Just like a “personal trainer in your pocket”, mobile applications have made it possible to track activities such as running while measuring your pace, distance, calories burned and more. While tracking every step of your way, these apps provide audio coaching and connect users to a community of others working towards the same goals. The accessibility of this data has enabled RunKeeper, a leading fitness app with more than 25 million users, to empower people to get fit. By collecting and analysing digital data from users, RunKeeper is able to improve their app and the services they offer in order to achieve their goal: to make people live healthier.
While RunKeeper initially served as a tool for tracking runs, their goal was to grow and become the leading app for tracking all kinds of sports and fitness activities. RunKeeper users thus needed to be encouraged to log all their activities, from meditation to cycling, to enable the app to provide them with nutrition information, coaching, and help them to reach their goals. By doing an A/B test with two different interfaces of the app, RunKeeper analysed which interface stimulated users to track more of their activities. It appeared that a start screen with more images led to a 235% increase of logged non-running activities per user!
After further analysis of digital data obtained by their app, RunKeeper noticed that users that participated in challenges ran more miles than users that did not participate in challenges. The challenges thus showed to be a good stimulant for runners. After realizing this, RunKeeper used the data available to see which challenges worked best and how they could encourage even more runners to participate. They extended the challenge program and added a reward system which rewarded runners not only after completing a challenge, but also during their run. As a result, users started to log more miles and were able to reach their running goals faster.
Unfortunately, the gathering and analysing of user-data also has its downsides. The location of the users is tracked wherever they go, which could be seen as an invasion to their privacy. Furthermore, it is important that the data is treated confidentially and is safely stored. The data should not be shared, as personal information on the lifestyle of the users could be used in unethical ways, for instance by health insurance companies.
Although using user-data has its downsides, the usage of this data by RunKeeper has led to a healthier lifestyle for many people. Therefore, they will most likely continue to use digital data, while moving toward fulfilling their vision of helping people become more fit and healthy, regardless of what fitness activity their users track. Looking ahead, they plan to use the in-app messaging feature to encourage users to upgrade their apps, enabling even more tracking features to help people live healthier.