Bodies in motion stay in motion.
And those bodies are wearing clothes that need to be maintained to keep athletic performance optimal.
Enter Under Armour Inc., which sells fitness apparel and gear, and is heavily investing in digital health and wellness as a part of its Under Armour Connected Fitness initiative to keep consumers active and purchasing products.
In January, Under Armour launched its Android and iOS fitness tracking app, UA Record. In February, Under Armour purchased personal training app Endomondo for $85 million and weight loss coaching app MyFitnessPal for $475 million. The three apps combined will give Under Armour access to 130 million mobile registered users, says Chris Glode vice president of digital of Under Armour Inc. Connected Fitness.
As the deals are still closing, Under Armour has not yet decided how the apps will work in relation to one another, Glode says. For now, Glode describes UA Record as a good entry point to track basic fitness and nutrition. Endomondo and MyFitnessPal work well for consumers who want more specific and detailed metrics about a particular workout, he says. Under Armour shows adverting for its products on all three of the apps, as well as in the MapMyFitness app the company acquired in December 2013, Glode says.
In the future, consumers with an account at any of the Under Armour-owned apps will be able to log into any of the company’s apps with the user name or password they create for any of the apps.
Glode says Under Armour is also seeking to work with other companies, such as makers of athletic shoes, to make its apps more appealing. For example, since September 2014 a runner has been able to enter into the MapMyFitness mobile app or at UnderArmour.com the recommended mileage of the shoe he wears and receive an email reminder when he’s run the that distance in those shoes, as tracked by the MapMyFitness app. (If a consumer doesn’t know the recommended limit for the shoe, MapMyFitness defaults to 300 miles.) The email reminder contains a link to those shoes on the Zapppos e-commerce site. If the exact shoes are not available on Zappos, the link will lead to a similar pair on Zappos. Hundreds of thousands of consumers have opted into this program, Glode says, without being more specific.
The apparel company also believes wearables will play a significant role in the company’s digital health and fitness future. Consumers can connect their wearables, such as activity trackers like Fitbit, heart rate monitors or smart scales, to the UA Record app.
The retailer is developing wearable technology embedded into clothing, such as shirts, socks and sweatbands, all of which will work with the app. The idea is to give athletes a complete view of their workout and their body parts’ range of motion, Glode says. For example, a tennis player wearing a sweatband on her wrist could see the acceleration of her swing. This technology has yet to be deployed and Glode would not share specifics on when it would be released. Under Armour is currently selling a performance heart monitor, called the Armour 39, which can show such information as an athlete’s heart rate, calories burned and acceleration.
Skip Snow, an independent researcher and analyst who specializes in the health care information technology, however, says Under Armour should lead have led with wearables that could be connected to its apps. The future of digital health and fitness, Snow says, is with wearables, and most consumers will use the apps that come with the wearable devices they buy, rather than linking their wearable to another company’s app.
“Pure app play is not going be the play that works,” Snow says.
Retailers need to lead with the wearable, with the app is in the background, he says.
While Apple Inc. has a wearable now with the Apple Watch, it is a high-end product that won’t capture the entire market, leaving room for others, Snow says. “There is space in the low-end wearable market for innovation and leadership,” Snow says.
One of the goals of Under Armour’s digital health and fitness initiative is to promote loyalty and encourage athletes to continue exercising, Glode says. Mobile commerce fits hand in hand, as the more people work out, the more the equipment and apparel they will need, he says. Mobile sales, which include purchases made on smartphone and tablets, made up 30% of UA.com’s online revenue in 2014, up from 13% in 2013. Mobile web traffic experienced similar increases, Glode says.
To keep customers engaged with the UA Record app on their phone, it has a social and viral component that lets users reach out to others also use the app. They can see each other’s workouts and give virtual high fives, see inactivity and send smack talk, or challenge each other to a race.
Keeping a presence on consumers’ smartphones, in March Under Armour opened a store in Chicago which uses beacon technology to communicate with shoppers who have the UA Record app via blue tooth low energy. Under Armour sends shoppers a greeting when they enter the store through the beacon technology.
“We want to have a relationship with consumers on their phones,” Glode says. “We see that as incredibly important for commerce.”