Fitness trackers see a boost in January — but do users keep their resolutions?

James Haslam

Nov 1, 2019

Fitness apps are a multi-billion-dollar industry, even if audiences are only just warming up to using them. PWC, a consultancy, estimates that health apps and wearables make up 10% of a global $674 billion healthcare market, with more room to grow. That said, not all seasons see equal use. Summer, when users are out and about, and New Year, when users focus on resolutions to get into better shape, are high points in the fitness app calendar to acquire and convert users

To find out just how seasonality impacts health tracking apps, Adjust analyzed data distributed evenly across app subcategories (Calorie, Fitness and Sleep trackers) spread across 20 countries. We tracked growth and retention rates across H1 2019 — and the results raise interesting questions for both sociologists and app marketers.

Fitness app growth download rates

Predictably, Health Trackers grow in January at a higher rate than any other month. It’s the season for New Year’s resolutions — and the month that users are apparently the most eager to gauge their own progress to their new fitness goals. This enthusiasm (and growth) cools quickly, which is reflected in February data. This month sees the least amount of growth, dropping 36% from the previous month.

This suggests that (for most users) good habits fall off quick. Admittedly, February is a shorter and harsher month for most. But this isn’t the only factor to consider. Research shows a massive 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail within 30 days. While this data point doesn’t directly impact download trends, it does influence user behavior — which in turn impacts retention rates.

There’s a n-app for that

In comparison, Sleep Tracking apps, an app users can (and apparently do) rely on frequently, have the best retention rates of all the apps examined. In fact, retention rates remain in the double digits right until the end of the cohort.

Fitness tracking app retention rates

The same can’t be said for Calorie trackers (apps that track how much users eat). Such apps have a relatively robust Day 1 retention, but drop off steeply, retaining less than 10% of users by Day 14. Fitness trackers maintain poor retention throughout the cycle with less than 20% of users returning by Day 1. That 80% figure may seem too high after all, as only 7% of users (on average) returning to health tracker apps by Day 30.

Shape up

So what can tracker apps do to keep their user’s quest for self-improvement going? Push notifications are a place to start — but they need to straddle the line between gently pushing users back without causing too much pressure. Onboarding a user is a prime place to introduce push messaging preferences, which allow users to regulate their own reminders, or set their own goals. Some may want to track their progress daily, others weekly. In the end, setting up good habits may just be a product of the right push settings.

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