Earlier this week, RIM (maker of Blackberry) released 5 new smartphone models hoping to stop the bleeding. The company has seen market share decline from 41% to 27% since March 2010, according to Gartner, Inc. Many analysts are giving the new Blackberry devices poor reviews and projecting that Blackberry’s smartphone share will continue to slide.
I’m sure there are many reasons for Blackberry’s struggles, but I want to focus on the fact that Blackberry optimized for the wrong customer. Instead of the consumer, Blackberry’s optimized for the corporation. I’m sure this is an oversimplification, but I think it provides an important example. Companies that are B2B2C, like those working in corporate wellness, can learn from this mistake.
It’s important to remember that Blackberry had a head start in smartphones (3-4 years earlier than iPhone and 4-5 years earlier than Android). For many of us, a work Blackberry was our introduction to smartphones. From the early days, Blackberry was a business friendly phone. Blackberry delivered a fully integrated enterprise service that was ideal for ensuring security. Email was the primary use case, which was fine for companies that weren’t really that excited about employees downloading apps or browsing the internet. But what about employees that wanted to do so much more on these devices?
Along came the iPhone and eventually Android devices. These devices took a very different approach, optimizing instead for the consumer by significantly improving the web browsing experience, cameras, access to apps, etc. Initially, companies forbid employees from using non-Blackberry devices for work purposes, in part because of security concerns. This initially preserved Blackberry’s advantage, but it was artificial. As more employees, and importantly CEOs, adopted iPhones and Android phones, companies started to allow the use of these devices for work purposes. As a result, Blackberry’s advantage is evaporating and RIM has found it difficult to transition the company to be more consumer-friendly.
What’s the lesson for a B2B2C company, like those in corporate wellness? When C (consumer) is your ultimate customer and their adoption is critical to your success, the Blackberry example would suggest that it makes more sense to work backwards. Build something first that works really well for the consumer, then bring it back to corporate. I think this is the path to the best solution for the B and the C.
EveryFit recently completed an 8-week pilot at a bank in Boston, coinciding with a weight loss competition. Twenty-five participants in the competition used the EveryFit solution. The remaining 20 non-EveryFit participants were the control group. During each exercise session, EveryFit users wore 2 sensors bands (one on the wrist, one on the ankle). Sensor data was communicated to the smartphone in real time. Here is a sample of the experience on the smartphone:
EveryFit users increased their average weekly gym attendance 3x more than non-EveryFit members (see chart below). The pre-pilot period represents the 8 weeks before the pilot started.
EveryFit had the most significant impact on those that had the lowest weekly utilization on average before the pilot. With these least active members, EveryFit increased utilization almost a full day more than the least active non-EveryFit members (see chart below). This outcome is particularly exciting, since this less active group is representative of up to 80% of the US population.
Our partner that manages the bank’s fitness facility has a member web portal. Over the course of the pilot, EveryFit users visited the portal almost 4x more than the non-EveryFit members.
Personalized, real time, achievable and fun motivation is powerful in promoting more physical activity and improving the experience for the user. The pilot was only the tip of the iceberg, but these concepts worked and will continue to be the foundation of the EveryFit solution.
This pilot focused on the gym, which we think is an important place to engage. Pushing someone a little bit further in the gym can have a significant impact on health over time. However, the motivational concepts mentioned above can be applied outside of the gym, using only the smartphone. We’ll be rolling out a more comprehensive all-day engagement and behavior changing solution in the future.
Lots of work to do, but very exciting possibilities that came to light as a result of the pilot. We were very lucky to have such a supportive partner and users that gave us great feedback. Looking forward to the next steps!
In a 2008 study*, employers were asked about the biggest challenge with health incentive programs. The most common answer: “employee motivation over extended periods.” Employers are paying up to $300 per year* for healthy behavior, yet it’s often not working. So, what’s going on here?
Based on our conversations with gym members, one big problem is the structure of the incentives. Success metrics and rewards are often too long-term. Many employers or insurance companies reward for visiting a gym at least X times per year. Alternatively, some reward for losing X pounds.
These measures of success represent the accumulation of many small behavior changes. For someone at the starting line, looking to build an exercise habit, there are many small steps needed along the way and many opportunities to become frustrated and give up.
Incentive programs too often put the employer at the finish line, waiting with the prize. However, based on our discussion with gym members, the average person is not thinking about the finish line. They are focused on the next 2 or 3 steps and that is exactly where the employer should be rewarding.
Increasingly, employers are creating incentives to encourage healthy behavior change. However, with the current structure of exercise incentives, I believe that many programs are simply rewarding existing behavior. To really have a dramatic impact, and especially to reach the people that need help the most, there needs to be a shift towards the short term.
*Study conducted by Katherine H. Capps, Health2 Resources & John B. Harkey, Jr., Harkey Research
A University of Missouri study found that behavior changing interventions are the best way to increase physical activity levels.
According to the researchers, attempts to increase physical activity through education on the benefits of exercise have largely been unsuccessful. However, behavior strategies including “feedback, goal setting, self monitoring, exercise prescription and stimulus or cues” have significantly increased physical activity levels. The researchers also found that the most successful strategies involve more personalized interventions.
Financial incentives to encourage physical fitness are becoming more common. Whether rewards should be tangible or intangible is a discussion for another day. However, assuming financial incentives are the answer, what is the winning formula? I believe the best fitness rewards programs will be the most personalized and contextualized. The programs that leverage the most information about the user will be the most effective.
Personalize for Sustainability
For financial sustainability, whoever is funding the reward needs to see a return. If a running shoe company is offering a discount as a reward, this may lead to a financial return for the shoe company because I cash in the reward and become very loyal to the brand. On the other hand, I may just take advantage of the discount and never purchase shoes from that company again. If this shoe company knew more about me (e.g. running skill level, preferred run type, etc.) they would have a better ability to predict how I would respond to the reward. With more information about the reward program participants, those funding the rewards can effectively target rewards and create better returns. Users will be happier too because they will earn more personally meaningful rewards.
Personalized rewards programs can also deliver incentives based on user need. Why incentivize someone that does not need an incentive? One health club executive explained how difficult rewards programs are because “you end up rewarding your chronic members”, not those that really need the incentive. His club was rewarding gym visits, which was unsustainable. There was insufficient return for rewarding these members, whose decision to attend the gym was probably not impacted by the reward. In a personalized rewards program, perhaps a new member would be rewarded for attendance, but a long-time member would be rewarded for beating a record one mile run time.
Contextualize to Surprise the User
In a study conducted in the 1970s, psychologists Mark Lepper and David Greene studied the impact of rewards on preschoolers who liked to draw. The children were split in to three groups and each was instructed to draw a picture. One group was told they would receive a reward for drawing (“expected reward group”), the second group was not told beforehand but received a reward as a surprise (“surprise reward group”) and the third group did not receive a reward (“no reward group”). After the initial session and reward presentation, the researchers observed the children through a one way mirror to see how much time each group spent on spontaneous drawing. The “no reward group” and “surprise reward group” spent 15-20% of their time drawing, while the “expected reward group” spent half as much time drawing (less than 10%).
Other studies have also shown similar outcomes. Lepper and Greene called this overjustification – people do something less when there is too much justification. When financial incentives are involved, this phenomenon has been explained as making something feel like work because we know we are getting paid to do it. Previously enjoyable activities can become tedious with expected rewards.
Surprising the user with rewards in fitness can keep the programs exciting and prevent users from associating exercise with work, which they already do to some extent. Surprises start with having a much better understanding of what the user is actually doing. With a context unaware program, rewards become predictable (e.g. for every step I take, I get one point). Instead, a more contextualized program can offer surprises like rewards for a well balanced workout, a record performance on a certain machine or consecutive days attending a fitness class.
In the coming years, there will be additional resources committed to preventative health care in the US. Financial incentives for healthy behavior will certainly become more common. I believe these programs can be effective if structured properly and the key is capturing better information from those being incentivized.