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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.”
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?
|HR & Power Analysis||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…