Wearable activity-tracking devices have revolutionised health and fitness monitoring over the past decade. The ten different types of wearable trackers as of 2018, have allowed consumers to have real-time data regarding their health. In addition, targeted improvements can be made based on their preferred types of activity, sports performance, heart-rate data, eating regimens as well as sleep quality and patterns. The continuous technological innovation paired with an increased consumer interest has allowed the wearable activity-tracking device market to evolve both globally and in South Africa. In 2017, a significant revenue was generated from this market of approximately R101.8bn and it is expected to reach approximately R114.5bn by 2020. However, despite the significant revenue generating and health-promoting opportunities of wearable activity trackers, adoption in South Africa is trifling. In order to improve the market penetration and adoption rates of these devices in South Africa, it is important to gain an understanding of consumer behaviour as well as the factors that influence the adoption behaviour of these devices. Given the novelty of these technological devices and the lack of research on the topic, previous technology adoption theories and models can be used as a foundation in this understanding. As such, the TAM in conjunction with the TRA, with the addition of the perceived importance of devices’ brand name, was employed to establish a model of the factors that influence consumers’ adoption behaviour of activity-tracking devices in the South African context.
The primary objective of this study was to propose and empirically test a model that combined the TRA and the TAM to measure the extent to which perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, subjective norm, with the addition of the perceived importance of brand name, influence Generation Y students’ attitude towards and intention to use wearable activity-tracking devices within the South African context. A model was established, which suggests that perceived ease of use has a direct positive influence on perceived usefulness and these two factors each have a direct positive influence on attitude towards activity-tracking devices. Therefore, with the exception of the direct positive influence between perceived usefulness and intention to use, the TAM has been validated and explains Generation Y students’ probable adoption behaviour of wearable activity-tracking devices. Similarly, the TRA has been established and explains Generation Y students’ adoption behaviour of probable activity tracker adoption in that the model suggests that subjective norm and attitude have a direct positive influence on intention to use. Furthermore, the model established in this study suggests that the perceived importance of device brand name has a direct positive influence on Generation Y students’ intention to use activity-tracking devices.
The sampling frame for this study comprised the 26 public registered HEI campuses in South Africa given the nature of the Generation Y cohort, more so the significant future spending potential of those individuals obtaining tertiary qualifications, namely students. From the 26 institutions, three institutions – one traditional, one university of technology and one comprehensive university – in the Gauteng province were selected based on a non-probability judgement sampling method. Lecturers working at each of the three institutions were contacted telephonically to request permission for the questionnaires to be distributed to their students during a scheduled class period. Once permission had been obtained, the questionnaires were hand-delivered to the participating academic staff and distributed by the researcher with the assistance of a trained fieldworker, during a scheduled class period. A convenience sample of 600 full-time Generation Y students, 200 per institution, was taken in 2017. Of the 600 questionnaires distributed, 480 were usable for statistical analysis. The collected data were analysed by specific statistical analysis in order to achieve the empirical objectives set in this study, namely exploratory principal components analysis, internal consistency reliability analysis, descriptive statistical analysis, correlation analysis, multicollinearity diagnostics and structural equation modelling.
The findings of this study indicate that South African Generation Y students have an overwhelmingly positive attitude towards and intention to use wearable activity-tracking devices. Furthermore, Generation Y students perceive these devices as relatively easy to use to measure their activity levels and find these devices useful to their lives in general. A device’s brand name has substantial importance when it comes to the acquisition of these devices, as Generation Y students perceive that a device with a reputable brand name has less risk of leading to disappointment. However, these devices are not yet perceived as a subjective norm, which may be due to the unacquainted perceived cost and perceived value of these devices due to their novelty in the South African consumer market.
This study contributes to filling the gaps in the literature pertaining to Generation Y students’ attitude towards and intention to use activity-tracking devices in the South African context; that is the extent to which the factors, namely perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, perceived importance of brand name and subjective norm influence Generation Y students’ attitude towards and intention to use activity-tracking devices. By understanding these factors, product manufacturers, South African product developers, local businesses including retailers, marketing practitioners, possibly medical professionals, policy makers towards sustained healthy living for all South African citizens and universities, can develop appropriate marketing strategies to create awareness as well as endorse the use of activity trackers amongst the target population. Byincreasing the adoption rates of activity trackers in South Africa, it is possible to achieve a healthier standard of living through the reduction of non-communicable diseases, as well as promoting a more active nation. Further, this increased adoption can generate a significantly larger income for the country, subsequently advancing the local economy. This study is pioneering research in South Africa and provides the foundation for future research of a similar nature – leading to an increased body of knowledge regarding the adoption behaviour of activity trackers in South Africa. The findings of this study contribute to the literature on and the development of a profile of South African Generation Y students’ consumer behaviour, which is in keeping with the objectives of a larger research project at the North-West University (Vaal Triangle Campus), namely ProGenY (profiling the consumer behaviour of Generation Y in South Africa).