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Warming Up

Outside of work, running is one of my main passions, helping me stay sane and in shape. Even though I love my job, there’s a well-defined line between my work life and my fitness life. That’s why I’m so envious of Stephanie Peterson, CMO at Runtastic, and her team.

Runtastic, an Adidas-owned, Austria-based mobile fitness brand, was formed with the purpose of helping people lead their best lives – and connecting with its customers through engaging content, coaching, and community experiences. It built, owns, and operates about two dozen fitness-related mobile apps.

Runtastic allows its user base of more than 90,000,000 customers to develop personalized fitness plans, track their workouts and progress, and even compare workouts with other users.

Using its namesake app, Runtastics users can track numerous metrics like distance, time, pace, and calories across 18 different languages. They can also sync their data to for analysis and tracking.


But with a growing user base across multiple apps, devices, and channels, Runtastic needed a way to unify all its customer data and provide relevant, engaging communications to subscribers.

Runtastic needed to use data collected via its mobile apps to execute timely, relevant emails and in-app/push notifications.

Peterson recently spoke at Emarsys Revolution in Berlin, and discussed how the innovative fitness brand is adjusting to new digital trends and forging personalized relationships for more meaningful fitness journeys with customers.

The Race to 1-to-1 Interactions is a Marathon

The path to personalization is a marathon – not a sprint. While Peterson explained that Runtastic is not quite at the point yet where the brand is interacting with customers at a true 1-to-1 level, they get closer to this goal each day.

Peterson and her team have helped Runtastic move from a “one-to-millions” marketing approach to a “one-to-a-few” approach. She believes that with a few years to connect all the dots, Runtastic will achieve true 1-to-1 personalization.

And in an age where customers are also busy on other apps in a very fast-paced digital world, that’s no easy feat.

As Peterson explained, the world is changing rapidly, and it’s up to brands to keep pace.

With the help of AI marketing technology, Runtastic is well on its way to achieving truly personalized, one-to-one interactions in the near future.

Runtastic’s Mobile-First, Subscription-Based Business Model

“For us, it starts when someone downloads an app,” Peterson said. “Even if you’re not in the app business, you still have that moment in time when you have that initial interaction with the user.”

➤ Pro Tip: The more real estate you can take up, the less room there is for competitors to gain mindshare of your target. “Whether it’s on the App Store or a website, always consider how you can take up space to keep the competition out of the eyes of those potential users/consumers,” Peterson said. Determine your sweet spot, then own all the shelf space you can.

The brand has gotten more than 230 million app downloads to date, with about 60% of those users registering once downloading. They send 8 million messages per month via 16 apps and have gotten more than 150k app downloads!

For Runtastic, the goal is to funnel users toward its four core mobile applications, then ultimately create a subscriber.

“We try to get people to download our satellite apps, then we cross-sell or up-sell them using our different messaging systems to one of our four core apps, each based on identified “strategic fields” (cardio, strength, daily habits, and nutrition).

Runtastic’s general business model is to:

  • Encourage downloads of one of its core apps
  • Get downloading users to sign in or register (sharing key information including name, email, birthday, height, weight, etc.)
  • Move these trial users to subscribers
  • Get subscribers to finish a custom fitness test and complete a 12-week fitness plan
  • Provide enough value to subscribers that they remain a premium, active subscriber

After someone downloads an app, the first several days are crucial. Based on how each user interacts with the app, the brand can optimize how it prompts registration – both time-wise and discount-wise.

Through a personalized newsletter and in-app and push messages – powered by AI marketing technology – Runtastic is able to engage users, retain them as loyal customers, and ultimately monetize them via subscription.

How Runtastic Targets Individuals

“When I came to Runtastic five-and-a-half years ago…our content was ‘so-so’ – it was more of something we did when we had time or when we got around to it, but the quality was not great,” Peterson said.

“Now, we recognize that there’s so many similar products out there — not just in our industry, in a lot of industries – and the question is, ‘how are we going to differentiate ourselves?’ The answer is through content – meaningful, targeted content that all comes back to this idea of personalization.”

“The question is ‘how are we going to differentiate ourselves?’ The answer is…meaningful, targeted content that comes back to this idea of personalization.”

Stephanie Peterson Ex-CMO, Runtastic • LinkedIn@Runtastic

As soon as users enter Runtastic’s database by downloading and signing up via an app, they’re generating data about who they are and what they’re interested in. The brand can immediately make inferences about what particular users may be interested in and begin messaging them – at scale.

Newsletters, for instance, are sent out on a regular cadence, augmented by location-based and trigger-based information.

Examples: Newsletter, App-to-Email, Push Notifications


As part of its personalized marketing strategy, Runtastic executes newsletters. In Italy, for instance, if a user was within driving distance of Milan, they’d see an invitation to come to a free workout party on the coming weekend. People in other parts of Italy didn’t see that content because it wasn’t relevant to them. Instead, those people got a link to the blog with another chunk of content. Location awareness is one way to augment your personalized communications.

► App-to-Email

Runtastic knows who users are based on how they begin their journey with the brand. “If Mario comes into our product portfolio via the running app, it’s fair to assume that running is his best connection to the brand,” Peterson said. Allow users to self-identify, then over time you can see which app, product, etc. they use most, and how they use it. Then you can specialize content — email content like images and subject lines, for example, can be modified based on behavior in-app.

➤ Runtastics Email Tip: Peterson and company execute 10k-20k emails as tests (for particular campaigns or communications), utilizing two subject lines. Whichever resonates best is what’s used for the rest.

► Push Notifications

Push messages are always trigger-based at Runtastic. When customers finish a workout, they don’t want to push product on them. Instead, as Peterson explained, they want to help, and build a relationship in that moment. After a workout, users will receive a push notification prompting them, for instance, to visit a blog post with post-workout meal recommendations based on their preferences. Once it started adopting this philosophy, the brand saw a 90% engagement increase.

“The more we can engage with people with the right content, in the right moment, we’re going to build up relationships and loyalty – and only then will they stick with us when they’re ready to buy a product,” Peterson said.

Crossing the Finish Line

The digital age demands that companies keep up with the expectations of consumers.

Runtastic – a company literally built on a family of mobile apps and a digital-first marketing approach – exemplifies what it means to be customer-centric (and on the road to true personalization). Its survival depends upon it.

Personalization is possible. Peterson’s presentation revealed how Runtastic is currently making that journey. She stressed that teamwork, a focus on the user journey, and content are crucial to getting there.

With AI marketing technology, Runtastic has become exponentially more efficient, has seen dramatic increases in app opens attributed to automated campaigns, and can get a full picture of every customer. Its seen an uptick in almost every meaningful KPI as a result of adopting AI-enabled marketing automation technology.

Runtastic was able to use powerful cross-channel automation to easily manage its digital marketing using engaging and personalized customer content. Its able to provide fully-personalized fitness plans for all app users, at scale, and connect data points across every digital channel used by customers.

► To learn more about how Emarsys helped Runtastic achieve these results, check out the free PDF case study, here.