When you think of innovative companies, what's the first name that comes to mind? It's probably Apple or Google. That makes sense since these are technology companies, which are innovators by nature. When a consumer goods company can innovate with efficiency, it should send a strong signal to investors that this company is the real deal.
Of course, we already know Nike (NYSE:NKE) is the real deal. However, despite its maturity, it keeps growing. That growth is expected to continue in a big way. For instance, Nike expects fiscal year 2017 revenue to be $36 billion (fiscal year 2012 revenue was $25 billion). Not many mature companies can grow their top line at such a pace. Nike points to strength in apparel, women's, e-commerce, emerging markets, and innovation as drivers of this growth. The Nike+ FuelBand is one example of such innovation, and Nike has just raised the bar.
Nike+ FuelBand SE
The Nike+ FuelBand SE, which will be launced Nov. 6, is an enhanced version of the Nike+ FuelBand that was launched in February 2012. The following isn't a plug for Nike. I don't own any shares of any individual stocks because I don't want readers to see my opinions as biased. That said, I think Nike is one of the best-run companies in the world. The features for any product are important because they will give you an indication of how interested consumers might be in that product. This will then help you determine whether or not Nike (or one of its peers) is likely to win market share, which would drive the top line higher.
The FuelBand SE features:
- Bluetooth 4.0 Connects Nike+ FuelBand SE with Nike+ FuelBand App
- Improved Water Resistance
- Tracks Sessions with "3.2.1. Go! Sessions"
- Tracks if Hourly Goals Have Been Met with "Win the Hour"
- Tracks Rate in Which You're Earning NikeFuel with Fuel Rate
- Improved Social Sharing Tools
- Photo Sharing with Auto-Pause
- Tracks Milestones in Sessions, Fuel Rate, Streaks, Hours Won
Those are just some of the product's features. The earlier version of the FuelBand helped lead Nike's Equipment division to an 18% increase on the bottom line over 2011. Nike is expanding sales from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada to France, Germany, and Japan with the Nike+ FuelBand SE.
Still early in the innovation game
Sales of Nike+ FuelBands might not have a significant impact on the top line right now. It's more about winning new customers and keeping them loyal to the brand. Nike intends to build on its innovative technologies, which could lead to these types of devices having more of an impact on the top line in the future -- especially if Nike can retain existing customers.
Under Armour (NYSE:UAA) has competing products with its Armour39 Module & Chest Strap and Armour39 Watch, but Under Armour is well behind in this area. By having a lead, Nike has an opportunity to accumulate new customers and keep them before Under Armour has a chance to win their loyalty.
Under Armour's Armour39 Module & Chest Strap sells for $149.99 and its Armour39 Watch sells for $199, whereas the Nike+ FuelBand sells for $129.95 at the Apple Store. Then there's the Fitbit Flex Wireless + Sleep Wristband, which sells on Amazon.com for $91.39. Under Armour lags in wearable activity trackers in regard to exposure and affordability.
The Armour39 Module & Chest Strap and Armour39 Watch tracks your heart rate, intensity, calories burned, and your WILLpower (how hard you work). The Armour39 Watch is capable of storing 30 workouts at once, it has a back-light display (for nighttime workouts), it goes to sleep after one minute of no activity (to preserve battery life), it's water-resistant, and it sends workout reminders.
The Fitbit Flex is available on Amazon, and it has a customer rating of 3.5 (out of 5.0) based on 1,442 reviews. It tracks your sleep, distance, and calories burned. It also lets you know how long and how well you slept, and it wakes you up silently. You can also track your progress and earn badges through free iPhone and Android apps. You can wear the Fitbit Flex in the shower, and it comes with a rechargeable battery.
Which product would you be most likely to purchase? The answer to that question will help you determine which company is likely to earn the most share in a growing market, which is likely to move the needle on the top line in the future.
The bottom line
Nike has the lead in wearable activity trackers. It's not likely to give up that lead, especially with its planned international expansion and marketing capability. Nike also expects strong revenue growth over the next several years, and it's now a Dow component -- both bullish signs.