FitBit Product Managers Look For Ways To Be Successful In The Future

The big question for FitBit product managers is what comes next?
The big question for FitBit product managers is what comes next?
Image Credit: Mack Male

When we think about what it would be like to be the product manager for a very successful product, we often think about something that everyone has. If that is the criteria that we use, then the product managers at FitBit would certainly meet the criteria. It seems as though just about everyone has one of those FitBit gadgets on their wrist. Having been that successful, the big question that the FitBit product managers have to be asking themselves is “what’s next?” A good question that they’ll have to answer correctly if they want to keep on growing.

Riding A Wave Of Product Success

When the product managers at Fitbit launched their first wearable fitness tracker, the market was mostly confined to low-cost pedometers. Time has passed and now people are hungry for devices that monitor everything from blood oxygen to sleep patterns. This customer need has started to lure tech giants such as Apple into the segment. The FitBit product managers are aware of the looming competition and are intent on using their product development definition to not be left in the dust. In order to stay relevant they have developed Fitbit’s new Sense smartwatch which is packed with the latest health-tracking features. The product managers are also testing whether their devices might eventually be used to detect influenza or Covid-19 before the wearer even shows symptoms.

The FitBit product manager’s ability to keep up with the competition might ultimately depend on Fitbit’s access to capital and talent. To that end, Fitbit has agreed to be bought by Google in a $2.1 billion deal. A deal like that would look good on anyone’s product manager resume. What the product managers realize is that their company started off focused on getting people to become more active and more fitness-focused. The past couple of years they have been transitioning to becoming a much more integral part of people’s health journeys. The creation of their Sense smartwatch is really the result of that investment. The thinking is that Sense has a lot integrated into it that could have a meaningful impact on people’s health. When the company started out, they never anticipated that devices like this could be such a critical health device for so many people.

When FitBit started out, healthier meant the company’s products could get people more active. The goal was to help them manage their weight and help them sleep better. The product managers started to realize that the devices could have more impact when companies started reaching out to them saying, “Can we buy your devices in bulk or volume?” The product managers realized companies have this huge health-care burden and cost, and getting their employees more active was one piece of the puzzle to reduce their health-care costs. As FitBit’s devices got more sophisticated in the past couple of years and advancements in machine learning became possible, it was realized that these devices could have a lot more impact.

Planning For The Future

The product managers at FitBit realize that Apple and Samsung have deep pockets. They think that their advantage is that they’ve always been known as more of a focused health and fitness brand. That is reflected in the way that they do product development and how they launch features. FitBit has decided specifically to emphasize the health features and make it less about the general-purpose features. One of the challenges that the FitBit product managers are facing is that they don’t want to be a company that is thriving today but obsolete tomorrow because of the dominance of new players. In order to prevent that from happening they want to rely on their culture of innovation. The company has been issued over 500 patents around the use of sensors and health tracking. The product managers want to have this innate curiosity to advance this whole category forward.

The only way for a smaller company to thrive is to be really focused on the areas of innovation that work well for them and to not make the mistake of trying to do everything. The other important thing is understanding where you can add real value to your users and where your strengths are. For the FitBit product managers, that particular focus is around health. When Covid-19 struck they thought demand for what they were doing would plummet. But then they started to see that people were looking to Fitbits as a way to stay home, quarantine and stay healthy. The product managers saw incredible growth in their digital business. It has been a surprise for them that ironically business is doing better than anticipated due to the pandemic.

The product managers at FitBit are looking for more opportunistic ways to provide things that aren’t necessarily a wearable but something that people can use. As they think about the future of telemedicine, they understand that their customers will need a portfolio of devices within the home to give their physician that same level of insight that they might get when a customer goes in for an in-person visit. Whether it’s a connected thermometer or an otoscope so children can be checked for ear infections, customers are going to become more comfortable having these types of tools. The FitBit product managers want their customer to own the health devices that they use because these devices are going to be useful to families over the course of an entire lifetime, so it’s something that they’re going to want to invest in.

What All Of This Means For You

The product managers at FitBit are lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time. Their product has been a big success for a long time. However, as is always the case, when you have a successful product you start to attract competition. The competition that FitBit is attracting has deep pockets and wants to capture this market. The FitBit product managers are going to have to get creative with their product manager job description if they want to hold on to their market and their customers.

The FitBit product managers are aware that their success has attracted big name competitors such as Apple. In order to remain dominant in their market, they have released a new Sense smartwatch that contains more functionality than ever before. FitBit understands that they are facing serious competition and so they have agreed to be acquired by Google. They want to be known as a company that focuses on their customer’s health needs. When companies started to buy their products in bulk they realized that there was a need to help lots of people become healthier. FitBit fosters a culture of innovation and has many health related patents to protect its products. The FitBit product managers want to be known for doing one thing well and so they plan on continuing to focus on health. Moving forward the FitBit product managers plan on expanding into other health monitoring devices that customers can use in their homes.

Having a successful product is what every product manager wants. We all realize that our success will attract competitors. What we probably all fear the most is if those competitors are bigger than us and come with deeper pockets. As FitBit gets ready to do battle with Apple, their move to be acquired by Google seems like a good decision. Now all they have to do is to maintain their spirit of innovation and create products that their customers want. If they can do this, then eventually perhaps we’ll all be wearing FitBit products…

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that FitBit should make other products or should they continue to focus on wearable health monitors?

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