Why would someone want to build a fitness tracker app? Easy — to start a billion-dollar fitness company.
We live in a subscription economy. We subscribe to eat, to get entertainment, to buy stuff, commute, build relationships, and lately, to do sports. This business model has worked out pretty well for Peloton — a billion-dollar fitness start-up, worth a little north of $8 billion. And the company’s fitness tracker app has been instrumental in its recent hugely successful IPO. Here are stats from Peloton’s shareholder letter that clearly shows that their app users are a happy bunch.
So how do you build
a fitness tracker app that’s successful?
We’re glad you asked.
What’s a fitness tracker app in our day and age?
Before we go into the nitty-gritty of developing a near-perfect fitness tracker app, let’s just stop for a second and assess what these apps mean in our life. You’ve probably tried some of the popular fitness apps: Strava, Jefit, MyFitnessPal, Runtastic. They all help you train and track your data, just like the Peloton app.
“Netflix of the Workout World”
But why is it that Peloton became the world’s most valuable fitness start-up? We think the reason is not the company’s luxury bike and treadmill products, but the content Peloton streams via its fitness tracker app. The packaged video workouts with cheering fitness celebrities have been essential in earning Peloton its leading position. It’s virtually a Netflix for fitness, and their fitness app just happens to be one of the main channels to distribute content.
A subscription-based fitness app, capable of streaming workouts, can deal with lots of challenges for the app owners and end-users:
So if you are in a fitness or sports business, it’s high time to look into the option of developing a fitness tracker app. Because the app will become a part of your ecosystem and will help you turn your prospects into buyers and buyers into subscribers or fans. But it will work only if you build your fitness tracker app the right way. And here’s how you do this.
How do you make a fitness tracker app that stands out?
There’s a lot to consider when you start to build a fitness app: from tracking and visualizing users’ activities to streaming and managing video workouts. Let’s tick off all the key points to make your fitness tracker app stand out.
Optimize user experience
Ease of use is always at the core of positive app experience. You need to think through the app’s UI and UX so that the user can accomplish any action with max three or four taps. And for a workout streaming app, that means concentrating all user activity around the main app feature — video classes.
- Be creative with packaging workout classes (description, imagery, playlist)
- Provide a filtering option, so users can quickly find classes to their liking
- Design an iconographic timetable for live classes
- Allow users to switch profiles, so they can train using the same device like a tablet or TV. (Yes, your fitness app should be available as a TV app too, we’ll talk about it in a bit.)
- Video classes should be available for preloading to avoid hiccups during a workout
Once you’ve made workout packages appealing and accessible, it’s time to focus on the next big thing: in-class experience.
- Show users’ progress while they’re in a class
- Avoid clutter on the screen and show only critical fit stats
- Visualize user performance once a class has finished with a nice chart
Add gamification and social interactivity
Retention and churn rates are the two most indicative metrics of your app’s success. Adding app gamification elements for completed fitness habits and goals and ways for users to socialize may go a long way. Since users attend classes from home, it’s crucial to instill a sense of community in them.
- Allow users to rate, review, and share classes via Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks
- Display the list of other users currently in the class and offer some basic interaction options (e.g., the Peloton app allows users to high-five their class buddies)
- Make sure trainers have access to user names during a workout, so they can interact with them by calling their names
- Rank users in the class based on their performance to give them an incentive to do their best and outrun other class attendees or their past personal records
- Present fitness stats, e.g., calories burned, miles, pace, and other metrics to users after a workout
- Design badges your users will earn by going to more classes and engaging with the fitness tracker app in different ways
Choose the platform wisely
Today’s mobile apps don’t just live on phones anymore. People expect their sports and fitness apps to follow them as they switch from a phone to a smartwatch, TV, or tablet. Each of these platforms offers a unique way for your fitness tracker app to augment users’ sports lives.
- Capitalize on the bigger screen real estate available in a TV or tablet version of your fitness app, not necessarily by showing more information, but presenting it in a more graphical way
- Use unique sensors and other hardware available on each platform to gather more data about the user’s performance
- Integrate instant sync so users can switch momentarily from an outdoor activity to an indoor workout by jumping from, say, an iPhone fitness tracker app to its iPad version.
Utilize built-in sensors
As we said, a fitness tracker app adds value to your users’ lives as long as it makes them train regularly. And being able to show their progress, using data gathered during workouts is essential. Let’s see what hardware is available in this respect:
- GPS will allow you to visualize tracks on a map and compass will help navigate the user while she’s on the run
- Accelerometer can be used to measure elevation or track body movements when coupled with a gyroscope
- Motion processor counts steps
- Some Android phones have an optical heart rate monitor on their backs
- Barometers and altimeters provide accurate data about altitude, latitude, and longitude
The bottom line is you should carefully research available built-in sensors on a phone or smartwatch you are targeting and take advantage of the data they collect. Opt for native apps as they get full access to built-in sensors, etc.
Connect your fitness tracker app to fitness gadgets and software
In case built-in sensors don’t suffice, you can always connect your app to various fitness and health trackers like Fitbit or Galaxy Fit. This scenario will work best if you need to connect your app to your gear that tracks user activity.
- Use activity data from external sensors to adapt user experience in your fitness tracker app: highlight their preferred activities, nudge to train more or offer to take a break
- Include the add-on data into user statistics for a more comprehensive view on their performance
Another variant to get this extra data from third-party fitness trackers and apps is to connect to HealthKit, Google Fit, and Samsung Health — depending on your target platform for the app. Those work as health and fitness data aggregators, and, as a result, your app can do with a single integration.
- Make sure to protect PHI according to the HIPAA requirements
- Secure access to vital data in the app with Face ID or Touch ID
- Remember that integration with HealthKit and other health & fitness data aggregators works in both directions: you can collect and submit user data
You should also consider integrating the app with the stock calendar so users won’t skip their live classes.
Let them train to the beat
Music is hugely important during workouts. Eye of the Tiger mixed in with some chilly tunes can do a lot for a healthy workout. So hooking your fitness tracker app with music streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, or Google Play Music, may go a long way in setting your app above the competition.
- Use Apple’s MusicKit to integrate with Apple Music
- There’s no official API Google Play Music, but you can work with this unofficial, well-maintained version, or wait for YouTube Music API
- SoundCloud and LastFM are two other excellent alternatives to get some beat into your fitness app
Monetize the app at scale
Peloton is a great example of how a fitness tracker app can make money. The company sells the premium home fitness bike and treadmill and then also offers a subscription in their app. And the fitness app is available to anybody, so users without Peloton’s sports equipment can feel like a privileged group without cashing out too much.
Implementing a subscription payment option to monetize your app is relatively easy, but take into account the 30 percent cut by the platform owners
- Another variant is in-app purchases, probably less convenient to users
- You can also go the Amazon way: limit users to purchasing only via the website that opens right inside the fitness app via a web view
Remember the back end
One of the biggest challenges in developing a fitness tracker app will be the bit that’s responsible for streaming the classes, their availability at all times, etc. Of course, it’s the back end: servers hosting & streaming workouts, plus the software that makes it all run.
- Make sure your back end relies on a CDN infrastructure in case you’re targeting customers in various locations, especially globally
- Design the bare minimum of a web UI for your staff to upload and manage classes, billing, and other content in the fitness tracker app
- AWS, Google, and Microsoft are all excellent providers of cloud services to back your fitness app
Let’s build your fitness tracker app
Let us know if you have more questions about developing a fitness tracker app. We’d be happy to assist you with validating your idea from positioning and finding a competitive edge to testing the UX & UI concept with your target audience. It’s one of the fastest ways to get an MVP out and start iterating based on user preferences. Let’s talk and see which option works best for your fitness tracker app.