Date Published: July 21, 2017
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Mark Janssen, Jeroen Scheerder, Erik Thibaut, Aarnout Brombacher, Steven Vos, Gaël Guilhem.
Individual and unorganized sports with a health-related focus, such as recreational running, have grown extensively in the last decade. Consistent with this development, there has been an exponential increase in the availability and use of electronic monitoring devices such as smartphone applications (apps) and sports watches. These electronic devices could provide support and monitoring for unorganized runners, who have no access to professional trainers and coaches. The purpose of this paper is to gain insight into the characteristics of event runners who use running-related apps and sports watches. This knowledge is useful from research, design, and marketing perspectives to adequately address unorganized runners’ needs, and to support them in healthy and sustainable running through personalized technology. Data used in this study are drawn from the standardized online Eindhoven Running Survey 2014 (ERS14). In total, 2,172 participants in the Half Marathon Eindhoven 2014 completed the questionnaire (a response rate of 40.0%). Binary logistic regressions were used to analyze the impact of socio-demographic variables, running-related variables, and psychographic characteristics on the use of running-related apps and sports watches. Next, consumer profiles were identified. The results indicate that the use of monitoring devices is affected by socio-demographics as well as sports-related and psychographic variables, and this relationship depends on the type of monitoring device. Therefore, distinctive consumer profiles have been developed to provide a tool for designers and manufacturers of electronic running-related devices to better target (unorganized) runners’ needs through personalized and differentiated approaches. Apps are more likely to be used by younger, less experienced and involved runners. Hence, apps have the potential to target this group of novice, less trained, and unorganized runners. In contrast, sports watches are more likely to be used by a different group of runners, older and more experienced runners with higher involvement. Although apps and sports watches may potentially promote and stimulate sports participation, these electronic devices do require a more differentiated approach to target specific needs of runners. Considerable efforts in terms of personalization and tailoring have to be made to develop the full potential of these electronic devices as drivers for healthy and sustainable sports participation.
This paper focuses on event runners’ usage of running-related smartphone applications (apps) and sports watches. Running is one of the most popular forms of sports participation in Western Europe. Currently, in the EU-28, there are approximately 50 million running participants. This is almost 10% of the total EU-28 population . In the US, approximately 42 million people (of a total population of 323 million citizens) partake in running . The running boom is consistent with a more general development toward more recreational, unorganized, and lighter forms of sports [1,3]. Some of the interesting qualities of running are its health-related focus, imposes hardly any restrictions on age, requires no specific infrastructure, and can be practiced independently of time and place [4,5]. Running attracts diverse participants in terms of socio-demographic characteristics such as age, sex, and socio-economic status [6,7], but also in terms of motives (e.g., health, freedom, social experience, fun, and performance enhancement) [8,9] and experience (e.g. both novice and experienced runners).
Results show that more than 8 out of 10 (86.2%) runners (n = 1,995) used at least one monitoring device over the past 12 months. More than half of the participants (54.9%) reported the use of apps, while 60.5% used a sports watch; approximately 1 out of 4 participants used both apps and a sports watch (27.0%). The brand specific analysis revealed that the most popular app among runners is Runkeeper (50.8%), followed by Runtastic (16.0%), and Nike+ Running (11.1%). Garmin was found to be the most popular brand among users of sports watches (43.9%), whereas Polar (27.4%), TomTom, and Nike (both 7.4%) are used less.
The aim of this study was to gain insight into the characteristics of event runners who use apps and sports watches, and to identify the determinants factors of event runners’ usage of apps and sports watches. Gaining insight into which runners use apps and sports watches is key to support runners in healthy and sustainable running (contributing to a decrease in drop-out rates in running) and to adequately address runners in their capacities as consumers. The literature showed that expenditures on wearable monitoring devices are rising in the sporting goods market. Monitoring devices have a considerable and growing share in the total expenditures on running [8,63]. The results in this paper confirm the use of monitoring devices in running; 86% of the participants in the selected half marathon had reportedly used at least one or two monitoring devices over the past 12 months. Results show that about 60% of the respondents use a sports watch. More than half of the respondents reported the use of apps (53.3%). When these results are combined, there is also a considerable group (27.0%) that use both apps and sports watches, while 14% of the event runners use no wearables at all. The brand-specific analysis reveals that the most popular app among runners is Runkeeper, followed by Runtastic and Nike+ Running. Statistics from different app stores are in line with these findings [23,24]. Garmin was found to be the most popular brand among users of sports watches, whereas Polar, TomTom, and Nike are used less.
In recent years, there has been an exponential increase in the availability and use of sports and health-related apps, activity trackers, and sports watches. The sporting goods industry has embraced technology in developing products that can motivate and coach people to become and remain active. The findings in this study provide a better understanding of runners’ determinants of running-related apps and sports watch usage. From the results of the logistic regression models, it is possible to estimate the probability of using apps and sports watches for different runner profiles. The constructed consumer profiles provide a tool for designers and manufacturers of electronic running-related devices to better target runners through personalized and differentiated approaches. Segmentation considered socio-demographics, sports-related characteristics, and psychographic variables, which seem to have effectively differentiated between app users and sports watch users.