People all over the world admire Silicon Valley for its ability to build world class tech products like Facebook, Google, Apple and WhatsApp. These products have a deep impact on user’s live and they’ve managed to change user behaviour across geographies and age groups. I’ve often felt that Indians have not built such a product (at least not homegrown ones). But that opinion has changed over the last one year. Some of the credit for this change in perspective is because of Cult’s role in helping me stay fit during the lockdowns. I’ve been thinking deeply about the product these days and this is an attempt to organise my thoughts around Cult.
Cult’s website says: “At Cult, we make fitness fun and easy. We have best-in-class trainers & offer group workouts ranging from yoga to boxing. Our workouts can be done both at a cult center and at home with the help of do it yourself (DIY) workout videos.”
Though Cult.Fit (hereafter referred to as Cult) is mostly a fitness oriented company, it has built a range of products around the idea of ‘holistic healthcare’. This covers medical consultations, mental health, nutritious diet and fitness gear (though this is just a subset of fitness business).
Why I think Cult Is A Great Product
I’ll start with the Cult app. It’s the entry point for most of the current members. The app connects users and the company, and it is very well designed. The app contributes to user acquisition and retention on the platform.
- Every app or business requires its users to perform a critical action or event for them to stay in business. For Cult the three critical events are:
- Booking a class at cult centre
- Ordering a meal
- Booking an online class
- Buttons that enable users to perform these actions are easily accessible on the home screen of the app. Further, these buttons are placed in the top 10% of the home screen.
- Among the three critical events, the process of booking a class is quite essential for Cult to retain members. This action requires a couple of scrolls and two clicks. This vastly reduces the friction while performing the key event on the product.
- Different categories of products are easily identifiable when you look at the bottom 20% of the screen. The categories mentioned (apart from Home icon) are Cult, Live and Wellness.
- Under ‘Cult’ section, the app covers everything related to fitness packs, workout statistics, classes, gyms, personal training for those using cult services from their centres.
- Under the ‘Live’ section the app provides a slew of workout options for those using the product from home.
- Lastly, the ‘Wellness’ section covers all upsell and cross-sell products related to food, mental health, doctor consultations, cosmetics, workout gear, diabetes reversal etc.
- This categorisation shows Cult’s priorities and aids user education on the app.
- In addition to this, the top 10% of the screen space provides access to all products on the platform. The user has to scroll horizontally to find whole range of products offered by cult. This reduces the need to educate customers about all services provided by the cult platform.
- Cult is learning from user behaviour and trends on social media to create fitness related content on its own app, thereby increasing time spent on the app. The overall strategy of the product is to retain customers online and offline. This hybrid approach to fitness services can help the platform to corner the most sticky and high spending fitness enthusiasts in the country.
User Journey of The Core Cult Product
There are multiple products on the app and it will take a while to go through all of them. So, I’ll stick to few products that I have used quite often. Firstly, I would like to trace a typical user journey on Cult’s core product, i.e. fitness classes.
- Members can book a class of your choice from a wide variety of offerings (yoga, HRX, strength and conditioning, dance fitness, boxing). They can also book slots at their badminton centres (I have not tried this).
- Members are supposed to reach the centre on time (a five minute delay is accepted sometimes).
- The cult manager or maintenance person checks the member’s temperature and Sp02 levels. Then the member has to scan their QR code to mark your attendance. Earlier they had to do a biometric checkin.
- If the member is more than ten minutes late, he/she is asked to come to the next class!
- The class happens. The trainer drives the class with his/her energy. Very often scaled down versions of an asana or a movement is shown. Newcomers are encouraged to take it easy.
- When the class is completed the group congratulates itself for showing up by clapping Finally, members yell ‘we are cult’ (fitness is our religion is the unsaid part). Sometimes, the trainer takes a picture and it appears as a cult moment on the app. (Note: this doesn’t happen in a yoga class)
- Right after the class, members are asked to rate the class on the app and tell why you liked or disliked a class. The members can also speak to the trainer and share feedback if any.
The user journey designed by Cult is delightful and ensures that the members get the best possible experience at its centres. There are several checks and balances in the entire system. It also ensures that the members behave in a disciplined manner!
Cult’s Differentiating Factor
What if a member books a class and doesn’t turn up? Well, the member loses his/her membership by one day. This deduction is communicated via the app and through a regular message! There is a feeling of loss when a member knows that his/her membership was deducted by one day. The feeling of loss aversion makes members to push themselves to the class even when they’re feeling lazy.
Normal gyms failed to make people feel guilty when they missed a day or missed a class. But Cult managed to build the right habit among its users by penalising its customers (and somehow it worked for me).
Cult’s Food Delivery Service : Eat.Fit
The food delivery journey on the app is quite similar to other apps. But, the differentiating factor lies in the detailed info regarding the composition of the food sold on the platform. In addition to the emphasis on calories and composition, the food is prepared in Cult’s (or cure.fit) kitchens. The company has an end-to-end control over the food delivery business. Unlike other food delivery apps, Cult delivers only healthy food. This approach fits in with the larger goal of the platform.
The online classes were quite useful when I could not step out during lockdowns. The instructions provided in this class is well thought out and designed to aid people to take precautions while working out from home. For example, first time yoga practitioners are told to try simpler versions while working out from home. First timers are also encouraged to avoid certain postures or skip some sets till they are accustomed to the practice.
Having a great online fitness platform can provide long term advantage to cult and users. Cult can capture the online fitness class market and serve members who don’t want to step out of their house. They can cater to tier 2 and tier 3 cities where they don’t have a centre. Users in metros and tier 2 / tier 3 cities can stay committed to fitness goals even when they are unable to attend classes. This is a win-win scenario.
Other Services on The App
In addition to these core services Cult also offers online personal training, online classes, doctor consultation, online therapy, lab tests, cosmetologist services and cooking recipes on its app. I have not tried these services so far, so I am not going to comment on it. But I must mention that all of these services fit into the overall healthcare ecosystem.
Why Do I Use Cult?
I have been a customer of cult for more than 2 years now. I have been trying to get fitter and healthier. For the first one year, I took the yoga classes. These classes played a significant role in managing my work stress and improved my overall mood. I love the vibe of the classes and the friendliness of the trainers. I derive energy and motivation from other people who are fitter than me. The app keeps me accountable to my goals and keeps track of the number of classes I have attended.
For example, the weekly report sent to me tells me where I stand vis-a-vis other Cult members. Of course, this is not a competition where you win medals. But I am a competitive person and I try to be in the 90th percentile at least. The whole idea gels well with cult’s motto ‘Be Better Everyday’.
Features That Delight Cult User Base
Gamification and Levels
The app makes an effort to track your personal progress. It helps you to quantify your growth through the concept of levels and badges. This features is sorta hidden deep in the app. But it is the right way to track your fitness. No other app takes into account your diet, physical health and mental health, sleep and physical activity the way Cult app does. Of course, the caveat is, that all food ordered on Cult is healthy and other food you eat is not captured. And, one has to provide sleep data and permissions to track steps. But this gives me an indication of where things are going.
Everyone wants to click a picture of themselves and tell the world that they showed up for a workout. Many cult users and trainers were already doing this on Instagram. Cult product managers probably noticed this and decided to incorporate the feature in the app itself. This has enabled the users to share memories on social media, providing brand visibility to the product and strengthening the emotional connect with users. Now, the feature is being further leveraged for retention. How? When you cancel a class, the app throws up a picture of your recent memory and says ” You were doing so well, why are you cancelling?” or something to that effect. Further, the feature provides a button enabling you to reschedule the class rather than cancelling it altogether.
Excellent Meal Subscription Plan
Eat.Fit meal subscription has sufficient variety and good taste. The delivery schedules are also customisable and user friendly. Let’s say that I booked a dinner plan that will be delivered at 9PM everyday. Firstly, I can restrict this subscription to weekdays alone. I can include weekends as well if I want it everyday.
Next, if I plan to step out with friends someday, I can either cancel or reschedule my meal. The monetary value of cancelled meal is reimbursed if you the user opts out in advance.
Lastly, I can change the meal on a particular day with some other option and pay the difference. I am not aware of a user friendly meal subscription that can beat these features. I am a satisfied customer.
Are There Any Alternatives?
When you look at fitness, food delivery and online healthcare as separate segments, there are many alternatives to Cult. For example, your regular neighbourhood gym can provide you personalised training and also conduct group classes. But these gyms, individual or chains lack the deep tech stack that Cult has built. I see aggregator apps and third party apps popping up. YoActiv is one that has come to my attention.
But these lack the functionalities and integrated approach of Cult. Similarly, Swiggy and Zomato have still not launched a healthy food subscription that has the customisable features offered by Cult. In fact, I would argue that I gain a lot of weight because of these apps. Though I have not used online healthcare products on Cult app, I would prefer to check it out before download competitor apps. I am pretty sure that existing cult customers would take a similar approach thanks to the great user experience on other products.