5 Ways Peloton Keeps Users Moving (Even When They Don’t Want To)

January 18, 2024  |  By: Kristen Berman & Katie Dove

Starting a new workout or fitness routine is challenging, yet many are motivated to try, especially this time of year. It takes weeks to develop the habits that support a lifestyle pivot, and in the fitness world, one company has been more successful in supporting users in creating these habits than others: Peloton

In an episode of the Science of Change podcast, Kristen Berman, behavioral scientist and co-founder of Irrational Labs, sat down with David Packles, Senior Director of Product Management at Peloton Interactive. In the episode, Berman and Packles discuss the company’s strategies to bring users back to the bike, treadmill, or app.

Top 5 Ways Peloton Empowers Behavior Change 

Here are the top five ways Peloton excels in empowering behavior change that you can apply to your own life.

1. Make it Easy

Traditional workouts require planning your exercise, driving to a gym, and hoping the equipment you want to use is available. With Peloton, most of that work is gone. Peloton’s focus on user adoption is an excellent example of the foot in the door technique, which starts a relationship by making a small ask to drive behavioral change.

Users can hop on their device (or open the Peloton app), pick a class that works for them, and start sweating. And, because classes range from 5o—90 minutes, users can be assured that something will fit their workout needs, even if they’re short on time.

According to Packles, the key to making behavior change easier is accessibility: ‘The thing about making it easiest is about making it accessible–putting it in your home and having a workout that is not a sleeper. You’re actually motivated by an instructor that’s playing amazing music who’s motivating you, who’s telling you these immersive stories.’

Apply it: Always look for ways to reduce barriers to action. Review the 3B Framework for Behavior Change to learn more about the three steps critical to designing behavior change. 

2. Add Variety—While Also Having a Routine

When users start using Peloton, they’ll explore different classes and instructors, eventually landing on their favorite class length, instructor, and class style. A real-life example of the principle of exploration and exploitation, this behavior poses a problem for Peloton.

A successful exercise routine balances repetition to drive habits with variation to prevent boredom. Peloton addresses this problem by creating varied challenges (like a recent Taylor Swift-inspired Swiftie Challenge) to encourage users to try different classes while promoting programs that go in-depth into a modality to improve physical performance and create a routine.

‘People do settle into a habit,’ Packles shares. ‘How do we extend you a little bit beyond?’

The reason challenges work to push people into new behaviors is because it unlocks different goals and intentions from different users–while some members want to focus on their abs, others may want to work out consistently for thirty days. And Peloton offers that. ‘I think for us, it’s about offering as many different options in for different types of people,’ Packles explains. 

Apply it: Have a habit you’d like to change or one you’d like to establish? These apps may help you get started. 

3. Accountability Through Camaraderie

Peloton’s motto is ‘Together We Go Far,’ so it’s no surprise that one piece of their strategy is around camaraderie. But this focus on togetherness isn’t just aspirational; it’s a crucial aspect of changing behavior: accountability.

As users explore and take Peloton classes, they can see other users in the session, motivating them to push harder or simply serve as a reminder that they aren’t alone. As Packles explains, ‘It’s the same feeling of looking left and right and you not doing the sit-up you’re supposed to be doing, and the person to your right and the person to your left is.’

How could they have taken this a step further? One idea is that they could let you set goals and publish those goals to your networks on the app. Why does this work? It’s a smart combo of precommitment & social accountability–in other words, we’re more likely to follow through on our goals when we create consequences that help us stay on track. Anyone else finish their annual reading goal on Goodreads in the last 2 weeks of the year when you know all your friends are also looking at your public Reading Challenge commitment? 😅

Apply it: Try to move behaviors in your life or your product from private (I am doing an exercise class) to public (I am taking a class with others). Want to do this in your own life? Try it. 

4. We Are What We Measure 

Most connected fitness platforms focus on data to drive adoption, but Peloton stands alone in figuring out a way to make it accessible to bring users back again. Users who have Peloton equipment or a wearable that connects to the app can easily see the results of their performance through Peloton’s Strive Score: ‘Strive Score is an aggregate score of the time you spend in each heart rate. It’s all about simplifying’ Packles says.

With Strive Score, users can measure their progress if they retake a class or measure against other classes of similar length or intensity to have a quick way to measure improvement, recovery, and benchmarks. Instead of writing down performance metrics or understanding physiology, Peloton users can easily see their data and compete against themselves later down the road.

Badges (called ‘achievements’ in the app) are another way that Peloton users can take pride in what they’ve accomplished AND a subtle way to keep us coming back. How? First and more obviously, they let us feel pride in what we’ve achieved. But they also serve to encourage us to come back. When we see we’ve unlocked 4 out of the 5 milestones in a category, task completion effect suggests we’ll work harder and accelerate our behavior to reach that last milestone.

Apply it: Measure yourself or your users on something!  But always remember to connect the insights to action. Read this for ways products can help turn data into action. 

5. Going Streaking

Before every Peloton session, instructors welcome users and give shoutouts to members celebrating birthdays and milestone classes ranging from 100 classes in a specific workout into the thousands. These shoutouts (and the badges that come along with them) are part of Peloton’s extrinsic reward system–the more you workout, the more likely it is that you get a shoutout.

But Peloton’s shoutouts and badges don’t just apply to the number of classes. The platform also rewards streaks measured both by the number of days in a row a member works out and the number of sequential weeks they log on, giving them an incentive to keep coming back, even if they take a day or two off.

Plus, the Peloton equipment and app offer reminders of what you’re doing: ‘When you first turn on your bike or your app, you’ll see Welcome back and gentle reminders that what you’re doing counts,’ explains Packles. ‘It’s important to offer members an in, even if they haven’t had a great month.’

Apply it: Allow yourself breaks while trying to create new habits. Expecting daily perfection while changing behavior isn’t just unreasonable–it may actually hinder your progress!

With these five strategies, Peloton can ensure that its members are getting the most out of its platform and equipment, even on the days, they may not want to work out. 

For further reading on the science behind Peloton’s strategies, visit our behind-the-episode blog post.

Update: But wait, there’s more! This blog was originally posted in 2022. Since then, Peloton’s continued their quest to deliver the ‘ultimate fitness experience’. Curious what’s changed in the app since then? Check out Kristen’s 3-part Product Teardown!

Inspired by these insights from Peloton and want to explore more strategies like this? Sign up for the Irrational Labs newsletter and never miss a blog post, podcast episode, or behavioral economics insight.

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