Swimovate: We're proof there is room for smaller brands in the wearables space


The Apple Watch has got everyone talking about smartwatches and has been selling amazing quantities – so is there still room for smaller manufacturing brands in the wearables marketplace?

In my opinion, yes. Products such as the Apple Watch have so many features they cannot hope to do everything perfectly, or to exploit every feature any customer would wish for. Third party apps, of course, can extend the functionality of the device – but they are limited to the hardware platform that has been provided and it’s not always 100% suitable. Developing a specialised product, for a particular niche, can be a better option for the smaller company. Smaller brands don’t need to directly compete with the big boys – just to make sure their products do their specific functionality very well, at an attractive price.

Smaller brands don’t need to directly compete with the bigger brands – just to make sure their products do their specific functionality very well

Take swimming, for instance. According to Sport England figures in 2014/15, more than 2.5 million people went swimming once a week, making it the most popular participation sport in the country. Around 70 million Americans swim at least three times a week. However, most smartwatches are simply not water resistant enough to take into the pool. They may have potential to run a specialist swimming algorithm, but the watch is just not made for splashing around in the swimming pool.

At Swimovate, we spent years developing hardware and software that would provide a swimmer speed and distance metrics from a wrist watch – something that just wasn’t available at that time. We know because we looked to buy something ourselves for our own training. Every swimmer moves a little differently, each stroke is a different range of motions.

To make a product that was accurate for the vast majority of swimmers was no small task. We ultimately developed the PoolMate range of dedicated watches for swimmers that were specifically designed for the job in hand-telling a swimmer how far and how fast they had swam. We have tuned and proven our watches with hundreds of thousands of swimmers all over the world over the last seven years.

When we first launched the PoolMate there was no competition, so it was easy to target our customers on a very small marketing budget. It was always inevitable that others would notice our success and competition would come as others woke up to the market potential. Sure enough some much larger brands have since entered the space. But rather than being a negative, we welcomed this. It expanded the market, more potential customers woke up to the idea that they needed a lap-counting watch and began looking at what else was available.

With the ease of access to information online, today’s customer researches their requirements and chooses the best fit to their needs. We try to be that best fit, to be the specialist, and provide a whole range of watches to choose from, at a price they can afford.

It’s better to target resources on a particular issue, improve on what’s out there – if anything – and own a segment of the market

We know we can’t compete with the marketing power of these larger brands, but we have built on our experience and do offer the swimmer a solution. We have more models, colours, specific features than any other company and can always claim to be the longest established brand in the space.

We are a small team, and proud of it. There is no way we can complete with the billions of development and marketing dollars spent by the mega brands. It’s almost impossible for a small company to have the resources to take on all the development associated with a device to rival the best smartwatches.  It could be better to target those resources on a particular issue, improve on what’s out there – if anything – and own a segment of the market. Swimovate can’t, and doesn’t want to, make an all-purpose smartwatch or even an all-purpose sports watch – but we can try to make the best swimming lap-counting watches on the market.

The wearables market is so huge, there is room for even the smallest companies. Just find a niche and do it well.


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