Can great user experiences help you live longer?

Digital user experiences aren't just about making websites intuitive and easy to use. Experiences leave an impression on us. They describe an encounter that traverses all aspects of what it means to engage with something, whether that's a business or a product, digitally or otherwise.

Great experiences can have a fundamental affect on our lives, and I'd like to share one with you that's been particularly impressive over the last couple of weeks... and it's not Pokemon Go.

As you may have gathered looking through our team page, exercise, fitness and sport is a mainstay of many people's lives here at Adido. There's Mark and Luke with their running, Jane with her CrossFit and Kherrin with her hockey team. Not to mention Andy's MMA and Monika's Thai boxing they've got going on (ask them more about that!). There are other people too, but this list is already long enough.

I am not on that list.

Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love sport... from the sidelines. But the idea of being out of breath and sweating just sounds more trouble than it's worth.

I'm not entirely lazy either. I've played a bit of 5-a-side football every now and again, but general incompetence and a lack of regular game time (combined with almost no willingness to exhaust myself) has very much kept it at the "casual" end of the spectrum, rather than something I'd claim to be a pillar of my everyday.

However, somehow, quite unexpectedly, that's all changed.

The company's private health package recently changed providers, moving to VitalityHealth™, who coincidently happen to base themselves across the road from us, 200 meters from our office. They're also the stadium sponsors for AFC Bournemouth, so being the fickle football fan that I am as soon as it was mentioned that our insurance was moving to them I felt this was probably a good thing anyway (brand power, hey).

We were introduced to the details of the package, which I think took most of us by surprise. But what's even more surprising is that I'm writing a blog article about health insurance with a bout of enthusiasm, and this is why...

Vitality is health and life insurance that rewards you for being healthy. It’s the nudge to get you off the sofa, it’s the motivating friend with helpful tips to improve your life, and it’s a proven way to get healthier and be rewarded.

— pruhealth.co.uk

"Shut Up!" I can hear my old-self saying. "That's what they all say".

Basically, Vitality's been smart about this. Digitally smart. They've taken a traditionally boring concept like insurance and turned it into a product that is tangible and rewarding to customers by bringing a degree of pro-activity to it, and they've done it in a really effective way that's close to my heart (no pun intended)... mobile devices, wearables and APIs.

Each Vitality member has the opportunity to earn points for the exercise and activities they do every day. As points are accumulated members are rewarded with all sorts of prizes ranging from free coffee at Starbucks to cinema tickets, iTunes vouchers and heavily reduced flights with British Airways. These activities are automatically reported to Vitality using the data collected by everyday wearables like heart rate trackers and step counters from FitBit, Garmin et al. Ultimately, the more exercise you do, the more rewards you earn. Points can also be earned through free health and fitness checks (a lot, in fact). Oh, and there's substantial discount available on the wearables in the first place.

In the two weeks that the plan has been active, everything has changed.

Oddly, I've owned a FitBit Charge HR for many months - and I've always thought how wonderful it's looked at the bottom of my drawer. Why did I buy it? Nobody knows. But as soon as someone said "free Starbucks" I whipped that drawer open pretty fast.

Overnight I've gone from a commuter on the A338 to a 14-mile round trip cyclist enjoying the pleasures of the Bournemouth beach promenade every morning and evening.

I've trained with three different Sunday League football teams back-to-back, played beach football with the Meetball group and engaged in some (sadly, injury-inducing) trampolining. FitBit's reported that my resting heart rate had decreased by 10 bpm within 1 week.

I've collected a free Starbucks every Friday morning and accumulated just over 100 points since the plan was activated (excluding the 200 points earned by taking a wellness survey). It's only possible to collect 10 points a day, and I've only failed to do that on 2 or 3 occasions. I say this not to brag (and there is certainly nothing to brag about when you're in the company of marathon runners, Thai boxing pros and hockey captains) but for me in the space of a fortnight or so this is a substantial change - and it's all thanks to a simple integration between a set of wearable fitness trackers, a mobile app or two, and the web that links it all together.

It's a fantastic example of using digital to change the way a company engages with its customers, to the benefit of both the customer and the business (think of all the medical procedures they won't have to pay out for). The customer experience is superb, both from an engagement point of view and from a basic heath perspective. This is a big tick for the VitalityHealth™ user experience, and it's one which sees them become part of my everyday experience.

This is digital transformation, it's got my attention, and I'll probably live longer because of it.

This article was originally published on adido-digital.co.uk on 16th July 2016.

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