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After a mercurial debut, the dreaded "C-word" took down fitness-tracking device maker Fitbit (NYSE: FIT ) in the most ignominious manner. I'm talking of course about commoditization that has plague FIT stock. As fierce competition from Garmin (NASDAQ: GRMN ), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ), even Fossil Group (NASDAQ: FOSL ) came, Fitbit stock crumbled under the pressure.
Source: Denis Kortunov via Flickr (Modified)
And let's just be real, folks: commoditization represents the core reason why many investors remain skeptical on FIT stock despite its newfound bullishness. On the surface, a Fitbit tracker offers nothing that other competitors can't replicate. Therefore, the only distinguishing factor is the price point.
Here, I've argued that FIT offers better pricing options on absolute and relative scales. For athletes, especially those in extreme sports, the idea of risking a pricey Apple Watch is itself extreme. More importantly, those who need fitness trackers from a health standpoint are typically modest income earners.
Naturally, this dynamic favors Fitbit stock. However, our own Vince Martin recently pointed out that over the trailing year, FIT has lost its " pricing edge ." When that happens, we typically see the ugly work behind commoditization.
I'm not fear-mongering. Both Martin and I have brought up commoditization as a significant headwind that hurt Apple shares. Essentially, when you have no new ideas, you can' continue to charge premiums on your products. Competitors move in, and entice customers to make the switch through attractive pricing.
Plus, Martin adds a specific argument against FIT stock: the underlying company features stretched financials. Sure, they have a stable balance sheet. But in terms of capturing additional earnings growth, they remain deeply challenged. Since Fitbit can't cut more fat than they already have, they must boost sales by a massive amount.
Under such a pressured environment, you should probably walk away from Fitbit stock. Or maybe not…
The Compelling Narrative Driving Fitbit Stock
Before I get into the contrarian argument for FIT stock, you should recognize the red flags. Shares gyrated all over the map last year. Fundamentally, the consumer tech firm must overcome an uphill battle. Every indicator suggests you run, and I don't blame you if that's you.
That said, my proposal is that it's not entirely irrational to buy Fitbit stock. Of course, it's a risky, speculative play, and you could end up burning your portfolio. At the same time, you have the possibility of huge gains, if only that the masses don't see the opportunity.
It all comes down to branding. First, Fitbit stock, unlike the competition, represents a pure, fitness and health-oriented company. As such, the company features over 25 million active users . More importantly, these are users dedicated to fitness.
That sounds like an obvious point. But as InvestorPlace contributor Chris Lau notes, Fitbit leverages this singular expertise into a massive data set .
Why is this important? If you truly want to attain better health metrics, a superior data set helps streamline your efforts. That way, you're not wasting your time performing ineffective exercises.
Second, this distinct focus towards all things health-related helps Fitbit stock overcome the commoditization label. Martin correctly that the tech firm's partnerships with health insurers and corporations is vulnerable to competition. However, I'd gently counter that Fitbit has that relationship on lockdown.
While FIT has lost its pricing edge, it still offers superior pricing options. For example, I highly doubt that a big-box retailer would offer its employees Apple Watches.
Furthermore, if the above parties were truly interested in worker health, they'd go with the most effective product. Plugged into the Fitbit network, you receive an array of vital tips, information, and metrics that you don't have with competitor brands.
FIT Stock and Missed Opportunities
Translating the Fitbit brand's superiority to the mainstream public, though, remains a tough endeavor. After all, to recognize the data advantages, a consumer must look beyond the superficialities.
But with the company's fresh approach to female health tracking , FIT stock can capture a missed opportunity. For one thing, the move is marketing brilliance. Biologically, women and men are built differently.By openly recognizing that women have unique health considerations, Fitbit taps into a tech void, separating itself from its rivals.
Additionally, those rivals will find tremendous difficulty challenging Fitbit stock in this arena. Again, the underlying company has the superior data set. They can commoditize all they want: astute women will recognize Fitbit's core attributes once its first-to-market advantage wears off.
Another missed opportunity is the modest-income category which I referenced earlier. Priced for mass appeal, the latest Fitbit Versa smartwatch outsold the competition. With this move, FIT proved it can make cheap and compelling products.
More significantly, scientific research indicates a correlation between low income and obesity risks . While companies like Apple specialize in higher-end devices, the real need for fitness-oriented devices are those with smaller paychecks.
Essentially, FIT is hitting passing lanes where defensive pressure is sparse. That kind of smart thinking might just boost Fitbit stock this year.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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