While fitness trackers and other health-technologies are on the rise, the global obesity rate is still increasing (NCD Risk Factor Collaboration, 2016). One of the main reasons for the increase in obesity is the general lack of physical exercise, often caused by a lack of motivation. To combat this, a variety of apps and fitness trackers have introduced the combination of social aspects of a community with physical exercise. People often find themselves more motivated if they can share their results afterwards or engage in a (subjective) virtual competition (Chen & Pu, 2014). A startup called StepBet takes these incentive-based activity apps to the next level by including financial compensation for the number of steps you set outdoor.
How does it work?
StepBet (currently in beta) is an app for smartphones that allows users to bet on their own behavior using their existing activity tracker. After joining a game, users bet around 50 euros on a personalized goal of daily steps to complete for a few weeks. If their goal is met after the specified period, they receive a cut of the total stake in the game. If users don’t meet their goals, the money they put in is distributed to the other players. The business model of StepBet tells us that StepBet retains 15% of the total pot, unless the game only consists of paying premium users (Stepbet, 2018).
Although not all the money goes towards the players, StepBet has been proven to be very effective in motivating players. Past research has shown that long-term motivation and engagement is increased by providing a combination of user interface elements, financial- and social incentives for exercise (Mitchell et al., 2013). Next to central financial incentives, the online community potentially influences the participation rate of StepBet by motives such as enjoyment or reputation in the community (Hamari, Sjöklint, & Ukkonen, 2016). The feeling of connectedness is both present in the community and within the games, although the players within the game could be less positive due to the competitive nature of the game. After all, the more players fail to meet their goal, the more profit the succeeding players receive.
The business model of StepBet is quite unusual, yet it seems that both the company and the connected users benefit from the system. StepBet receives revenue of participating users or paid memberships, but their business model also encourages physical activity. While StepBet does take a share of the profit that is actually meant for the ones that accomplish their goals, those users don’t really notice. Simultaneously, the users do reach their goals while potentially earning some money and participating in a rising community. Therefore the joint profitability is considered high.
Although the benefits are clear for the parties that use StepBet, the future is not that clear. Because the business model is new in a sense that users bet money for their own physical activity, the final version of the app should maintain a strict policy. Some examples of risks that StepBet is facing are cheating users and the appropriate penalties, the security of financial resources, and legal issues. According to the law, users StepBet are not officially gambling, but the company is undoubtedly subject to strict regulations. The current terms and agreements are extensive, but it is very important to reevaluate them regularly. A final potential risk is the high competitiveness within the community of the platform, which may cause contrary effect of an online community as discussed before (Hamari et al., 2016). However, the social-political environment could provide opportunities since it helps to increase the worldwide activity levels of the populations and similarly, the people using the app seem to be very satisfied with the results (according to the online reviews; 4,5 star rating on Google play and Apple store). Concluding, the institutional environment is not as favorable as the joint profitability due to some risks and the subjugation of regulations, but should not block the growth of StepBet as a whole.
Chen, Y., & Pu, P. (2014, April). HealthyTogether: exploring social incentives for mobile fitness applications. In Proceedings of the second international symposium of chinese chi (pp. 25-34). ACM.
Hamari, J., Sjöklint, M., & Ukkonen, A. (2016). The sharing economy: Why people participate in collaborative consumption. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67(9), 2047-2059.
Mitchell, M. S., Goodman, J. M., Alter, D. A., John, L. K., Oh, P. I., Pakosh, M. T., & Faulkner, G. E. (2013). Financial incentives for exercise adherence in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. American journal of preventive medicine, 45(5), 658-667.
NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. (2016). Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19· 2 million participants. The Lancet, 387(10026), 1377-1396.
Stepbet (2018). Walk More. Win Money | StepBet for iOS. [online] Stepbet.com. Available at: https://www.stepbet.com/faq/ [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].