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Fitness & Wellness Brands Leverage The Popularity Of Apps

December 9, 2020 Erin Sweeney

According to an article in TechCrunch by Sarah Perez, 2020 has set new records in mobile app downloads, usage and consumer spending. Medical, health and fitness apps saw the largest gains of any app category early in the pandemic, with their location opt-ins increasing by 150% between March and June.

Apps tend to be more accessible and interactive than traditional websites, engaging consumers and allowing brands to create direct relationships with customers to gain loyalty. Apps typically also save consumer data, offering personalized experiences for customer and first-party data collection opportunities for app owners and advertisers. Leveraging this valuable data, health and fitness brands are using apps to scale revenue through subscription services, in-app advertising and strategic partnerships. 

Nutrition Apps

My Fitness Pal & Wellory Offer Healthy Eating Support Online And Virtually

Shutterstock_462974833 Woman checking nutrition information and calories on her phone when eating

As Americans have focused on staying healthy and eating at home during the pandemic, the use of diet and nutrition apps has soared. According to Data Bridge Market Research analyses, the diet and nutrition apps market is expected to gain strong market growth in the forecast period of 2020 to 2027 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.9%

MyFitnessPal’s Calorie Counter was the top-grossing health and fitness app in the Google Play Store worldwide in September 2020. MyFitnessPal encourages users to think about the foods they eat, while also helping users become more active. The company announced in October that they had reached the 30 million user mark, and Business Insider rated MyFitnessPal the best weight loss app for total fitness in 2020. To continue their momentum of growth, MyFitnessPal is debuting an application programming interface (API) which connects with a long list of compatible technologies and devices, including Fitbit, Apple Health, BodyMedia, Runtastic and Withings, to enable the real-time exchange of user data in order to personalize nutrition and exercise tools and support for customers. MyFitnessPal has a free version that provides opportunities for in-app advertising for their partners and a $9.99/month subscription version that is ad-free and has options for customization including goal-setting features, increased customer support and workout routines. 

Wellory is a new app that bills itself as taking an “anti-diet approach” to nutrition and wellness, using a managed marketplace model to match users with licensed nutritionists, registered dietitians or certified health coaches. Users meet one-on-one with diet professionals in facetime calls to create personalized plans for losing weight or achieving other health goals. After the initial meetings, users share their meals through a photo-tracking feature, and nutritionists respond with personalized advice, tips and recipes. Wellory subscriptions cost $59.99 per month, and founder Emily Hochman has stated that Wellory plans to introduce additional pricing tiers and explore partnerships with wearable technology and diagnostic companies, as long as they can keep the “human coach at the center of understanding health data.”

Mental Wellness Apps

Calm & Headspace Provide Meditation And Stress Relief From The Comfort Of Home

Shutterstock_1437314120 Attractive 30s mixed race woman wearing headphones closed her eyes holding smart phone listen enjoy favourite music lying in living room resting on couch spend lazy weekend at home, mood hobby concept

The pandemic has led to a surge in downloads of mental wellness apps, according to a report from Sensor Tower. Meditation apps Headspace and Calm have also seen significant adoption by employers in recent months, as companies seek to help their employees cope with the stress of working from home and staying focused when surrounded by distractions and responsibilities. 

In 2020, more than 60 million people have downloaded Calm, touted as the number-one app for sleep, meditation and relaxation. The Calm app offers guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, stretching exercises and relaxing music. Calm used their sleep stories as a platform to draw in dozens of celebrities as narrators, including LeBron James, Stephen Fry, Harry Styles and Matthew McConaughey. During the pandemic, Calm focused on partnerships to expand free access to more users. In May, nonprofit health system Kaiser Permanente announced it was making the Calm app’s premium subscription free for its members.

Headspace generates more than $100 million in revenue per year from paid subscribers and businesses subsidizing employee subscriptions. Headspace has partnered with a number of employers during the pandemic including Adobe and GE, reporting a greater than 500% increase in inbound interest from companies seeking mental health help for their workforce. During the pandemic, Headspace was the first to offer free memberships to front-line medical professionals and first responders. It later expanded its free access to the unemployed and launched a collection of free content for those living in New York, in partnership with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Headspace app’s content is organized according to themes such as calm, focus, kindness and sleep, and it is geared to specific age groups. 

Fitness Apps

Strava and AllTrails Find Success As People Continue To Work Out At Home

Shutterstock_1058938274 girl uses fitness app

During the pandemic, there was a surge in fitness app downloads and daily active users (DAUs). According to a mid-year survey by OnePoll, 74% of Americans used at least one fitness app during quarantine, and 60% enjoyed their home workouts so much they now plan on canceling their gym memberships for good. Strava and AllTrails, two of the most popular fitness apps, help users get outside to find and share trails to bike, hike or run. 

Strava, a fitness tracking app that uses GPS technology to track exercises like cycling and running, has become one of the top-performing apps in 2020. Strava’s SOLOdarity Challenges, programs that help users be physically active and competitive while staying socially distanced, have had nearly one million participants this year, according to the company. In recent years, Strava has transformed from a simple fitness tracker to a full-fledged social platform, allowing users to follow athletes, comment and “like” posts, activities and photos. Strava connects with popular devices like FitBit and Peloton, and Strava announced an updated goals feature that allows users to set aspirations in expanded categories. To build their user base, Strava announced they are offering Strava Metro, a collection of urban human-powered transport data that helps pedestrians and cyclists navigate effectively in cities around the world, free of charge for urban planners, city governments and safe infrastructure advocates. Concerns about public transportation during the pandemic has resulted in a growing need for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Mark Gainey, co-founder of Strava said, “We felt Strava Metro was too valuable and important not to make available to any organization attempting to make a difference in designing the cities of the future.” 

When the lockdowns eased up in early May, the AllTrails app saw a huge increase in downloads and usage as people sought safe exercise outdoors. With a database of more than 100,000 trails, the app includes photos, maps, user reviews, sunrise and sunset times, elevation and difficulty level. The app has a free version and a subscription-based premium version. According to Ron Schneidermann, CEO, the app has seen an uptick in paid conversions this year. “For $30 a year, to be able to provide that level of freedom and normalcy and health, even when times are tough, it seems like a really great investment. And thankfully, people are taking advantage of it,” said Schneidermann. AllTrails has committed to donating 1% of all profits to partner organizations that share their beliefs, including The Student Conservation Association, The Trust for Public Land and SHIFT (Shaping How We Invest For Tomorrow), gaining new users for the app from the memberships of these organizations and building support from consumers who favor brands that are socially responsible.

Emarketer reports that U.S. adults spent an average of four hours on mobile internet per day in 2020, with three hours and 35 minutes of that time spent on mobile apps. The main driver for the recent increase in app usage is the pandemic, but the mobile app usage growth trend is predicted to continue into 2021 and beyond as new behaviors become habits.

Mobile apps have become core products for fitness and wellness brands, building value and purpose that can drive long-term engagement with customers and positively impact brand loyalty. Health and wellness brands are leveraging the popularity of their apps to create meaningful, personalized experiences for their customers and brand partners, while building their user bases and scaling revenue. 

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About the Author

Erin Sweeney

Erin Sweeney is a freelance writer and professional educator. Throughout her 12 years of experience in secondary education, she has taught advanced composition, business communications and research methodology. Erin has a keen interest in psychology and the science of motivation. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from Saint Anselm College and a Master’s in Education from Plymouth State University. Through research and writing, Erin contributes to DMS Insights with informative articles surrounding the digital and performance marketing industries.

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