Lately, I stumbled over the blog post “All around the world, you’re a great way to fly – Selling an experience“. The post contains a list of “profound services, which only the best airlines offer” (1) . It reminded me of heated discussions about the positioning and quality of airlines today, and how low-cost aircarriers’ (LCA) terrible reputation is a constant topic in media. Websites express the ‘general disgust’ about these firms (2), and passengers even take over planes (3). So, is it justified that many people perceive LCAs as the ‘worst airlines’ and most people think similar as the folks below?
Many products and services are offered to consumers for free, such as Google, e-mail, movies and sometimes even touchable products such as razorblades or samples (Anderson, 2008). But did you know these products are not only available for free, but that you could actually get paid to use them? Moneymiljonair is an online savings program that rewards its users for active participation. The website applies many of the concepts mentioned by Anderson (2008) to offer free products and free money. With this strategy, they have already paid out more than 13 million euro to its users. But how do they do it?
In the aftermath of the 9/11, Scott Heiferman felt that something had changed in the way people interacted together. They would start to care about each other and talk in the streets while neighbours would meet for the first time after years of living in the same street. He felt that most of the time, people didn’t even came across each other while living in the same area as they didn’t have the opportunity for. He then decided to found Meetup.com, a website that would “use the internet to help people get off the internet” and connect communities together. There we were, 9 months later, the baby of the 9/11 was born.
Meetup.com is a platform where you can register and attend any kind of events. The users don’t pay any registration or participation fee, making the service free for 90% of its users. On the other hand, organizers of meetings have to pay a premium, making it an unusual freemium model as Meetup does not even run ads. However, the main revenue for the organizers themselves is the recognition and fame to be part of the “organizer community” as well as the possible future benefits generated by the meetings. In accordance with the principle explaining the success of collective intelligence systems, money is thus not the only reason behind the success of Meetup. Furthermore, all the meetups are completely independent, giving all creativity and decisional power to the users.
Myfitnesspal (1) is a diet app with a food tracker, to help people keep track of what they eat. Users can set targets on their weight, the calories consumed and sports practiced. The app interacts with the users in many ways, for example, if you entered your sport exercises you are allowed to eat more calories on that day. There are no monetary costs involved for users, but the users have to put some effort into using the product: they need to add every single item they consumed. The utility, however, is relatively high for most people. Only by adding the food, the app gives you extensive feedback on your behavior. The company promotes sharing your achievements with friends, as this would increase weight-loss. You can give friends permission to view your data, or share your achievements on the large social media platforms.
The company benefits from user data and uses nutritional information for their databases. Users can add foods, information about this food and its barcodes to the database. If someone scans a barcode, he immediately receives all information available on this product and can add this to his own record. Therefore, user participation adds to the quality of the product, which makes them active co-creators of the app. The more information the app contains, the easier the app gets for users. Also, a forum is available to the users, on which they can motivate each other, and blogs offer them more information about food and exercising.
MyFitnessPal is one of the most successful lifestyle and health apps with 40 million users and has been in many top downloading list. However, it is used as an individual food tracker only. With the data available, there are many options for improving the app. The keyword for a successful diet is personalization. In the first place because not everyone wants or needs the same, and secondly because there is a choice overload in diets, foods and possible healthy behavior. A Myfitnesspal Recommendation agent could be the answer for a successful diet. Recommendation agents (RAs) are software agents that elicit the interests or preferences of individual consumers for products, either explicitly or implicitly, and make recommendations accordingly (Xiao & Benbasat, 2007). According to Tsekouras & Li (2014), the ease of generating recommendations is important for a RA to succeed. Because users already provide enormous sets of data, a RA would be easy to create for myfitnesspal. By learning from the available data, Myfitnesspal can observe successful dieting behavior and match this to the users by recommending sports, food and diets (2). The app could provide messages such as: you are over your calorie goal for today. If you walk for 25 minutes you could still reach your goal. Or: You eat more fat than the average person of your height and age. Try to cut down 10 grams per day and lose up to 5kg. In this way, without asking more from its users, MyFitnessPal can help people lose weight even better.
(2) Murthi, B.P.S., & Sarkar, S. (2003). The role of the management sciences in research on personalizaBon. Management Science, 49(10)
Xiao, Bo, and Izak Benbasat. “E-commerce product recommendation agents: use, characteristics, and impact.” MIS Quarterly 31.1 (2007): 137-209.
Tsekouras,D.,& Li T. (2014). A Car & A Room For My Perfect Date: The Role Of Perceived Effort In Personalized RecommendaBons, Working Paper