Nike Run Club's gamified approach to fitness training

April 25, 2019
Mobile app

Nike understands that, for many people, the primary blocker to consistent training is a lack of motivation. Without a running partner, a personal trainer, or some other form of encouragement, it's easy for people to fall out of the habit—or even fail to get started in the first place.

The Nike Run Club (iOS, Android) offers to help people overcome that motivation gap, encouraging them to continue training and reaching their goals—with GPS tracking, guided running workouts, custom coaching plans, and friendly motivation from friends and other users—while still having fun along the way.

this is a mobile screenshot image of the nike run club app login screen

The Nike Run Club app includes elements of gamification to promote user engagement and retention while making training enjoyable. The app constantly encourages users to log their sessions, and to take part in organized challenges with other running buddies. Many of the challenges appear as colorful full-screen modals offering prizes to participants. Each challenge is accessible for a limited time only—this urgency gives undecided users an extra nudge to commit.

this is a mobile screenshot image of the nike run club app that shows an example of an in-app challenge designed to increase user motivation and engagement
this is a mobile screenshot image of the nike run club app that shows a list of challenges with icons. this feature is an example of gamification and is designed to increase user motivation and engagement


After the initial excitement of a new app wears off, keeping users motivated can be a challenge. Celebrating progress is an effective way to improve user engagement both during and long after initial user onboarding.

Nike consistently celebrates small wins with personalized messages congratulating users on what they've accomplished and encouraging them to keep going. The continuous encouragement boosts users' confidence in their abilities, while also raising engagement within the app. And each run unlocks new achievements, which can be shared with friends and improved over time.

this is a mobile screenshot image of the nike run club app that shows the activitiy screen with a list of achievements. these nike achievement badges are an example of gamification and rewarding users to increase motivation


Users can also automatically share achievements with their friends. This kind of sharing is known as a retention hook—a built-in feature that gives users a reason to send notifications to other users, which brings them back to the app.  

this is a mobile screenshot image of the nike run club app. the screen is neon green and says: you're on fire 3x streak. there is a "share" call to action button at the bottom of the screen


Of course, Nike isn't in the business of creating free apps—they make their money selling shoes and other fitness products. Accordingly, the Nike Run Club app has a built-in upsell prompt for Nike running products, integrating online shopping right into the app and constantly tempting users to purchase new Nike products. Product recommendations are personalized based on the users' profile and running style. Users can even log miles on their current pairs of running shoes (regardless of brand) and they automatically receive reminders when those shoes are in need of replacement.

It's a highly contextual, personal bit of salesmanship that manages to feel helpful rather than annoying.

this is a mobile screenshot from the nike run club app running shop that shows a personalized fitness shop experience. this is an example of good ecommerce ux


Finally, Nike Run Club's permission priming is another bit of great UX.  Instead of just requesting the location access, the app uses a fullscreen modal to prime users before making the request by explaining that access allows the app to accurately track their runs. This sort of permission priming helps reduce mobile app abandonment, build trust, and create a better experience for new users.

this is a mobile screenshot from the nike run club app showing a request to access location. this is an example of a full screen modal with a good permission priming request



Why this is really good UX:

  • Improving and maintaining motivation is one of the app's value props, which Nike accomplishes through well-organized and time-limited challenges and by regularly celebrating users' success
  • Integrated ecommerce functionality encourages power users to purchase Nike fitness products directly within the app
  • Retention hooks help encourage inactive users to return to the app, while giving active users a boost of encouragement
  • Priming users before requesting location access improves the initial experience and makes it much more likely users will grant permission to their location—a necessary piece of data for run tracking
  • The app is a great example of how successful products ultimately help people become better versions of themselves, not just better users