelBand SE Nike has attempted to qualify points based on activity type. This needs to be fully developed to enable cross discipline competition. Currently the value of points so greatly skews toward some activities like running any other sport type doesn’t stand a chance. Make the cross discipline competition social to ignite the users.
3. Tighter integration with other Nike tools: Nike Training Club app is a serious tool for athletes not a toy. The app gives approximate Fuelpoint value to workouts, but you can’t earn Nikefuel unless you are wearing the FuelBand. That is a mistake. Nike should allow for users to take those Nikefuel as qualified versus those who wear the band and earn non-qualified Nikefuel. Discount them by 25% perhaps… but get more people using Fuel through various apps. Integrate and expand.
4. Convert Nikefuel to targeted sales: You shouldn’t have to be a “fuelionair” to unlock special purchase opportunities. Now that Nike is collecting information on what kind of sport activities FuelBand wearers are participating in, very targeting buying opportunities can be provided to consumers by sport. Nike can leverage the ID program and connect with consumers is a sport specific and personal way using existing capabilities.
5. Improve form and function: Nike doesn’t need to reinvent the technology or function of the FuelBand to consistently offer more beautiful options. One of the projects killed was development of a sleeker FuelBand. The FuelBand in its current state is a good first step, however the band is too large and not aesthetically pleasing enough through color options alone. Sleeker, more beautiful, more flexible and dressier options would all be ways the form could be improved.
6. Integrate with off-platform tools: Several activity types needs to be added and appropriately valued. The technology to integrate with Garmin is there and used to great success by the likes of Strava. Nike has thus far not wanted to use other tool API to calculate Nikefuel. Making a waterproof FuelBand for swimmer and allowing for integration with Garmin would be quantum steps forward for this underserved population of athletes. While these are not core to Nike’s business, leaving them out of Nikefuel slices off a key segment of athletes who are potential customers.
The good news for Nike? Development continues on the digital consumer applications the FuelBand and other applications leverage. Perhaps as Google and Apple enter the space, Nike decided to exit rather than fight. Using the current “If you have a body you are an athlete” mass market strategy, it makes sense not to compete with Google and Apple. Or perhaps Nike’s exits tips towards a future partnership with one of the electronic giants.
Nike has a huge advantage for market penetration in the form of highly trained athletes that lead trends in virtually every sport segment. Once captured, I can think of only one way for Nike to become stickier in the lives of consumers than integrating via a wearable device. And that is actually transforming their lives through exercise.1 http://www.cnet.com/news/nike-fires-fuelband-engineers-will-stop-making-wearable-hardware/