Riderstate will close down on December 19th, 2014.
I first brought RiderState to the attention of ScarletFire readers back in April 2014.
As someone who blogs about how digital technologies, particularly those based around gamification, can influence and motivate our activity levels, RiderState was an exciting new game to play on your bike.
Sadly, RiderState will close down on 19th December 2014.
Where did RiderState go wrong?
The bottom line is that the developers have to make a living, and the app can’t have been generating enough money to be sustainable.
There’s more to success than just having a great app that offers real value to those who use it.
Build it and they will come? Hmm, if only it were that simple.
Before diving into their monetisation or marketing strategy, I’d rather focus on the users.
Why didn’t more people join in? (Did you?)
Is the pool of potential customers too small?
Is the market too crowded for yet another cycling GPS app?
It’s like VHS and betamax all over again.
Ok, that statement made me realise my age.
Quick history lesson to anyone who wasn’t around in the 80’s:
Way before digital video, before Blu-ray, before DVD’s, there were home video recorders. You could insert blank video tapes into machines and make recordings of TV programmes. In those very early days there were two main formats battling it out for market dominance – VHS and betamax.
VHS became the ubiquitous format and synonymous with video tape. But here’s the thing, it wasn’t as good as betamax, from a technical perspective.
But – enough people jumped on board the VHS train and within a couple of years betamax was destined for the bargain bucket.
Are we all sheep?
When I wrote about RiderState, I realised that my readers were probably already Strava users. Or Garmin Connect. Or both.
Was it realistic to expect people to want to experiment with yet another bike GPS app?
Is Strava only fun because that’s where everyone else already is?
In other words, how much of a pull is the social aspect?
If it turns out to be one of the major influencers, does this limit the chance of success for any future experimental bike GPS apps?
My two cents, as they say. Lessons learned about developing bike GPS apps.
Here are some of my observations which may or may not have been a factor in the real reasons why RiderState is closing.
It was all about the phone app.
You had to record your ride using the app on your phone. There was no option to upload your gpx data from a Garmin, or sync from other services.
This might have killed it for some.
Let’s imagine two groups of cyclists, newbies trying to get fit and regular riders, either commuters or fitness/racer types.
The newbies probably don’t want to bother too much with apps. They’re still too focused on how to get off the sofa.
The regular riders on the other hand all bought Garmins to save their phone battery, so they’re damned if they’re going to record the ride twice. They already use an online platform (or three) anyway.
So I’m not sure who the ideal RiderState customer was.
If only: if only they’d opened up their service to allow data syncing with other services, and developed the website/analytics aspect earlier, this might have gained more traction.
Marketing lives or dies by effective copywriting.
RiderState was developed in Spain, by Spanish dudes. Their English is obviously good but not perfect and all their ads and emails came across as a bit clunky.
Now I actually liked this. I thought it gave them a nice distinctive, quirky presence. But I bet some were turned off by it.
It’s human nature to reject the imperfect.
If only: if only they’d invested some time/money in quality English proof-reading.
Feedback goes two ways.
One thing they did do right was to try to engage with the users and get feedback.
If you’re going to spend valuable time building something, you’d better make sure that you’re building something that people actually want.
By actively listening to the community of users, it’s possible to pivot the project towards new priorities, based on feedback.
In the early days of RiderState I was invited to share my thoughts, and I wrote a very long email full of great ideas.
Sadly, I never heard back from anyone, so I don’t know if they received my reply.
I enjoyed using RiderState while it lasted. It was a great concept, realised with imagination and style.
They took an idea and actually made it into a real thing. Kudos for that.
I hope it won’t be too long before there are similar alternatives to choose from.
Will we be open minded enough to pry ourselves away from the comfortable, tried and tested, and have a go at something new?
You never know, the DVD or Blu-ray upgrade to Strava’s VHS might be right around the corner.