A blog by Erica Virtue.
“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” – Jack Welch
I recently switched to Strava to track my bike rides, and it got me thinking about what makes some products so much better than others. Of course, design and UI/UX are incredibly important, as is having a product that works. But, sometimes you come across a product that is special – its creators seem to really “get it.”
Strava is an excellent example of a product that gets it. I’ve used pretty much every fitness tracker in the App Store, and while I really like some aspects of each of these apps, I couldn’t find anything that nailed tracking for cycling until I found out about Strava.
So, what sets Strava apart? I think that Strava’s real competitive advantage comes from its focus. Instead of trying to track every possible fitness activity, Strava focused on cycling (they also have a separate app for running). Even better, the product was built by actual cyclists. They clearly understand their target market and have included features that only a real cyclist would think of.
Cyclists definitely have their own culture. Even within cycling culture, there are subcultures of roadies, mountain bikers, downhillers, weekend warriors, and (I hate to include them) hipsters. Cycling culture even has its own language (If you’ve ever bonked, gotten road rash, and you know that aero bars aren’t just for eating, then you’re probably a cyclist).
Strava really embraces cycling culture. You can give “kudos” to your friends for their rides, check out your “suffer score,” or become “KOM/QOM” (King/Queen of the Mountain) for a segment of your ride. Strava also gets that competitive cycling revolves around clubs and it lets you search/add clubs in your area.
These might not seem like major distinguishers, but they demonstrate that Strava understands and identifies with its customers. These little touches make you feel more at home with the app and I find myself spending more time on the Strava site because of it. The cultural features of Strava are something that someone who didn’t know anything about cycling would never have even considered adding to their app.
Cycling is a competitive sport. Even casual local criteriums and Cat 5 road races can get competitive. Strava captures the competitive nature of cyclists with its Segments feature. “Segments are user-created, user-edited, and designate a portion of route where users can compete for time.” If you’re the fastest rider on a segment, then you become the KOM/QOM. Segments can be climbs, sprints, descents, time trials, or loops, and they can get really competitive. The Three Sisters segment in Central Park has been ridden 33,569 times.
I find Strava’s segments incredibly motivating. They’ve really captured cyclists’ competitive nature and also provided a great way to discover new routes and get you out riding and using the app more.
Strava has cultivated a great community of users. The site is very social and encourages you to interact with other users (not just your friends). Whether you are competing for KOM of a segment, searching for a local club, or following a Pro, Strava helps you feel more connected to the local cycling community.
Strava also does a good job of serving up the data that you want, without bombarding you with meaningless statistics. Again, they focus on just the factors cyclists would find meaningful – time, speed, cadence, elevation, and power. I am sure that with the amount of data that they are collecting, they could spit graphs and charts galore at their users, but I think there is real power in keeping things simple. This is another area where Strava was able to identify what metrics their users would care most about because of their cycling expertise and experience.
If you couldn’t tell, I really, really like Strava. But I’m not alone on this one – Strava has more 5-star reviews than I’ve ever seen for a fitness app in the App Store. I think Strava is a great example of a product that gets its competitive advantage from its team. Its creators made a product to solve a pain point that they actually had, which I think is much more powerful than creating a product to solve a problem that you think other people might have. When you truly understand your customers (and you are your best customer), then YOU are your startup’s competitive advantage.