STRAVA *Free* – Fit for purpose in 2021?

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STRAVA *Free* – Fit for purpose in 2021?

We know that

STRAVA needs to make money

before the VC cash runs dry. Yet they also need to keep accumulating our data to ensure their service remains meaningful to everyone using it.

STRAVA’s historical strategy seems to have been to accumulate a critical mass of users and their data at a cost. Going forward the strategy now seems starkly clear: FREEMIUM – ie a FREE service to retain a critical mass of fresh user data combined with a feature-rich PREMIUM service delivering analytics, plans, routing and more. Gone are the nuanced and confusing premium packages, gone is any pretence to want to capture real performance data in the STRAVA app, and was there ever really a significant B2B market for their data insights in METRO?

I am positive that we will see more new PREMIUM features this year like running power support, I suspect that we will see more features slipping from what is currently FREE to PREMIUM, and I’m just hoping that there will be more general bug fixing, tidying up and presentational improvements.

Same old, same old. As Dory once said, “Just keep swimming.”

STRAVA-Italy

Looking ahead, I just can’t see that great new WOW feature popping its elusive head over the dimly lit horizon – something like a dedicated STRAVA bike computer, for example, probably isn’t going to happen ie something that could deliver a big chunk of new paying customers. Sure the hinted-at running power support would make me happy, let’s say that would add a generously large chunk of 5,000 NEW paying users, that’s $250,000pa or 4-5 STRAVA salaries. Not much in the grand schemes of VC-world.

Thus, in the absence of several nice juicy carrots to entice people to pay, STRAVA will have to use the stick method to force some of us to pay which means paring back the capabilities of FREE-STRAVA to its bare bones but…

What are those bare bones to you?

What would be just enough to keep you uploading your data for STRAVA to use? In my mind, I see the free STRAVA service giving us

  • Sports data glue and sports social glue – it’s just a handy place we can all share regardless of whether or not we use smartphones, Garmins or something else. It’s inclusive and it can get our data somewhere else relatively easily too.
  • Segments – This IS the essence of STRAVA. Few of us are likely to be good enough to get meaningful KOM/QOMs, so segments just show us microcosms of personal progress or that we are better than all our mates up a nearby hill. Except group leaderboards are going premium and so are many of your personal segment-specific insights. Sure you might be shown a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal emoji every now and then on your local rides, which is very nice but once you’ve done a route 15, or so, times, even those become elusive. From a personal perspective, my sporting mind’s interest level starts to wander elsewhere once it becomes nearly impossible to have some manifest display of improvement. Only this week we saw STRAVA counter this to a small degree with the addition of Local Legends.
  • Route sharing – yep STRAVA is a nice way to get a route to your bike computer or share to friends’ bike computers. It’s handy because it supports your friends who don’t have Garmins. Yet Garmin themself, Ride With GPS and Komoot are all trying to play in the route sharing game too, maybe they will find a better and more inclusive solution for us? Plus, how much time do you spend each month curating and sharing a route? 5 minutes?10 minutes tops? Is STRAVA worth it for that? I guess you could also create routes in STRAVA and leverage the STRAVA heatmap to do that but, again, that’s going premium and there are plenty of route plotting alternatives.
  • Post-ride stats – I mean, STRAVA’s basic post-ride stats are highly similar to those on your bike computer or, if not, they are the same as the summary stats on your bike computer’s data platform/app. If you want to look at summary ride stats then look on your Elemnt, look on your Edge or on Garmin Connect or Polar Flow – there are MANY places to see simple stats and several places to see extensive ride analyses. Simple stats are easy and everywhere, more advanced analysis is also available for free elsewhere (eg ELEVATE/STRAVISTIX)…as well as behind the STRAVA paywall if you want to get such (limited) insights from STRAVA.
  • It’s great to compete with club members and see how you fare on a club leaderboard, it adds that element of digital sociability and competition. Again the leaderboards are now mostly going premium and if one or two or three key club riders haven’t got STRAVA premium then where is the incentive to compete on the leaderboard? Answer: behind the paywall.
  • It’s also great if and when you go on a cycling holiday with mates. I was surprised that I enjoyed a post-ride beer with 6 other people as we each tried to show how STRAVA proved we were better than each other over segments on the day’s ride (in a nice and genuinely fun way). If only 2 out of 6 people on a group ride have the premium account required to give access to the day’s leaderboard whilst on holiday then it’s just like the club leaderboard…it suddenly creates insiders and outsiders and that kind of exclusivity isn’t going to help STRAVA force people to stump up the cash. And that’s a shame because, in the example of ‘my holiday’, we all either had Wahoos or Garmins..so there was no other obvious way than STRAVA to do the social stuff.
  • STRAVA is good at a showing your followers/mates a quick map of where you’ve ridden today accompanied with witty one-liner intellectual comments like ”Weeeeeee flying today“. Maybe you will add a special picture of a mountain pass, as you do on Facebook, to prove that you’ve been somewhere where your friends can’t afford to go, or just can’t go as they’re stuck behind a desk. Maybe you can demonstrate your exotic trips to various Pacific Islands and ‘famous’ cities on Zwift? If not then at least there are the new FREE leaderboards for LOCAL LEGEND status. I guess there probably is traction here for STRAVA in the inaneness of social media which we all love to engage with to varying degrees and maybe this particular facet of STRAVA will entice millions of FREE STRAVA users to keep handing over their data? Maybe.

I’m struggling to see the point of what free-STRAVA is increasingly becoming. Is it really just super-simple activity recording on an app, links to other sports hardware devices and the social network as this table from STRAVA suggests? Or is there more?

 

Features Free Subscription
Activity Recording Y Y
Device Support Y Y
Social Network Y Y
Route Planning Y
Segment Competition Y
Training Dashboard Y
HR & Power Analysis Y
Advanced Metrics Y
Goal Setting Y
Training Log Y
Compare Efforts Y
Beacon Y
Personal Heatmaps Y
Partner Perks Y
Premium Support Y

 

And many of you will, at the same time say, I’m not getting PREMIUM STRAVA unless it includes X, Y or Z. We all have our pet STRAVA peeves on that topic – like I would love to be able to see a triathlon as a single event or 3 separate events. But that’s a small picture thing and it’s just focussing on the costs and benefits side fo the arguments for STRAVA Premium.

Where is the big picture that will keep FREE STRAVA relevant to TENS of millions of people?

It looks like STRAVA could well become stuck between a rock and a hard place and end up getting squashed if the cash runs out and if the free data also starts to dry up. Then the corporate fun and games would start.

It’s been said that STRAVA is too big and too unnecessary for Garmin to buy – and that’s likely true; yet what would happen if, say, Google wanted to buy STRAVA to make Fitbit even more social? Would Garmin be commercially forced to bid for it for fear of being cut off from Google-STRAVA or charged by Google-STRAVA or would Garmin boost up and open up their own segment offering on their CONNECT platform? Interesting times may lie ahead in the not-too-distant future.

Hopefully, that was thought-provoking and a distraction from the normal question to determine what it is worth paying for STRAVA premium.

Question: What makes FREE STRAVA worth using or what needs to be removed to just make you stop using it…period.?

Bring on the ads…

 

 

 

 

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31 thoughts on “STRAVA *Free* – Fit for purpose in 2021?

  1. I already stopped using it once, Its on the border for me – the only gain I have is the social part and I could live without it. Sometimes its fun to play the encounters game and see if any runner i met are using Strava and what paths they are running – but that too is something I can live without.

      1. It’s oddly entertaining to stalk other runners that way, but it was a good way to get ideas for new routes as well. After a while its just the same people though and the same routes so I becomes less interesting by time. But – already using Garmin Connect, Stryd Power Center and Final Surge and Polar Flow (out of habit), now I mostly just upload data to Strava and sometimes check in to give kudos.

        1. what do you think of Final Surge.
          I meant to move over to them in earnest this year, jsut never quite pulled the lever. (plus waiting for some of their upcoming software to ‘come’)

  2. I made my profile private as the whole social thing was proving a distraction to my training. I had a premium account at one time but changed it back to the free version as I found myself preferring the likes of Runalyze and elevate for my geekfill of stats anyhow.

  3. At this point, I’m not sure there’s anything left for them to put behind the paywall without actually denying free users access to their own data, or am I missing something? I found Strava useful mostly for the shoe tracking (now available in Stryd app AND Runalyse, among the services I use) and the ability to view matched runs (now behind the paywall but can possibly be implemented in more powerful ways in Runalyse if you tag your runs right), and I quite liked but didn’t really need the training log (now behind the paywall). I couldn’t care less about segments or leaderboards, and I can take or leave the social stuff. So all in all, there isn’t enough there to make it worth my while to pay €60 per year, but I’d sign up for €15.
     
    If, however, they figure out a way to cripple the free service still further, I may reconsider whether I want to hand them any more of my data on a plate. One way or another they ARE monetising the data from free accounts, even if it’s just to enhance the experience of paying users, and why would I make them a gift of mine if they’re giving nothing back?

  4. I already cancelled the Free Subscription they gave me. Whatever metrics they are offering, are already either in the device i’m using, or I get from other systems that don’t cost anything.
     
    I get no insight about my training from relative effort that I don’t already get from my device or from my own natural ability to tell if I’m overworking, underworking myself.
     
    The only reason I can see people using Strava, is for the social aspect I guess. And since i’m both a introverted person and a lone trainer not looking to share anything with anyone for any reason, Strava is pointless for me.

    1. This.
      All the recovery and training load metrics are already on my Polar watch and Flow platform.
      Strava doesn’t give me more than i already have, it gives even less imo.

  5. I cancelled my Summit membership a couple of months back, as I was getting no value from the premium features. Much of the analysis stuff is linked to road riding; I do a lots of other stuff: MTB, run, swim, row, hike, canicross, climb, workout in the gym, etc….. but I don’t have a road bike (a whole world of expense I can’t justify). So over 50% of the features that Strava made such a big thing of are valueless to me. The thing I got Summit for was live segments whilst running and, for exactly the reasons TFK has articulated, tracking segments over routine training has lost its allure over time. Flybys is something I’ll miss and the ability to compare segments with friends after a group MTB ride or run, but not worth the Summit price. I know Strava don’t want multiple pay tiers, but all my friends agreed we’d likely pay £10/year for a ‘social’ membership, to get the full segments and flyby type stuff back. As it is now, if Garmin were to open up Connect a tiny bit more and enhance the social bit, we’d probably all ditch Strava free and go there instead.

      1. I suspect it won’t be as straight forward as I would like to think though. To ‘open up’ Garmin Connect as the universal replacement for Strava, they’d have to: make sure you can auto-upload activities from all their competitors’ platforms, add a way to record activities on your phone using Garmin Connect Mobile (perhaps seen as creating competition for their devices) and allow newcomers to create a Connect account in the app without pairing a Garmin device. The self created competition might be worth it though; if everyone gathered in Garmin Square instead of Strava Circle as their exercise social meeting point of choice, Garmin’s name would be laser etched on people’s minds as they make future device purchasing decisions (let alone the monetisation of mass global activity data for marketing angle).

  6. what if someone else decided to fill the gap in the market that Strava free used to occupy, it wouldn’t be that hard would it, say #Relive?

    1. well. that has been going through my head over the last few days too.
      I’m involved in an app devt at the moment (not related to strava in this way) and am tempted to get the whole team to jump ship over to a similar idea to what you are hinting at.
      it would have to be different to STRAVA…but I have some ideas on how to fill the gap you talk about.
      having said that garmin do segments and IIRC RwGPS do as well. as per the article though, its getting RELEVANT segments that matter and one element of that is the critical mass of people giving free data to make them relavent.

      1. there’s the critical mass in the free subscribers on Strava, they’re not loyal to Strava, there’s just no other option out there which aggregates all the different watch manufacturers. I think Strava should have done more monetising the data rather than charge the people who create the data, imagine if Google or similar tried such a thing? It can’t be hard to do, strop out the stuff people don’t need (like using it to record runs in the first place, that’s what the watches are for), get challenges and segments sponsored, a few adverts on the social feed, and that is enough to start. even running heroes app could be expanded to include this

        1. I don’t even think you need to develop an app, those companies mentioned already have that, if you can build something that integrates into those apps on a b2b or b2b2c basis then you could sell that integration to multiple apps if they want it, that’s where the smart money is from what I’ve learnt working with others

  7. I think if the monthly subscription is something like 0.49-0.99 dollars they will get millions of new subscribers. Which is definitely much better than a mere 5000 new subscribers with their current expensive rate.

      1. Well, they should try! I am ready to be a paying subscriber at a sub-1-dollar monthly rate, but not for 5 dollars a month.

        1. I would like to pay 5 $ / month but the actual cost is 8 $. Why is everyone talking about $ 5 as there is no such fee.

          1. If you pay a year at a time, it’s $60, which works out to $5 a month. If you pay month to month, then yes, it’s $8 a month. If it was $30 a year, I’d sign up right now. At $40 a year, I’d probably grunt and sign up. I get that they need to make a profit to keep going, but for the things I use it for, $60 a year is excessive. Of all the things they took away, right now I only really miss the matched runs.

  8. I was a paying supporter for some time and it was not for the paid for features but to support an app I like, I stopped that when it became clear that what strava wanted and what the users wanted were not even in the same universe. Instead of fixing bugs we got “blog posts” instead of new features we lost features. Instead of encouraging us to pay by listening to us and giving us what they want, they decided to alienate us and give us even less reason to pay and even more reason to simply not use it.

    The actual reason I ended up buying a garmin is purely because strava data quality is abysmal. I personally found over 3 months of activity tracing up to 40% differences is elevation and up to 15% difference in millage. Most of the times strava was short by those margins. For some reason only garmin data is treated as gospel truth, if you where to use TomTom, suunto or any other wearable sports device strava would simply obliterate your data.

    Personally I would have dropped it long ago, but for 1 simple useful thing for me, my MTB service tracking app only integrates with strava for getting my bikes and millage, that is the single, solitary reason I still use it, segments are a nice to have at the best of times. If I were to loose it it would mean nothing to me.

    They would need to work hard to even keep me once my service tracker no longer needs them and even harder to convince me to pay them again.

  9. For me I think it’s about time that Strava recognised the sub categories under “cycling”, road bikes are not the only 2 wheeled option,MTB, E-MTB etc should be catered for both in your personal settings and gear settings so as the different categories show up on leaderboards etc, roadies get peeved when someone beats their times on an E-Bike but if there were specific categories within leaderboards then miaybe everyone could get along, there’s a great deal more that Strava need to achieve before it’s worth paying for.

    1. “great deal more that Strava needs to achieve before it’s worth paying for.” yes, if STRAVA wants to appeal to ‘everyone’ then they need to provide features that everyone wants to keep getting our free data. As you perhaps suggest, will an e-MTB user have the same ‘needs’ that I have? Maybe, maybe not. What are the common threads that link us all as cyclists and runners? Is it just ‘sociability’ and ‘segments’?

  10. I’ll be sad to lose the leaderboards and the matched runs when my free trial membership expires, but not enough to shell out for the ongoing fee. At 99p a month, or similar, I’d be happy to support them. I’m quite a casual runner, though. Maybe there are enough fanatics to fund their plans.
    As for moving to another app, the hard part is getting all your friends to jump to the same alternative. The value is in the network.

    1. “The value is in the network.” indeed so. The danger to STRAVA is that singing up to link your data to an additional network is easy and you can do both but i agree there would be inertia.

  11. I cancelled my subscription the day they made the recent ‘Segements to Paid’ change… It’s not about the money… just that they’re %^$%ing the overall community value of the platform.

    What it’s become now is a data collection platform.

    If Garmin want to do something reasonably incendiary they should show a prompt every 3 months of so for users to confirm their 3rd party app pairing.

    “You are syncing data from Garmin Connect to Strava. Do you want to continue sharing data to Strava or delete this connection?”
    Continue/Delete

    Almost certain I’ll forget to remove the sync once I’m done and likely that as long as they still get my data they’ll be happy… so Garmin/Wahoo et al ought to force their hand on that.

    1. that would be interesting if it happened! and would almost certainly pan out how you suggest.

      Garmin and strava have a somewhat symbiotic, yet in a way one-way relationship.
      Garmin has a commercial backup with their own GC-based segments.
      I suspect garmin will adopt a ‘do-nothing’ strategy in the short term.

  12. Great customer value perspective, but this won’t determine Strava’s future. You need to look at the paths to profitability for venture based freemium services. There are three obvious ones:

    1. Exit from an acquisition
    2. Premium subscription revenue
    3. Monetize free accounts

    All of these avenues in 2020 are now problematic for Strava, and the clock is quickly ticking.

    #1. This requires a company to see value to monetize the customer list. Since they aren’t profitable, this essentially means buying a customer list to upsell them on different products. The major apparel companies tried this route 5 to 6 years ago at crazy valuations. But the fitness tech market is very different now, and honestly Strava doesn’t compete with the customer numbers compared to the Runkeeper and Map My Run worlds. Been there done that. Do the math on the current funds raised in venture rounds, multiply by the necessary VC return, and divide by the number of monthly visitors to Strava. There is your cost of acquisition for an email. Then do the math on conversion rate to sell them a new product and profit margin from the product you are selling. None of this pencils out. And if it does, it means Strava becomes frozen in amber to minimize costs, since they acquiring company now has it’s hands on what they want – the email list of customers.

    #2. Requires increasing the value to premium customers to increase the conversion rate. I think you covered this well. This ship has probably already sailed right?

    #3. So… advertising? And maybe combine with #2 where premium becomes an ad-free experience? But this means Strava is no longer a sports fitness company, it is a media and advertising company, and it’s customers are brands looking to market products, not cyclists. And it’s fighting against Facebook and Google. Oof.

    There’s a fourth strategy which is to become profitable by drastically cutting costs and shrinking their customer base to in effect increase conversion to premium. This doesn’t allow them to pay back their VC, but maybe keeps them above water so they don’t have to close. Except there’s a problem with this idea – the core value of Strava is based on social network effects. When the customer base gets too small, the value drops. And this curve is brutal. A vicious downward spiral.Hello MySpace.

    My money is on a pivot to advertising, or closing the doors within 12 months.

    1. thank you for the considered comment – much appreciated.
      I love to argue….but find it difficult to argue with what you have said. (#4 won’t work it needs user volumes to create ever-changing relevant data.)

      I write about STRAVA on and off and have done so over the years. I did some back of a cigarette packet calculations on the advertising and the $ number appears big for STRAVA (I’m not a big strava fan but I would probably have 6 strava page impressions a day and two ad units would be cool – those stats link into the maths if anyone wants to do it – I’m maybe worth 0.5 cents a day to them? something like that IIRC). It seems the obvious route to go but they must not be doing it for a reason which might be the number of real users (eg I have 3 accounts and my partner’s friends all use strava for couch to 5k…2 months time none of them will use it)

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