A SNEWS® Training Center written by the editors of SNEWS®
Despite all the high-tech gizmos on the market today that are promoted as helping to motivate and track a fitness program, pedometers remain a simple, inexpensive and relatively low-tech piece that can do that and more. They can be easily added-on to other sales as a supplement to home exercise equipment, too.
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What is a pedometer?
A pedometer is a small device — about half the size of a deck of cards — that usually clips to a user’s waistband and, in its simplest form, counts a wearer’s steps by sensing movement. Some, of course, layer on other features that may or may not be for your customers, for example, distance conversions, sensor heart-rate ability, timers, clocks, calorie-burn calculators, body-fat analyzers and radios. In the end, a pedometer is there to count steps, everything else is frosting, albeit frosting that may be quite sweet to a customer.
How do pedometers differ?
Today pedometers operate several ways:
1. A mechanical version is the simplest. It has a pendulum of some sort inside that hangs perpendicular to the ground. As a user walks, the movement of the body, hips and legs makes it swing much like a pendulum in a grandfather clock. Each time it swings, it makes contact with a metal plate, and each contact then records one step, which is counted visually and displayed on a small screen. Other mechanical versions can use various types of tiny metal balls that slide. These kinds of pedometers must be attached correctly on a user’s waist, usually just above the hip bone, and not be tilted but be positioned at a 90-degree angle to the ground. If it’s not correctly clipped on, it will not record as accurately as it could. Sometimes a user will need to experiment with positioning, taking a series of test steps and counting them, then cross-checking that number with the screen. If the number doesn’t correspond, moving it farther toward the mid-line of the body or farther toward the outer part of the waist may help. Some mechanisms can be more sensitive than others, causing the pedometer to register a turn in a chair or a reach to open a cabinet, which will artificially increase the number of steps taken. A pedometer that requires a user to input a stride length will be more accurate than one that doesn’t. These types are best for walking and tend to be less accurate for running or other activities.
2. Digital-sensor pedometers use accelerometers and can be more accurate, but accuracy can vary based on the number of sensors, the number of axes monitored for movement (1-3), and the software algorithm used. The more axes, the more accurate since movement on several planes can be monitored. Accelerometers can register movement without relying on a pendulum or sliding ball that may or may not swing properly and can therefore be worn in different places, such as on shoes or in pockets. They calculate motion based on electrical charges from microscopic crystalline structures and they can be more accurate. This technology also allows pedometers to be used for running and other activities, and it means a pedometer doesn’t have to be a pager-like device clipped to a waistband.
Benefits of a pedometer
First and foremost, a pedometer is a motivational tool. Seeing steps add up on a screen is like a carrot dangling in front of your customer, egging the person on to push the number ever higher.
They also help someone become aware of how much they do (or do not) move around during the day. Perhaps you have heard of “10,000 steps” programs. These are based on wearing a pedometer and trying to increase steps during the day until you reach 10,000, which would be on average about five miles (about 2,000 steps is a mile).
Pedometers are also:
• Easy to use
• Supplemental to other exercise equipment and programs
• Add-ons for equipment sales
Such a small piece of equipment, which may retail for $10 to about $60, depending on the technology and features, can be an additional tool for you as a salesperson to help a customer incorporate activity of all sorts into their day. That alone can show a customer that you care about and are ready to educate them and aren’t just trying to sell equipment.
If awareness of movement is increased, commitment to an exercise program can also increase. If your customer is more committed, he or she could also become a repeat customer for other types of equipment. Loyal, repeat customers are, of course, the goal of any retailer.
They may not add a lot to your sales ticket, but every little bit counts. And they can be marketed in your store by hanging them on a treadmill, for example. Since a treadmill is often bought for walking, you can use the sales opportunity to demonstrate the pedometer and explain how it can be used not only on the treadmill but also during the day to track walking that doesn’t occur on the treadmill. That gives a user a daily total to activity, steps or miles. They can also be great “come-ons” as window displays since many people may have thought about buying one but never got around to it.
>> Be sure to stock at least two price points: A simple, low-end version, as well as one that has a few more bells and whistles or the more advanced digital-sensor technology. Some people may decide to buy one because they’ve heard of a pedometer or it’s been recommended to them, but most people know nothing about them. This is your chance to educate and explain, showing the more advanced features and their benefits.
>> If given the opportunity to sell different models, start with the simpler version — “this just counts steps” — and then progress upward — “this one counts steps and distance,” “this one counts steps, distance and calories,” etc.
>> Women make up the largest market for pedometers so don’t forget to offer one to female customers. Especially helpful then are pedometers that look a little nicer and are easy to use. Still, don’t ignore men as a potential user, especially someone who is new to exercise. For men, be sure to point out functions since, stereotypically speaking, they will respond to the more technical features.
Pedometers can be a low-tech, easy add-on that can motivate exercisers to not only become repeat customers but also show them you care about their health and fitness.