The Vice President of Growth at Austrian tech-based health and fitness company Runtastic talks about trends in the wearables and apps market and how these are impacting the strategic direction taken by this Linz-based firm and its competitors.
Interview with Mario Aichlseder, Vice President of Growth at Runtastic, on the sidelines of the Teradata Connect 2015 conference which took place in London on June 9-10, on the theme of current marketing challenges.
L’Atelier: What difficulties did you encounter when entering a market whose parameters are still rather vague?
Mario Aichlseder: Well, the adventure began five years ago. At the time we’d developed a GPS-based running app. However, we realised that app users in the specific area of health and fitness were more likely to go on to test and use other apps, so that a virtuous circle was being created.
And so this was why in the space of three years we pivoted from being a company that just tracked physical activity to the status of a firm in the health and fitness sector whose business is based on apps and also on hardware – wristbands for example – and the services which go with them – written articles, advice, and so on.
How can you differentiate yourself in a market where there are so many players?
Well we’ve chosen not to present ourselves as an ‘IoT firm’. I believe the term Internet of Things conjures up the idea of technology rather than people. Runtastic builds products for its users.
We would prefer to place the company firmly in the health and fitness sector. It’s true that the market is bursting with all types of players such as clothing brands, companies developing apps to track sports activities, insurance companies, etc, etc. However, in this sphere there’s still no health and fitness company in the true sense of the term, i.e. a company that creates products, services and content with the aim of helping people to live longer and in better health through the use of technology.
This doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t consider a partnership with other players in the market, but we do want to preserve the special link we have with our users, a bond of trust which is the basis of their user experience.
Runtastic intends to become a health and fitness sector company operating across the entire ecosystem with products, services and content
What trends do you see emerging in terms of wearables?
Compared with the apps market, the wearables market is very new, but its business potential should not be underestimated. We can identify two types of wearable devices. Firstly there are those which have a very specific goal, like the connected objects specialising in activity tracking for example. Then we see objects like the smart watch, which provide firms with a platform for additional opportunities.
In both cases, if the objects cannot bring added value to the user, they will remain in the hands of technophiles who will abandon them within six months of purchase. In short, added value is the cornerstone of customer retention.
In your view, what are the key factors for the adoption of wearables?
Adoption first spreads in correlation with the technology that is on the market today. In other words, technological progress encourages adoption. The arrival of the Apple Watch is often talked about as a turning point in the history of wearables. I think it might be a good idea to wait for the second version of the watch, which will certainly address the technical issues that are today preventing it being a resounding success, such as the issue of battery life.
Trust – i.e. what users are willing to hand over to a company – is another key factor. As a user am I happy to provide some of my data, and what do I get in return?
According to figures from Google, only 20% of those who have downloaded an app actually open it a second time, and a mere 4% become regular users. Given these figures, how can an app become a success these days?
These figures are a fair reflection of the situation today. Customer retention is a real issue. However, I should point out that in the health and fitness sector, the figures are between 10 and 15% higher than the average. Marketing people need to engage in conversation with the consumer. I call this ‘appathy’ – a word-play on ‘empathy’ and ‘app’. We need to create a personal connection between the user and the app so that s/he will want to use it on a regular basis.
More generally, from a marketing point of view, it’s essential to provide the highest possible degree of personalised service. When it comes to communication the technology already allows us to communicate differently with the various segments we want to get in touch with. Given the reality of omnichannel strategies and big data, marketers will increasingly have to concentrate on one basic issue: what sort of information should I choose to feed into a given channel so that it will help me serve my customer in the best possible way?