Chatbot Techniques that Can Increase Customer Engagement for Health and Fitness Brands

Anastasia Morozova
Chief Operating Officer

For fitness brands, mobile applications are a significant step towards increasing customer retention and engagement.

An application downloaded to a mobile device is always with the user ensuring the greater presence of the fitness brand. What’s more, fitness apps are a good solution for our busy schedules when squeezing in some gym time is next to impossible.

Fitness apps suggest all sorts of short workouts that you can do anywhere – at home or even on your lunch break.

However, despite the flexibility of fitness app options, we still find it too hard to stay committed to our fitness resolutions. As a result, an app is abandoned after a couple of weeks leaving behind a vague sense of guilt and failure.

At the same time, for fairness’ sake, we have to admit that this trend is observed not only for fitness and for health apps. Rather, it is of a general nature.

The statistics show that just about one-fifth of all users continue using the application three months after downloading it.


Image credit: Localytics 2017

What can fitness brands do to improve user retention and engagement?

On the one hand, the most significant challenge is to be in constant contact with users and, on the other, to create customized and personalized experience. Fitness brands resolve the first challenge through push notifications and reminders.

MyFitnessPal, a calorie-counting and fitness app, sends reminders if you missed logging your meals:

MyFitnessPal screenshot

Image credit: TechCrunch

For the second challenge, there is also a solution – chatbots.

In fitness, chatbots are your personal trainers, your dietary and nutrition consultants, and your workout partners.

Generally, chatbots resolve the following customers’ needs:

  • create a personalized fitness or nutrition plan;
  • set up a system of scheduled reminders sent at preferred intervals;
  • provide educational content related to the chatbot primary purpose;
  • motivate through encouraging and congratulatory messages.

Another advantage of chatbots is that they do not require downloading an additional application.

Users are now already overwhelmed by the number of applications they have to download, and they will be grateful for something that they can use through an ordinary messenger service.

See also: Skills and Technologies Driving Chatbot Innovation

Let’s look at several popular health and fitness chatbots to see which techniques they apply to make users stay committed and motivated and how they can improve the retention rate.

If you search Facebook, you will find chatbots of the following types:

      • Workout chatbots;
      • Nutrition chatbots;
      • Meditation chatbots;
      • Mood tracking chatbots;
      • General healthcare chatbots;
      • Special health monitoring bots (for example, symptom checking, diabetes support, etc.).

Further, we will try to “reverse engineer” some of them to see how they can help to retain users.

First names

It is so easy, isn’t it? With the users accessing the chatbot with their messenger profiles, it is natural to make the chatbot call them by their names.

It immediately creates a sensation of a personalized approach and makes the users subconsciously trust the chatbot and the app behind it.

Most of the existing chatbots use this simple technique to build a closer relationship with the users.

The MeditateBot, for example, starts with greeting you by your first name and then introduces itself before actually starting a conversation.

MeditateBot screenshot

Image source: MeditateBot

Personalized fitness routines

This approach is especially visible in workout chatbots designed to assist you in your exercise. In this respect, the chatbot takes over the functions of a personal coach helping you plan and schedule your workouts.

The Facebook-based Daily Fitbot has multiple functions, one of them being a suggestion of workout routines with different skill levels. Once you have chosen the workout types, you can also set the reminder to be sent daily.

The workout intensity increases every day; the bot reminds you to exercise at the present time – just like a coach in the gym. It increases the user’s commitment to continue their exercises and, therefore, to use the chatbot functionality.

Daily Fitbot screenshot

Image source: Daily FitBot

The primary purpose of fitness chatbots and apps is to inspire regular exercising. So users are more likely to return to them for the next session. Hence, the probability of achieving a higher retention rate is greater.

Push notifications

Here, the product owners are walking on thin ice, as, although push notifications are necessary, you just must not send them too often, as this is a sure recipe for irritating the user up to the point of discarding the chatbot for good.

Through push notifications, you can keep the user reminded of your service by encouraging them to continue with the scheduled exercise, meal or other fitness activity.

At the same time, the recommended practice is to let the user choose the intervals at which they would like to receive notifications. This way, they will not be annoyed at the Messenger beeps at unexpected moments.

The Eat Clean Bot, a nutrition chatbot supplying healthy recipes, asks you how often you would like to receive a new recipe, and it keeps its promise, too.

Nutrition Chatbot screenshot

Image source: Eat Clean Bot

Educational content

It is something users appreciate much because one of the reasons they turn to fitness software is finding answers to their questions and getting useful information.

What should I eat to be healthy? How often should I workout not to overtrain? How can I get prepared for a quarter marathon?

And here chatbots are well ahead of fitness applications, as their structure is perfect for providing information. In a chat feed, you can get various tips and hints, links to articles, embedded videos, and images.

With smartly selected content, a chatbot will make the user look forward to incoming messages, as they are sure to contain something interesting and useful.

You can even go one step further and provide targeted content based on previous user preferences. This will increase the user’s trust and, consequently, the overall retention rate in the long run.

The HealthyBot which provides general information on various fitness and health subjects, sends links, tips and other nuggets of wisdom at specific intervals.

A person set on keeping healthy and fit can always find something of interest there and is sure to open the chatbot repeatedly.

Another important thing is that your chatbot should provide enough visual content to be appealing to users. Images, videos, graphics how-tos can maintain consistent user engagement over extended time.

Healthy Chatbot screenshot

Image source: Healthy Bot

So, what are the benefits of fitness chatbots?

From what we have seen so far, chatbots are nipping at the heels of mobile fitness apps and have good chances of stealing the market leadership from them.

Indeed, they have certain advantages over mobile applications in the context of maintaining user commitment and increasing the overall user retention rate:

  • Chatbots do not require downloading any extra software. This can be a plus for the users whose smartphones are already packed with all kinds of apps and who may be reluctant to download one more.
    Chatbots operate via messenger service, and most users already have the Facebook Messenger or Slack installed.
  • Chatbots require no registration. Users access chatbots from their accounts in messenger services with no additional registration.
    This can be an advantage, as complicated registration flows can sometimes make users abandon the application
  • Chatbots have much easier navigation, as compared with mobile applications. All content is supplied within the chat feed – chatbot replies, images, videos, links, etc.
    The user has everything in the same place, and to find something they only need to scroll up or down.
  • Chatbots are much more personal than mobile apps. A chatbot is sure to call the user by their first name and, what is especially important, builds customized fitness or nutrition plans.
    The plans are focused on the user’s personal aim – to get fit, to maintain shape, or to lose weight. For the user, this creates an experience similar to a session with a personal coach or a visit to a nutrition consultant.
  • Chatbots maintain a more consistent presence through their reminders and notifications. They encourage the user to continue with their exercise or other health routines, thus helping the user to build healthy habits. At the same time, the user remains loyal to the product.
  • Chatbots provide a significant amount of educational content. In this respect, their strong side is in the active sending of various content to the user.
    The user does not need to search the application or the external sources for some knowledge – it is supplied directly to their chat feed.
  • Chatbots support most of the related application functionality. Through a chatbot, users can set their fitness schedules, store and retrieve their progress, set and adjust goals, monitor their weight and other measurements.
    The chatbot functionality is expanding with each passing month, and we can expect them to become fully featured personal coaches and consultants soon.

On a final note, we can say that chatbot developers of fitness and health software should consider implementing a chatbot as an additional channel to reach and retain their customers.

Moreover, the chatbot functionality should be maintained and enhanced on a regular basis, as chatbots seem to have all the potential to become leaders in the fitness software industry.

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