The Connected Future Is Now

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Data Doesn’t Equal Motivation

With more consumers actively managing their health by collecting personal data, “changing behavior” is replacing the buzzword “engagement.”

Data collection has certainly gotten easier, but brands are realizing that providing personal statistics alone is not enough to get people off the couch.By incorporating aspects of gamification, providing real-time notifications, and leveraging social support systems, brands can help individuals make changes while developing loyal relationships with consumers in the process.

Incentivizing people to stick with a new exercise regimen or take prescription medicines on time is challenging, but services like Mango Health borrow from the gaming world and reward users for taking medications on time with real world incentives like discounts on magazines or groceries. The longer they stay on track, the greater the reward. Pact, previously known as GymPact, motivates users to stick to their workout regimen by offering financial incentives. Users bet how often they’ll make it to the gym, and if they meet their goal, they are rewarded with a payday. If not, they’re in the red.

Real-time notifications can provide the feedback a user needs to form (or change) a habit. With visual or haptic feedback, users can correct a behavior at the moment it occurs. The HAPIfork is a smart fork that encourages users to slow down while eating by vibrating when an individual is eating too fast. Vitality’s GlowCap is another great example of a product providing real-time feedback. The product fits onto normal prescription bottles and lights up when it is time for the user to take his medication. If the bottle is not opened within a certain period, the user gets a phone call reminding him to take his medicine.

Social support has also proven critical to the success of the adoption of new behaviors. Fitocracy makes working out a social experience, encouraging friends to challenge one another and also give each other “props” for accomplishing hard workouts. Fitocracy also incorporates aspects of gamification: users give each other quests (aka workouts), and just as in a video game, users can level up their fitness if they complete the challenge.

Services like Nike+ have proven so effective in modifying user behavior because they incorporate aspects of gamification, leverage real-time notifications, and feature a social community. The Nike+ FuelBand SE gamifies exercise by motivating users to be active throughout the day with the Win the Hour challenge. Users can also set notifications to remind themselves to get up and move if they’ve been dormant for too long; the blinking LED lights on the FuelBand SE provide real-time feedback to get moving. And the new Groups function lets users share their activity among select friends, as well as cheer them on or create a shared challenge.

Connecting these digital products establishes robust product ecosystems that foster long-term relationships and consumer loyalty. But most importantly, by creating functional product ecosystems, where a single digital service has multiple hardware devices feeding into it, like that of Withings, brands can ultimately influence customers’ broader behavior by helping them get more value from each product. For example, with Withings, users can manage data transmitted from all the company’s devices, including their scales, blood pressure monitors, and activity trackers, through a single, simple app.

The problem is that as more hardware manufacturers get into the game, consumers are forced to save their data on a variety of platforms. While device makers fight over platforms, a handful of companies like Tictrac, Exist, and Argus let consumers feed all sorts of data streams into a single place to find correlations between previously siloed data. The benefit these dashboards provide is context: if a person is measuring his athletic activity and food intake and tracking the two figures together on the same system, he can understand how the behaviors affect each other.

With enough dedication, an individual could easily track and analyze the relationship between dozen of aspects of her life. However, the measurable insights gained by self-tracking may be the icing on the cake; according to a recent research study, the simple process of tracking has been proven to improve memory and critical thinking. Additionally, self-trackers reportedly have higher levels of creative self-efficacy andcuriosity.

– JS & AW