Q&A with Gareth Nettleton, Strava’s VP of Marketing. By Jonathan Ancer
The app was launched in 2009 – what have been some of the most significant changes in the last seven years?
Our biggest shift has been the use of mobile devices for using Strava; the rise of the smartphone has meant that just about anybody can now use Strava, and turn their phone into an advanced cycle or run computer. More recently, the combination of the incredible member growth we’ve seen, and the tools we offer – kudos, comments, photo-sharing, and ride- and run-tagging – have helped us become a true social network for athletes; far more than ‘just’ a tracking app.
Why do you think Strava is so popular?
We have such a broad audience of athletes now, that if you ask 100 Strava members what they love about Strava, you could get 100 different answers. There are certain trends we see, and generally that’s around Strava providing a digital platform for athletes that enhances their athletic experience, and connects them to their riding or running buddies no matter where they are in the world. It could be segments, which help athletes compare their performances against their friends, themselves or the wider Strava community. Or the motivation our athletes get from their own communities on Strava, through our social-networking tools.
Have there been features that have been introduced that the public didn’t like (and what were they)?
It doesn’t happen very often, as we conduct a lot of testing with beta groups prior to full launch of any feature; but it has happened. In 2015, we launched Annual Achievements, which gave yearly KoMs/QoMs, as well as all-time ones. After member feedback, we changed the awards that we gave on a yearly basis, and instead encouraged members to use filtered leaderboards if they want to define results by a particular year. Strava the company is full of athletes, so we like to think that our team is reflective of our member base; and therefore, well-set to come up with great features and product enhancements that we would use ourselves.
Where is the technology heading?
I think technology is heading towards Strava offering more of a service in the ‘during’ element of a ride. We cater well for the ‘pre-‘, through training plans, motivation, goals – and the ‘after’, through uploading, analysis and social features. But the during phase is something we’ve been working on, and we can use available technologies to benefit our members – especially on mobile devices. Live Segments is an example of this, with Strava members now being able to track their progress against a segment in real time. We’ll build on this, and are looking at ways of making the live/real-time activity experience even better.
What do you think has been the app’s most significant impact?
I think our most significant impact has been bringing together millions of athletes across the globe, with a common interest.
Is there any advice you can give cyclists on how to get the best out of Strava, to improve their performance?
Consider upgrading to Strava Premium. We have a host of advanced tools for cyclists to help them use Strava to improve their performance: we have training plans, Suffer Score, Fitness and Freshness, annual goals, training videos, power analysis, and more. These unlocked features can really help cyclists analyse their training in detail, and work towards key goals.
Do you think Strava has changed the way cyclists ride – and if so, how?
I think Strava’s made cycling more interesting and rewarding when riding alone. And I think Strava has created more water-cooler talking points, stemming from the social elements of the platform. Seeing where friends are riding, seeing their photos, and giving kudos for their improvements are all things that extend the enjoyment of a ride. When you ride in a group, you’re matched with other Strava members who’ve uploaded the same ride – again, it’s a chance to connect and extend the ride experience.
What feedback have you received, and how has this influenced developments?
We have a really big beta programme, so before anything goes out to the general public, it’s tested with a significant portion of our member base.
And if it doesn’t do well in that phase, we’ll always re-assess; so really, the process of constant release-test-iterate is how we build our product.