The Peloton Effect

How to use key behavioural triggers to build a digital experience that smashes industry goals

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Peloton has made headlines over the last few weeks for all the wrong reasons: the CEO has departed, the share price has dropped, and rumours are rife about a possible sale to any number of large global corporations. 

Despite this recent noise, there is a lot to learn from how Peloton built their experience using behavioural insights and strategy to set new benchmarks for brand loyalty (so much so that the Peloton community is often referred to as a cult), customer engagement, and retention. 

In the health and fitness sector, the average one-month retention for apps is only 4%. Peloton’s unique success has been driven by being able to build an experience that delivers an unprecedented 93% one-year retention rate.

What this means for your brand - key traits to consider

When it comes to working out, Peloton addresses some of the biggest user pain points of its two predecessors: 1. traditional at-home bikes are convenient but don’t offer the motivation you get when working out with a coach, or the social aspect of doing it in a group environment; 2. spin classes have the coach and the people, but aren’t at all convenient. 

Peloton addresses this by combining the two with a deceptively simple strategy – provide a top-of-the-line exercise bike and stream live workouts with an experienced coach and a supportive cult community at an affordable $39 per month. The business filled a gap in the market and the public ate it up, with some members so committed, they even got the Peloton logo tattooed on their body

A Peloton home workout also has an advantage that other home workouts don’t – a physical presence. Members have the equipment in their homes and it’s a constant cue they can’t miss. In a time when we can easily turn off notifications from our phone, this physical and digital – phygital – strategy is a big point of differentiation for the brand. 


Fill a gap in the market

It’s incredibly easy to get started on the Peloton journey. The business offers a money-back guarantee for the first 30 days, and a three-year finance plan to spread out the cost, which makes users feel like their investment into the bike is safe. 

Reducing barriers to action engages users in the long-term.

The Peloton program offers short and easy workouts to get members spinning. Something like a quick, 5-minute workout appeals to those who are time-poor or who find a 40-minute session too daunting. They are much more likely to jump on when the end is in near sight and once already on the bike, it’s much easier to keep spinning. 


Make the first move easy 

Peloton has actually managed to do something truly impressive: convince its customers to keep working out.

It has done this through clever behavioural strategies that encourage users to form emotional bonds with the brand. The brand transcends outside of exercise hours and into the daily lives of users through community meet-ups and merchandise. The more people use Peloton, the more they associate their identity with being a ‘Peloton user’. This reinforces a feeling that if users abandon their Peloton, they would be going against their entire identity.

When users feel a personal connection to a brand, they feel seen and they’re unlikely to stray elsewhere.


Introduce motivational techniques

Peloton really wants users to feel a part of a community. It does this by reinforcing the social aspect of working out with a Peloton. For example, its workouts show you how many of your friends are also taking part in a particular challenge. Even its leaderboard isn’t purely competitive – it reinforces the idea that you’re not exercising alone, and you can send each other high-fives to recognise your efforts.

Shared experiences, like these, cause a neurochemical in our brains called oxytocin, which is associated with bonding. Riding with millions of other Peloton users helps to stay the course and adds in an element of peer pressure.

There are at least 300 Facebook groups devoted to Peloton users...and that’s just on 1 platform. Though a lot of fitness brands have a following, Peloton’s is a core part of the company’s identity. The community is so strong, there have been reports of riders meeting on the Peloton pages and getting married.

Peloton relies on the community in order to promote the brand, providing branded merchandise to spread the word outside of users' homes. The success of Peloton Apparel proves the brand is one people want to associate themselves with and that the community is happy to buy into the entire Peloton lifestyle. Furthermore, it provides a more accessible entry-point for those who want to become a ‘Peloton user’ but can’t afford the equipment. 


Create a community

"The level of emotional loyalty that our members have with the brand , with our instructors, and with one another is so beyond what I've seen anywhere else in my career"

— Brad Olson, Peloton Chief Membership Officer

We’ve put together 4 key factors to help brands emulate some of Peloton’s success 

1. Break down barriers

2. Create the context

3. Build the reps

4. Capitalise on your community

To change a behaviour in a user, you have to break down the barriers that might be stopping them from completing the desired action. As well as making a product intuitive to use with little to no learning curve, you should aim to remove friction, including psychological, physical, social, and structural friction. Will people be looked down upon for using a certain digital product? Explore all possible barriers to why someone may not engage with the product. 

Cues to use a certain product are very much context dependent. You should aim to create moments in people’s lives that they associate with your brand. This means that, over time, people will come to associate a certain time, place, or situation with your product. For example, Spotify created Discover Weekly – a playlist tailored to your specific tastes that is released every Monday. Every Monday, users flock to Spotify to discover a whole range of new songs they know they’ll like, ensuring repeat engagement. What is the context you can create for your digital products to succeed?

Repetition builds habits. To encourage repeat use in your digital products, you need to think beyond notifications (which can be turned off) and provide users with a reason to reach for your product without an external trigger or conscious thought. To do this successfully, you have to be aware of what triggers your users to use your product in the first place – what motivates them to reach for your solution?

For example, if you’re building an app that helps people quit smoking, it’s really important to understand what triggers people to smoke in the first place. It’s about asking “how do we effectively shape the context that triggers people to do the right thing?”. Soft launches, user feedback, and data can help you determine your users’ triggers. 

It has been said before but it bears repeating: put your customers first and they will be your biggest ambassadors. Fostering a deeply-engaged community addresses our innate human desire for belonging and social interaction, and encourages brand loyalty.

Personalised content
Content on its app is personalised for each user. The app offers a variety of classes: from walking, to meditation and yoga...Peloton has it all. This shows that the brand recognises that not everyone wants to workout in the same way. 

It also offers recommendations based on previous preferences. Peloton even sends a weekly email with class recommendations tailored to you. This reduces cognitive overload, allowing users to make quick choices, reducing boredom and increases user satisfaction.

Emotional bonds
Peloton instructors are encouraged to create emotional connections with users. One instructor even announced her pregnancy during a ride, ensuring it happened during
minute 25 of the class so that producers could get the best shot. By sharing personal information, instructors form emotional bonds with users; it’s the same parasocial technique that happens when you develop one-sided relationships with celebrities or TV show characters.

Motivation is what gets you started – habit is what keeps you going
For most people, sticking to a fitness routine is complicated: the novelty wears off, we get bored, or we stop enjoying the experience of working out. As humans, we have a tendency to rely on motivation as the sole factor to keep us moving but fail to realise that it’s actually repetition and consistency that turns exercise into a regular habit.

Peloton keeps users engaged by using the following behavioural tactics:

How does Peloton keep users engaged?

  • Frequent acknowledgement of accomplishments through badges, which drives repeat use. This repeat use eventually leads to habit-formation in members.

  • Encouragement to beat your personal best through celebrating milestones.

  • Daily and weekly streaks, which are a reward for working out regularly. You can earn a weekly streak even if you use your Peloton only once a week, making reaching this goal attainable.

  • Monthly or yearly challenges to keep you committed to your workouts and, of course, keeps you coming back. 

There’s no denying that the Peloton model is a recipe for success and one that can be reproduced across industries. It finds the sweet spot at the intersection of innovation, community, and beautiful products that people want to use. We’ve pinpointed some of the key ingredients to its success so that you can get started creating memorable experiences. Need a helping hand? We’d love to hear from you.