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Beyond a fitness app –
How Strava conquered their users’ commitment & loyalty


  • How to transform new app sign-ups into engaged users

  • How to use gamification to bring the power of community into play

  • How gamification can make you stand out in your industry

Strava is a fitness-tracking app that helps professional athletes and amateurs to track their physical activities. In 2022 Strava had 95 million active users, with two million added every month.

These key statistics reveal that Strava excels at bringing in new users, but what’s more important is that Strava distinguishes itself by turning new sign-ups into active and engaged users on the Strava app.


Although many fitness apps focus on individualistic progress, Strava wanted more than that. The co-founders, Mark Gainey and Michael Horvath were striving to build a community. They wanted their users to encourage and challenge one another, celebrating small wins and big achievements. Truly, they believed that the integrity of the community was essential to keeping any app alive.

While some fitness apps have community features, like adding friends or community sharing, those elements are not engaging in the long run. Strava knew this and was trying to make a change.

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At its core, Strava tracks workouts, but that’s just what any other fitness app does. However, there is much more to the app.

Most fitness apps struggle to retain their users, due to their simple interface. What Strava had in their favor, was their goal – community building. They decided to employ gamification to realize it. You may think that it ended with a leaderboard or referral feature.

On the contrary, the fitness app Strava gamified much more. Nevertheless, to create a community, one has to have loyal users, and this cannot be built through simple sharing and competition features only.


Here’s what you can learn from Strava gamification mechanics:

1. Use the power of network

Access to a social network that allows for communication and encouragement is important for user retention. On Strava, users can follow each other’s progress and give ‘kudos’ – features that reinforce social validation and inner motivation. In other words, Strava’s platform fosters community, where athletes can both track and share their activities with friends. Consequently, this increases an app’s popularity and creates word-of-mouth marketing, which sparks authentic user attraction.

2. Sustain motivation with rewards

Strava motivates users of all levels with awards and badges, retaining existing and attracting potential customers. By providing tangible progress milestones, Strava helps beginners establish exercise routines and pushes experienced fitness enthusiasts toward their goals. As Strava leverages rewards and badges to inspire users at various points in their fitness journey, the app strengthens its user acquisition efforts and encourages engagement on its app.

3. Boost competition and celebrate personal bests with leaderboards

The Strava leaderboard ranks athletes who match on the same activity, igniting a competitive spirit. This excites users, through feelings of social recognition or simply friendly rivalry.

However, falling behind in the leaderboard can also be demotivating. That’s why Strava automatically creates a user’s segmented leaderboard of personal bests to reward them for getting fitter and stronger. This way the fitness app uses leaderboards to uplift users, incentivize competitiveness, and provide progress tracking.


We looked together into a few of the gamification features Strava smartly introduced. With these features Strava not only became one of the top fitness apps, but it conquered the user’s commitment and engagement in the long run.

There’s a good reason why Strava’s slogan is “If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen”.

One of the most efficient ways to make your app sticky is to transcend the simple functional values of your app like Strava did. They gave an authentic meaning to their app by supporting the power of community with gamification features. In addition, they made fitness tracking more awarding, by embracing fun and gamified milestones.

Gamification was for Strava a natural fit. But with just a bit of creativity and the proper support, gamification can be implemented in any kind of service.