How Runkeeper Seamlessly Blends Ecommerce In-App to Reward Users

How Runkeeper Seamlessly Blends Ecommerce In-App to Reward Users

Remember your first attaboy or attagirl...

That pat on the back, look of approval, or recognition you deserved for accomplishing something special?

There’s just nothing like that feeling you get when someone not only notices but also recognizes something you’ve achieved. Unfortunately, commemorative moments like these seem to be few and far between as an always-on world that often moves too fast to stop and take notice.

Think about a scenario like this…

Picture walking into a sporting goods store after:

  • Finishing a race you never thought you’d run
  • Losing those last ten stubborn pounds you promised you would
  • Pledging to become healthier by becoming more active

You might be looking for shoes with more cushion for your next race, a smaller size to compliment your new physique, or the running gear necessary to begin a more active lifestyle. Accomplishments and commitments like yours deserve something special.

But don’t expect the store salesman, that stranger who doesn’t know the first thing about you, to pick out the thick soled shoes you want, the form fitting shirt you’ve been picturing yourself in, or the padded running socks made specifically to prevent new runners from getting blisters.

Nope, that salesman you’ve never seen before isn’t going to recognize and reward your milestones or pledges.

But what if an app on your phone could?

A Different Kind of App

Modesty can take you a long way in life…

The humble folks at Runkeeper, a smartphone application that motivates and rewards runners of all stripes, credit much of their success to being one of the first 200 applications in Apple’s app store back in 2008. That first mover advantage has been helpful as has the explosive adoption of smartphones that house the Runkeeper app.

Nope, the folks at Runkeeper aren’t ones to brag or boast...

How Runkeeper Seamlessly Blends Ecommerce In-App To Reward Users

As you can see from the testimonials, there’s just something different about this Boston born app that 46-million people now use, love, and tell their friends about. The community the app serves includes serious race runners, laid back joggers, and those who simply want to cut a little weight by being more active. The app allows these users to:

  • Set goals
  • Track their progress
  • Stay motivated with personalized routines

But maybe it’s what’s missing from the Runkeeper app that makes it so beloved. You see some of the apps that compete with Runkeeper are uber focused on athletic performance. In fact, you might even feel a bit downtrodden after a tough run if one of these apps were to point out how much slower you were than your personal best or average pace.

The spotlight Runkeeper shines is pointed in a different direction.

The focus is on highlighting personal achievement, motivating runners to keep working toward their goals, and providing them the data they need to measure their progress. Runkeeper is preferred for its simplicity, ease of use, and the way it cares for users.

“We take a significantly different stance,” says Paul Pender, the Ecommerce Marketing Manager at Runkeeper. “We’re there to motivate the guy who wants to run off last night’s pizza but just needs a bit of help getting motivated after a long day at work.”

If Runkeeper had a personality you’d probably describe it as fun, down to earth, or the kind of friend that has your back even on days when your performance may not break any world records. “I could actually see myself getting better,” Erin Glabets, the company’s Director of Marketing, says of the app. “The information the app provides empowers people to fit physical activity into their busy lives while also making it more fun and enjoyable.”

That includes running with tens of thousands of your Runkeeper friends...

A Race With No Starting Line

Imagine running a race all by yourself…

But doing it virtually alongside more than 100,000 other runners.


But that’s exactly what happened during Runkeeper’s Global 5k, a race that could be run anywhere and attracted runners from 182 countries in December 2015. The virtual race, which had no official starting line and could be run with other Runkeeper users or alone, connected runners regardless of time or place.

“Lots of people have never actually run a race before,” Glabets notes. “But with the Global 5k they could still feel like they were a part of a race without having to compete alongside someone else.”

How Runkeeper Seamlessly Blends Ecommerce In-App To Reward Users

The Global 5k’s accomplishments are noteworthy by any metric:

  • Nine years worth of running occurred in a single day
  • 42-million calories burnt which is the equivalent of 18,000 14-inch pizzas
  • 13,549 personal best 5k times (10% of participants)

Check out this infographic to see additional mind-blowing data points Runkeeper users logged during the virtual race.

There was even more to this race though…

Remember, it was organized by an app maker that knows its users personally; an app that wants to recognize and reward users. It’s why Runkeeper, as soon as each runner signed up for the race, was treated to an ecommerce surprise only they could unlock; a special t-shirt designed just for the Global 5k and those who run it.

“The idea was to stimulate a real race experience,” Pender says.

The surprise t-shirt, available for purchase in the Runkeeper store, helped connect the digital and physical worlds by allowing participants to “unlock” a reward prior to the race that helped prompt a sense of community that resulted in Runkeeper users falling even deeper in love with the app…

It’s an innovative idea that uses ecommerce as a reward...

Unlocking Rewards Based on Real-World Accomplishments

Runkeeper builds its ecommerce store with specific users in mind…

The products in the company’s store, or at least some of them, are custom designed and reserved for users who sign up for a particular challenge or achieve a specific milestone. Those users are invited to claim a unique reward designed to commemorate their accomplishment or commitment.

But there’s a catch…

To motivate users and help them accomplish their goals, the rewards are visible prior to a physical challenge but “locked” or unavailable for purchase. “This allows the user to visualize the shirt,” Pender says. “If they really love the shirt and want it, they'll go through and do the necessary task.”

Those who do can then “unlock” the shirt and purchase it.

“You’re awesome,” is the message Pender has for Runkeeper’s users. “When we shoot them the link we’re saying hey, you’ve earned it now go get it!”

How Runkeeper Seamlessly Blends Ecommerce In-App To Reward Users

The idea of using ecommerce as a reward bridges the divide between the digital in-app experience and the rewards claimed in the physical world. But how is it working out for Runkeeper in terms of business?

The results thus far might make conversion rate optimization gurus jealous…

The statistical results of challenges that offer users opportunities to unlock unique ecommerce rewards that celebrate personal accomplishments look like this:

  • Ecommerce conversion rate between 4-7%

“It’s definitely something we’re really proud of,” Pender says of the conversion rate. “These are the people who are super engaged with Runkeeper and really like being able to have something unique that keeps them connected to their feat.”

The idea that product availability is restricted until a user accomplishes a task creates commerce and bonds among users...

But what if ecommerce rewards did more than just mark personal milestones?

What if they could provide real time value based on the personal relationship users have with the Runkeeper app...

Seamless Ecommerce Integration

“We just want Runkeeper users to do something awesome,” Pender says. “When they do we want to be right there to surprise and delight them with unique ways to celebrate those accomplishments.”

Seamlessly integrating commerce with the app to commemorate personal achievement is just the tip of the iceberg for Runkeeper. The company has big plans for its ecommerce initiatives, thanks in part, to its partnership with Shopify Plus, a cloud-based ecommerce platform for high volume merchants. “Our engineers just ran wild on Shopify Plus in terms of integrating tools that allow us to better track orders, count inventory, and create better reports,” Pender says.

How Runkeeper Seamlessly Blends Ecommerce In-App To Reward Users

Runkeeper and Shopify Plus have worked closely to ensure a relatively seamless and rewarding user experience in-app. But instantly offering ecommerce as a reward following an accomplishment requires a backend that can be trusted to recognize user achievement.

“When a Runkeeper user accomplishes something the app automatically tells the store which can then respond with the appropriate ecommerce reward,” Pender says. “The Shopify Plus support is huge and we actually have an account manager who connects our engineers with Shopify’s engineers who work together to make sure the products are able to talk to one another.”

The confidence Runkeeper has in its ecommerce platform is one reason the company is preparing to expand how it uses ecommerce to delight its community of runners. Besides recognizing and rewarding users who successfully participate in monthly challenges, Runkeeper plans to integrate ecommerce in a handful of brand new ways.

Here’s a brief sneak peek at several:


“We want to use ecommerce as a way to engage people as soon as they sign up with Runkeeper,” Glabets says. “We want to extend our rewards-based approach to make sure new users actually engage with and use the app after signing up.”

This can be particularly challenging with an app that requires so much physical effort to be valuable. “We don’t want people to download the app in January and then fall off the grid,” Glabets says.

Look for Runkeeper to engage new users with ecommerce opportunities immediately after they sign up for the app. This might include a 14-day challenge that offers unique ecommerce opportunities that may only be earned by users who immediately become more active after downloading the app.

Impromptu Rewards

Users working toward a goal might soon be surprised by impromptu ecommerce reward opportunities from Runkeeper.

The idea is to reward users outside of Runkeeper’s official monthly challenges and surprise people who are working toward personal goals. For instance, let’s say you’ve set a goal in-app to lose twenty pounds but you’re nowhere near accomplishing the feat. Runkeeper might offer users who are making progress toward their weight loss goal with an ecommerce reward designed to motivate and inspire users to push on.

Besides integrating ecommerce with the personal goals users set, expect Runkeeper to use ecommerce as a way to retain more users and bolster engagement. “We see big opportunities here with retention,” Glabets says. “Offering valuable impromptu rewards can be just the nudge someone needs to keep going.”

Personalized Rewards

Providing rewards with greater utility is a goal Runkeeper hopes to accomplish by leveraging the intimate relationship it has with its community. The company is interested in offering ecommerce opportunities based on user activity or preference:

  • If the Runkeeper app notices a user routinely runs at night, the app might offer the user a deal on a reflective vest that would make their run safer
  • If the Runkeeper app notices a user routinely runs at a certain elevation, the app might offer specific products designed to assist high elevation runners

“We just want to use the information we have for good,” Glabets says.“We already have this relationship with our users and want to keep our ears to the ground and bring them products that are highly relevant.”

An Ecommerce Future

Runkeeper’s quest to constantly outdo itself in terms of the user’s in-app experience is one you can expect to intensify in 2016. Right now, ecommerce rewards and opportunities aren’t native to the app; the company relies on links to unlock rewards in its mobile Shopify Plus store.

Expect that to change soon though.

“We want to bring commerce in-app and make it native,” Glabets says. “We’re extremely excited about the prospect of being able to show the right product at the right time in-app.”

It’s the kind of reward Runkeeper users have come to expect…

It’s also why the company has been rewarded with the ongoing attention and trust of tens of millions of loyal users who have made Runkeeper the app others are chasing.

How Runkeeper Seamlessly Blends Ecommerce In-App To Reward UsersAbout The Author

Nick Winkler is a contributor to the Shopify Plus blog. He helps individuals & organizations generate new leads, make more money, and ignite growth with story. Get more from Nick here.