India’s Appetite for Accessible Art: A Digital Transformation Opportunity

As the digital age reshapes the contours of creative production and consumption, a market opportunity emerges: feeding India’s appetite for accessible and meaningful art access. Here, we share some of the key insights that we’ve gained while actively following developments in the art space over the last couple of year. We outline several key innovations that could help democratize art access, tailored to the Indian market’s specific needs. We delve into the pivotal role of generative AI and immersive technologies in redefining the art learning experience, the critical importance of digitizing art archives for cultural preservation, and the promising future of blockchain in authenticating art ownership. Furthermore, we examine the imperative of linguistic accessibility in making art education truly inclusive. 

1. Expanding Market Opportunities through Art Education Platforms and Consumer Awareness

A key opportunity lies in addressing the gap in art awareness among Indian consumers through the development of targeted art education platforms. These platforms can cater to the specific needs and preferences of the Indian market, providing a foundation for a more informed and engaged art audience as there is a growing demand for accessible art education and interactive learning experiences. 

A consumer study by Now Form in 2022 provides a comprehensive overview of the behaviors and preferences of art enthusiasts and collectors, pointing towards the need for digital intervention in this space. The study primarily focused on individuals aged 25-39, with a majority being women-identifying and from Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. Most respondents hailed from creative, business, or marketing backgrounds and were well-versed in technology, indicating a tech-savvy audience with a keen interest in the arts. Our study found that a staggering 85% of the audience utilize art platforms to enhance their artistic taste, seek inspiration, and learn more about the art and artists. However, within this segment, there’s a noticeable demand for more diverse and personalized content, pointing to a gap in the current market offerings. When it comes to learning about art, social media stands out as a primary source for 88% of respondents, alongside other digital resources like online publications and webinars. This highlights the need for credible, interactive and personalized online learning resources focusing on art education in India. Our research participants identified several pain points, including the high investment required for quality content, generic and biased curation, an abundance of unstructured information, and a lack of physical connection with art. 

These challenges underscore the need for more curated, structured, and interactive digital experience that could democratize quality art education in the Indian market. A handful of art platforms, such as ShuruArt and the Rooftop App, are attempting to bridge this gap by catering to diverse learning styles, and overcoming geographical and financial barriers. ShuruArt focuses on improving career opportunities for young visual artists in Tier 2/3 towns and enhancing primary education through visual arts. The Rooftop App, launched in 2020, offers curated art sessions and workshops, fostering a community of art enthusiasts from 20 countries and connecting over 25000 participants with 2100 artists. The pedagogical model championed by the MAP Academy underscores the importance of integrating high-quality digital resources with educational programs, such as online courses, to provide richer learning experiences. The MAP Academy’s ‘Encyclopedia of Art’ is a groundbreaking digital resource that democratizes the rich history of art in India and globally, making art history more accessible and inclusive. By addressing the scarcity of comprehensive scholarship on specific art histories, such as that of South Asia, this platform fills a crucial gap in art education and public engagement. The success of the MAP Academy model highlights the potential for collaboration between museums, academic institutions, and technology partners in creating interactive digital archives – serving as valuable resources for a wider audience and enabling learners to develop a deeper appreciation of diverse artistic traditions. As more such platforms emerge, they will collectively advance a global movement towards more inclusive and accessible art history, challenging Eurocentric narratives and highlighting underrepresented cultures and artists.

2. Generative AI and Immersive Technologies

There is also a unique opportunity of integrating generative AI technologies into art education paradigms. For example, a recent experiment by Google Arts & Culture’s Art Selfie 2 utilizes generative AI to create stylized images based on user selfies, seamlessly blending them into various artistic and historical scenarios. This project not only engages users in a playful and interactive manner but also serves as an educational tool, offering users insights into different art styles, historical periods, and cultural contexts. In 2018, The Met collaborated with Microsoft engineers and MIT students and faculty to find innovative ways to make their encyclopedic collection more accessible to a global audience. One standout project from this collaboration, Gen Studio, utilized generative adversarial networks (GANs) to allow users to explore and search through the museum’s collection in novel ways. Another component, Generist Maps, allows users to explore and search through the museum’s collection in novel ways, revealing both linear and unexpected relationships between different art pieces.  Kim Benzel, curator in charge of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at The Met, highlighted a challenge museums face: displaying objects in a museum might strip them of their cultural context. By leveraging AI, the project provides a unique opportunity to experience art beyond the physicality of the displayed objects, encouraging a deeper appreciation of the mutable nature of art and culture. Reflecting on this project in 2024, one could envision that the increasing popularity and accessibility of diffusion models will enable museums worldwide to incorporate similar AI tools into their collections, even without highly specialized technological expertise. The growing availability of user-friendly AI platforms and pre-trained models might allow museums with limited technological maturity to leverage AI and make their collections more accessible and engaging to a wider audience.

The educational potential of technologies like AR and VR in the arts education is immense – they can provide students with interactive and immersive learning experiences, making art history and theory more engaging and accessible. For instance, AR can bring historical artworks to life, allowing students to explore the context and details of a painting in a more interactive way. VR can transport students to virtual museums or historical sites, offering a first-hand experience of art and architecture from different cultures and periods. VR is used both as a platform for exhibiting and distributing art (as at Vortic) and as an artform itself, as is typically exhibited at Miami’s Mud Foundation

The Interactive Experience Model by Falk and Dierking explores the multifaceted nature of museum visits and interactive art experiences. It emphasizes the importance of understanding visitor identity and motivation, the cognitive stages of aesthetic appreciation, and the role of embodied cognition in interactive art. These principles highlight the complexity of visitor engagement and the need for museums and interactive artworks to cater to these multifaceted experiences.  Research has shown that immersive technologies can significantly enhance the museum experience by providing absorptive and immersive experiences that influence visitors’ overall enjoyment and their intention to visit museums. The integration of VR into museum exhibits has been found to eliminate the tedium associated with traditional exhibition methods, enriching the fun of visiting museums and promoting the dissemination of cultural heritage. This aligns with Falk and Dierking’s model, as the personal context of the visitor is enriched through engaging and interactive experiences. the adoption of immersive technologies in museums has been linked to the concepts of in-museum interactivity and smart retailing, which directly and positively influence the adoption and use of these technologies. For instance, the use of multimedia solutions such as AR, VR, and Immersive 3D Projections has shifted the focus from a collection-oriented museum to a visitor-oriented one, where storytelling and visitor engagement are paramount – this shift reflects the sociocultural aspect of the Interactive Experience Model, as museums are increasingly recognizing the importance of creating shared, culturally relevant experiences for their visitors.

3. Digital Transformation of the Art Archive

Digitizing art archives offers massive benefits, particularly when they are made widely accessible to the public openly through online channels. This transformation allows for a more inclusive engagement with cultural heritage, breaking down geographical and physical barriers and democratizing access to art and historical artifacts for a global audience. Digitization serves as a crucial preservation tool, safeguarding the knowledge and history held within these collections against the ravages of time, decay, and unforeseen disasters. Digital archives thus become the custodians of our collective memory in the digital age, ensuring that our rich cultural tapestry remains vibrant, relevant, and accessible for future generations. This marks a cultural imperative in the preservation and appreciation of human history and artistic expression.

However, the digitization of archives is not without its challenges. Digital archives are subject to the same fragility that affects all digital existence – vulnerable to technological obsolescence and the inherent instability of digital information. These vulnerabilities raise important questions about the stewardship of digital knowledge and further highlight the need for robust digital archiving practices by art institutions. 

Archive Spotlight: The Indian Classical Music & Performing Arts Public Digital Archive

A compelling example of this digital transformation is the Indian Classical Music & Performing Arts Public Digital Archive, initiated by Devina Dutt and Pepe Gomes of the Kishima Arts Foundation. This project aims to preserve the rich heritage of Indian classical music by creating a comprehensive digital repository of recordings, conversations, and performances. The motivation behind this archive is to safeguard a wealth of musical knowledge and history that is at risk of being lost. The archive, which began taking shape in 2018, seeks to document the vibrant musicianship found in smaller, more intimate settings. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a moment of introspection and opportunity, leading to collaborations with institutions like Penn State University and the Indian Oil Corporation. These partnerships helped Dutt and Gomes to refine their archival skills and formalize the project. The archive’s scope is carefully curated, aiming to avoid cliquishness and ensure diverse representation of art forms and artists. The project is envisioned as a two-phase endeavor, spanning from 2022 to 2030, with plans to create and share a minimum of 2,000 hours of audiovisual material. It aims to foster intergenerational connections and encourage young musicians to contribute to the ongoing documentation of Indian classical music’s evolving landscape.

4. Art through Data and Machine Learning

Machine learning and artificial intelligence can aid in the processing and analysis of large datasets, enhancing discoverability and accessibility at a rate, precision, and scale that is impossible to achieve through human labors alone. The application of machine learning in poorly understood or data-rich domains can lead to the discovery of valuable patterns and adaptability to changing conditions, which is relevant for fields such as art history, where patterns and novelty are significant. This technology’s capacity to sift through vast amounts of data and identify patterns invisible to the human eye paves the way for new insights into art history and the creative processes of iconic artists. The term “computational formalism”, coined by Amanda Wasielewski, emphasizes the opportunities presented when combining machine learning and computer vision techniques with art historical research. This approach highlights how automated categorization based on stylistic features opens up possibilities for deep learning techniques being able to authenticate or detect forgeries and fakes in art.  However, in her critical analysis, Wasielewski also raises several concerns regarding the application of AI in art history, particularly emphasizing the challenges posed by the reliance on digital reproductions and the biases inherent in datasets dominated by Western art due to historical imperialism and inequality. Expanding these methods to contexts outside the West, such as in India, presents an opportunity to address the Western-centric biases prevalent in current art AI research. There is a need to create and utilize datasets that represent the rich diversity of Indian art traditions, including classical, tribal, folk, and contemporary art forms. Ensuring a comprehensive representation that respects the cultural specificity and historical context of Indian art is crucial for overcoming these biases and fostering a more inclusive approach to AI in art history.

The potential of machine learning extends beyond the analysis of individual artworks to illuminating the contributions of historically underrepresented groups.  A prime example of this application is the recent initiative by the Smithsonian and Google Arts & Culture, focusing on the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. This collaboration aims to rectify the oversight of women’s contributions in science by employing machine learning tools to delve into the Smithsonian’s archives. These tools enable curators to perform tasks that would have been unimaginably complex or time-consuming before, such as comparing records across history, identifying women’s contributions even when not explicitly named, and analyzing image records to cluster similarities. Another algorithm developed by Google Arts & Culture Lab combed through over 30,000 exhibition photos, searching for matches among the more than 65,000 works in MoMA’s online collection. Impressively, it recognized over 20,000 artworks, creating a vast network of new links between MoMA’s exhibition history and its online collection. 

5. Authentication, Ownership, and Blockchain

The traditional art market, often plagued by issues of authenticity, provenance, and inefficiency, finds a potential solution in blockchain technology. Authentication has long been a complex issue in the art world. Provenance, or the history of ownership and documentation of an artwork, plays a crucial role in determining its value. Blockchain technology can streamline this process by providing a secure and transparent way to record and authenticate an artwork’s ownership and history. Each artwork can be assigned a unique digital identity on the blockchain, which includes details such as the artist’s name, the year it was created, and the owner’s identity. This decentralized ledger offers a transparent and immutable record of transactions, addressing long-standing concerns of fraud and forgery, and can be updated with each change of ownership, creating an unbreakable chain of ownership and a clear record of the artwork’s history. While blockchain technology offers many benefits for art provenance, it is not without its challenges. The reliability of blockchain-based provenance depends on the accuracy of the data entered into the system. If fraudulent information is inputted, it can compromise the reliability of the blockchain. Additionally, as blockchain technology is relatively new and untested in the art world, its interaction with existing art market practices remains to be seen. 

NFTs (non fungible tokens) present a unique case for blockchain-powered digital ownership, streamlining the transfer of art by eliminating the need for intermediaries, reducing transaction costs, and mitigating the physical challenges associated with traditional art transfers. Despite the promising prospects of NFTs, the digital art market experienced a downturn in 2023, with high-net-worth collectors spending only 3% of their total expenditure on digital art, a significant decrease from the previous year. This decline in spending on digital art and NFTs mirrors the trends observed on external NFT platforms, where sales of art-related NFTs reached their lowest level since January 2021. While the market for art-related NFTs has declined from its peak in 2021, it still accounted for $1.2 billion in sales in 2023. This indicates that digital art and blockchain technology will remain significant components of the art market, albeit with potentially less speculative activity than in previous years. Online art sales continued to grow in 2023, reaching an estimated $11.8 billion, a 7% increase from 2022. This growth highlights the increasing importance of digital platforms in the art market and suggests that technologies facilitating online transactions and viewing will continue to play a crucial role in the future​. 

Despite modern updates like online bidding, the traditional auction model has largely remained unchanged. This resistance to innovation has resulted in inefficiencies such as high failure rates for art sales at public auctions, excessive commissions and fees, and challenges for art dealers in obtaining bank financing. The art sector’s lack of empirical data and financial tools has impeded its ability to make informed decisions and adapt to market shifts. There is a critical need for the art market to develop a comprehensive knowledge infrastructure that considers the unique characteristics of art as an asset. This would involve establishing economic, financial, and statistical frameworks tailored to the art market, utilizing data science and applied mathematics to provide actionable insights. The future of art technologies holds significant potential. Adopting data-driven approaches and advanced analytics could lead to a more efficient, transparent, and dynamic art market, offering new opportunities for financial intermediaries and service providers in the art sector. However, this transition requires challenging long standing traditions and embracing innovative practices that align with the realities of the 21st-century marketplace.

Arthena’s approach exemplifies this opportunity, leveraging Machine Learning (ML) and comprehensive data analytics to address market inefficiencies and bring clarity to art market pricing. Arthena’s deployment of their proprietary technology sets an exciting new standard for the art market – offering effective and efficient pricing of art assets, risk management for art transactions, and data-driven insights for collectors, investors, and financial institutions. Another proprietary data platform Masterworks is leveraging advanced analytics and machine learning to democratize art investing and enhance market transparency. Their platform allows investors to buy and sell shares of securitized artworks, introducing liquidity to an illiquid asset class and enabling dynamic management of art investments. This data-driven approach informs their artwork acquisition decisions, moving beyond traditional subjective selection methods.

6. Language Inclusion and Accessibility

Given India’s linguistic diversity, there is a market opportunity for art platforms that offer content in multiple languages. The argument for linguistic accessibility on art platforms on the web is rooted in the broader concept of accessibility, which encompasses not only providing access to those with disabilities but also ensuring inclusivity and diversity. Cultural and linguistic accessibility is about giving access and representation to historically underrepresented communities and recognizing the importance of language equity. This means creating opportunities for people whose native language is not English to feel welcomed and able to join the community, extending opportunities for staff members to partake in multiple languages, and valuing every language as a window into a culture worth preserving.

The shift in internet user demographics, particularly in countries like India, highlights the urgency of this issue. In 1996, over 80% of internet users were native English speakers, but by 2010, this percentage dropped to 27.3%. As the internet becomes more accessible to a broader range of people, the linguistic diversity of its users increases. However, the content available on the web has not kept pace with this change. Nearly 60% of web content is still in English, even though only 25.9% of the global internet audience browses in English. This discrepancy indicates a significant gap in linguistic accessibility.  Linguistic accessibility on art platforms is not just about inclusivity; it’s a reflection of the evolving landscape of internet users worldwide. By embracing linguistic diversity, art institutions and platforms can create more engaging, culturally rich, and accessible experiences for all visitors, regardless of their native language. This approach not only broadens their reach but also enriches the cultural dialogue, making art more universally accessible and appreciated.

Workouts & Wellness: How Fit-Tech has Redefined Exercise Today

Chapter 1

Introduction, industry context and approach

Digital Fitness and the home-fitness revolution was growing fast, even before the COVID-19 crisis. The $49.5 billion industry covers wearable devices, trackers, smart equipment, digital platforms, and software that makes fitness and physical activity more convenient, personalised, and affordable. Advances in wearable technology, high-tech equipment, AI/ML digital integrations, and virtual and augmented reality have fueled the rise of virtual workouts and digital fitness applications. Today, new apps promote fitness and wellness outcomes; they track activity and offer personalised workout plans, virtual fitness classes, monitor calorie intake and provide nutritional recommendations, and encourage mindfulness and positive mental health. The combination of convenience, accessibility, variety, affordability, personalized guidance, and privacy offered by digital fitness solutions made apps an appealing option for many people looking to maintain their fitness levels during the pandemic and beyond, at home and outside. 

In March 2020, online searches for “home exercise” and “home fitness” spiked dramatically, increasing 400% worldwide. While brick-and-mortar centres pulled down their shutters, the fitness industry received a huge boost through virtual trainers, digital health and fitness apps offering personalised diet and exercise plans, and fitness equipment differentiated by proprietary software and digital interface. 

In 2020, the fitness technology market grew 29.1% In 2020, the fitness technology market grew 29.1%

In 2020, the fitness technology market grew 29.1% compared to the previous year. The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) reported that consumer spending on fitness apps, streaming, and on-demand services increased by 40% in the same year due to the mandated lockdowns (GWI 2021). According to the GWI, fitness was the most impacted wellness sector during the pandemic, with a 37.1% decrease in spending, but this was partially offset by an increase in digital fitness spending, which prevented a 44% decline. In 2020 alone, consumer spending on fitness apps, streaming, and on-demand services rose by 40% due to COVID-related gym closures. As COVID-19 cases declined and restrictions eased, people gradually returned to in-person fitness, but digital fitness remained relevant and has continued to enhance users’ regimes. GWI predicts that the global fitness market will nearly double to $1.2 trillion by 2025 due to the opportunities that hybrid fitness services will offer. 

A report by mobile data and analytics provider App Annie (2022) showed that the number of fitness apps launched rose 13% in 2020, reaching 71,000 globally. Additionally, both the number of downloads and consumer spending on health and fitness apps increased by 30% compared to 2019. In April 2020, barely a month after nations announced lockdowns, app downloads spiked 80% year-on-year to 276 million. Consumer spending hit a record high of $185 million in August 2020, up 45% from the year before. App downloads and consumer spending increased across all regions, but some markets saw exponential growth – India recorded an 80% increase in app downloads. 

The combination of convenience, accessibility, variety, affordability, personalized guidance, and privacy offered by digital fitness solutions has made them an appealing option for many people looking to maintain their fitness levels during the pandemic and beyond, at home and outside.

According to ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal’s “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends 2022,” four   digital technologies ranked in the top 20 trends (Thompson 2022), with wearable technology taking the top spot, online and on-demand exercise classes ranked ninth, online personal training ranked 17th and fitness apps 16th. This highlights the growing popularity and adoption of digital fitness solutions, even beyond the pandemic-induced lockdowns. Online training and wearable technology have been widely adopted in recent years and offer a range of benefits, including convenience, flexibility, and the ability to track progress, making their high rank unsurprising. It’s also noteworthy that virtual training and fitness apps are in the top 20, as these offerings provide a more personalised and interactive fitness experience. Overall, these trends suggest that digital technologies are playing an increasingly important role in the fitness industry and are likely to continue to grow in popularity in the coming years. 

Overall, these trends suggest that digital technologies are playing an increasingly important role in the fitness industry and are likely to continue to grow in popularity in the coming years.


In this report, we research current user sentiments and behaviours, identify and analyse major digital fitness trends, innovations, and tech interventions, and discuss the key global and localised insights emerging from the trends in the fit-tech industry. We carried out a competitive analysis of 12 digital fitness offerings (including Nike+Training Club,, Apple Fitness, and Fitbit, among others; see Annexure 02). Our findings helped us better understand the existing landscape and identify core features and differentiators across the major fitness and health applications. 

Our research began with a preliminary survey to understand existing and evolving user sentiments around health and fitness during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We used a non-probability, purposive sampling approach to recruit participants for the various legs of our user-centred data collection process, i.e, focus groups, surveys, and user interviews. We conducted two user surveys (n=65) at different points during the pandemic to gauge the shifts in user behaviour, needs, and preferences. For our user interviews, we recruited participants (n=11) through an Instagram post that was shared on Now Form’s profile, in addition to the researcher’s own personal page. The post invited “fitness enthusiasts” — people who have used digital fitness applications and/or engaged with online fitness communities — to participate in a semi-structured user interview on their experiences with digital fitness applications at-large. Since the study followed a self-selection sampling approach, the participants chose to take part in the study of their own accord and based on the criteria specified. Thus, this study is not representative of the broader population and might include biases, since the sample was not randomly selected. 

Our primary research throughout the pandemic revealed a trend among consumers towards embracing home-based physical activities and investing in digital fitness solutions. The latest round of user interviews survey indicates that the future of the fitness industry lies in hybrid regimes that offer a combination of in-person and digital services. 

A comprehensive literature review was conducted to understand the current state of research in the field of fitness technologies and user behaviour. Relevant academic journals, conference proceedings, and online sources were searched using keywords such as digital fitness technologies, user behaviour fitness technology, and user adoption digital fitness. The literature review aimed to identify the key themes, trends, and gaps in the existing research in this field. The findings from the literature review were synthesised to provide an understanding of the current state of research in the field of fitness technologies and user behaviour, and then used to inform the research questions and hypotheses for the study. The literature included psychological, sociological, and user-centred design research on the adoption and use of technology, specifically exploring the factors that influence user behaviour, such as motivation, attitudes, and self-efficacy, and explored how social norms and peer influence impact the adoption and use of fitness technologies aimed to understand the role of social factors in shaping user behaviour and the extent to which they impact the adoption and continued use of fitness technologies 

Chapter 2

Understanding shifting user behaviour and sentiments towards digital fitness

1. Fitness and the Quantified Self

Self-tracking involves monitoring and recording personal details such as one’s activities, body, and lifestyle to achieve self-awareness and self-improvement. Although this impulse to record, reflect upon, and regulate one’s bodily states and processes (through, for example, diaries, scales, wristwatches, and thermometers) has been a human practice for centuries (Crawford et al. 2015), digital tools such as smartphones and wearables have revolutionised the practice, allowing for continuous monitoring of the body and physiological states for health and well-being (Schüll 2016). Biosensors that collect data on heart function, glucose levels, stress, mood, or exertion are now readily available to retail consumers in the form of wearable devices such as rings, bracelets, patches, and watches, all integrated with smartphone applications (Grinberg 2018). These technologies collect and manage biometric data, offering individuals insights to effect behaviour change and a platform to share this information with each other. 

As a result, the average person can now collect more discrete and a much wider range of information about their own body and behaviour. By allowing users “self-knowledge through numbers” (Wolf 2010), these tools and technologies provide a new data-driven approach to health, viewing the human body as a collection of data and information, leading to behavioural implications for individual users, and have socio-political implications on how health, life, and the human body is understood. 

“..individuals are invested in deriving a different sort of value from their own tracked and quantified self-data. Individuals collect and reflect upon their data intentionally, gathering information about themselves so as to learn new things and experiment with self-transformation. In this sense, data-tracking technologies provide a new inflection point for older technologies of the self” (Schüll 2019)

A consumer behaviour study by Etkin (2016) found that prolonged self-tracking activities can have unintended and negative consequences (Etkin 2016). A person can enjoy a tracked activity less, despite the potential motivation to do more. The study found that research participants who tracked the distance they covered walking ended up walking more, but reported the activity as less enjoyable compared to those who did not track it. Etkin attributes these results to the power of framing in shaping people’s subjective experiences. When people feel obligated to do something, they tend to resist it, draining their energy and reducing their enjoyment of the activity. Conversely, people find an activity energising when they are wholly engaged and absorbed in it. Measurement draws attention to the quantitative outcome of engaging in enjoyable activities, making them feel like work, which can reduce enjoyment, the continuation of engagement, and overall satisfaction. Emphasising the external benefits of engaging in an activity, or focusing on the quantitative outcome, can undermine intrinsic motivation. While self-tracking tools have their benefits, such as breaking down tasks into manageable chunks, they can also lead to short-term results at the expense of long-term motivation. Thus, as per Etkin’s research, gamifying activities could potentially have harmful effects on fitness behaviours and user motivation when in prolonged use, making digital interventions that primarily rely on such features unsustainable for the long term. 

Theorists who view data through a neoliberal lens argue that digital devices have actually increased the responsibility and decision-making power of individuals. This perspective is particularly evident in the context of health and, by extension, fitness. Digital monitoring tools that track heart rate, steps taken, and food intake, among other indicators, allow individual users, and not just medical professionals, to keep track of their health, furthering the idea of responsibilisation and individualising health concerns. On the flip side, having access to one’s own personal fitness record through digital applications could be seen as a move away from medical paternalism, which empowers users with the ability to be more involved in their own health, making them more self-sufficient. But, depending on the features, functionalities, and framing of applications, they could just as easily divert attention and resources away from systemic solutions to healthcare issues and shift the burden from the institution to the individual.

Measurement draws attention to the quantitative outcome of engaging in enjoyable activities, making them feel like work, which can reduce enjoyment, continuation of engagement, and overall satisfaction. By emphasising the external benefits of engaging in an activity, or focusing on the quantitative outcome, intrinsic motivation can be undermined.

Theorists who view data through a neoliberal lens argue that digital devices have actually increased the responsibility and decision-making power of individuals. This perspective is particularly evident in the context of health and, by extension, fitness. Digital monitoring tools that track heart rate, steps taken, and food intake, among other indicators, allow individual users, and not just medical professionals, to keep track of their health, furthering the idea of responsibilisation and individualising health concerns. On the flip side, having access to one’s own personal fitness record through digital applications could be seen as a move away from medical paternalism, which empowers users with the ability to be more involved in their own health, making them more self-sufficient. But, depending on the features, functionalities, and framing of applications, they could just as easily divert attention and resources away from systemic solutions to healthcare issues and shift the burden from the institution to the individual.

…gamifying activities could potentially have harmful effects on fitness behaviours and user motivation when in prolonged use, making digital interventions that primarily rely on such features unsustainable for the long term. 

2. Fitness and Social Identity

Expanding beyond the consequences of self-monitoring on satisfaction or enjoyment, scholars in digital media also highlight how these tools function as a form of surveillance or biopolitics and modulate users’ sense of freedom and agency. The use of fitness apps for social purposes, such as sharing workout progress with others or connecting with other users, is a form of active interaction that takes advantage of the social features offered by the apps. Users have a significant level of control and agency in choosing and utilising the features of these apps to satisfy their own needs. This is supported by empirical research which suggests that the social aspect of health apps is largely driven by users’ motivations, including the desire for socialisation. In this manner, the social use of fitness apps represents an active engagement with the apps, motivated by the individual user’s needs and goals.

A study by Barkley et al. (2020) investigated the relationship between the use of fitness apps and physical activity, and how exercise identity — the degree to which an individual identifies with being physically active — mediates this relationship. The study found a positive relationship between the use of fitness apps and physical activity, suggesting that people who have a strong exercise identity are more likely to use fitness apps and engage in physical activity.  It recommended that fitness apps should be designed to increase the likelihood of their usage, and hence physical activity, by supporting users in achieving their goals and facilitating habit formation. 

Another relevant study investigates the impact of social networking features of fitness apps on users’ physical activity levels (Huang et al. 2022). The study used WeRun, a Chinese fitness app, and analysed its impact on users’ step counts through a survey of 643 app users. The results showed that the frequency of using the app and the size of the users’ core network — the number of friends on the app — were positively correlated with physical activity levels. Social comparison mechanisms had an effect on physical activity levels, while social support did not. Upward comparison was positively associated with physical activity levels, while downward comparison was negatively associated. The study also found that upward comparison was a mediator between the frequency of using the app, the core network size, and physical activity levels. These findings provide insight into the impact of fitness app features on physical activity and can inform the design of fitness applications. 

Teng and Bao (2022) investigated the factors that affect the stickiness of fitness apps (“stickiness” refers to how often people return to an app). They used the S-O-R (stimulus-organism-response) perspective to study the environmental stimuli, internal states, and behavioural responses of users. They found that human-to-information interaction and human-to-human interaction as environmental stimuli affect individuals’ internal state, including social comparison and perceptions of fitness self-management, which subsequently influence the stickiness of fitness apps. The study highlights the importance of considering the social aspects of digital health interventions, which can greatly influence user engagement and users’ sustained usage of apps. 

“..individuals are invested in deriving a different sort of value from their own tracked and quantified self-data. Individuals collect and reflect upon their data intentionally, gathering information about themselves so as to learn new things and experiment with self-transformation. In this sense, data-tracking technologies provide a new inflection point for older technologies of the self” (Schüll 2019)

3. Fitness and Motivation

Motivation is a critical factor in supporting sustained fitness through activity and nutrition, which in turn are associated with positive health outcomes. Teixeira et al. (2012) argue that the lack of motivation to engage in being fit through physical activity can be attributed to two main factors: individuals may not have sufficient interest or value the outcomes of physical activity enough to make it a priority in their lives, with other demands such as education, work, and family taking precedence; alternatively, some individuals may lack the perceived competence to participate in physical activities, feeling physically unfit or unskilled, or experiencing health limitations that hinder their participation. These factors result in a large proportion of the population being either unmotivated or insufficiently motivated to engage in physical activity. Additionally, some individuals who express personal motivation to exercise regularly may lack follow-through due to controlled motivations, where participation is based on a sense of external regulation rather than genuine interest. 

The concept of motivation is central to numerous social psychological paradigms aimed at comprehending behaviour, with self-determination theory (SDT) having emerged as a particularly seminal and impactful perspective on human motivation over the past three decades. SDT is a comprehensive and evolving macro-theory of human personality and motivated behaviour that is uniquely placed to examine the differential effects of different types of motivation on behaviour. Participants in our user interviews reported themes related to SDT, where they demonstrated the importance of autonomy to foster motivation and engagement with their self-adopted fitness regimes and the role of digital interventions. 

According to Boiché et al. (2008), there are different types of regulation that fall along the continuum of self-determination. At one end of the continuum, there is amotivation, where individuals lack a sense of purpose or motivation to engage in an activity, and on the other end is intrinsic motivation, where the activity itself is appealing, enjoyable, and fulfilling. In the middle there are stages of external regulation, where behaviour is driven by external factors such as rewards, guilt, or punishment. There are four types of extrinsic motivation which vary based on the level of internalisation of the behaviour and self-determination of the individual. These four types are:

  1. External Regulation: This is where the behaviour is regulated by external factors such as rewards or punishment and is not yet internalised by the individual.
  2. Introjected Regulation: This type of regulation is where the behaviour is regulated by internal factors such as guilt or the need to improve self-esteem.
  3. Identified Regulation: In this type of regulation, the individual understands and values the benefits of performing a task.
  4. Integrated Regulation: This type of regulation is where the behaviour is integrated into the individual’s values and beliefs.

SDT suggests that more self-determined forms of regulation are associated with increased well-being, satisfaction, and long-term engagement in an activity, whereas less self-determined forms are associated with decreased engagement and negative outcomes (Ryan & Deci, 2017). Thus, the stability of motivation depends on its qualitative features, particularly the level of perceived autonomy and internal locus of causality. The METUX (motivation, engagement, and thriving in user experience) model links SDT to technology design by evaluating the impact of technologies on psychological well-being, defined as “optimal psychological functioning and experience” (Peters et al., 2018). It focuses on three key constructs: autonomy (perception of choice), competence (belief in capabilities), and relatedness (interpersonal connections). The model suggests that psychological needs must be analysed from six different perspectives for effective technology design: 

  1. Adoption: The point of technology adoption
  2. Interface: During interaction with the interface
  3. Task: As a result of engagement with technology-specific tasks
  4. Behaviour: As part of the technology-supported behaviour
  5. Life: As part of an individual’s life overall. 
  6. Society: These operate within a sixth sphere of shared experience, i.e society, which encompasses both direct and collateral effects of technology use, as well as non-user experiences.

An approach to exercise that emphasises external factors, such as pressure from social and medical institutions to lose weight or exercise, may not be effective in promoting long-term fitness behaviour. Instead, environments and interventions that support users’ psychological needs and foster intrinsic motivation for competency, relatedness, and autonomy will lead to more successful outcomes ​​(Ryan & Deci, 2017). 

4. Health, Wellness, and Fitness 

The notion of fitness has received considerable attention in recent times, as it is perceived as a significant aspect of modern society and is widely legitimised by health and medicine. Fitness is widely viewed as the ideal state of an individual’s body and is believed to bring improved health and well-being to the social sphere. 

However, the focus on fitness has also been criticised for being politically motivated and aligned with economic interests, leading to the privatisation of social risk. In modern times, the concept of a person’s corporal self identity is closely tied to “fitness.” The term “fitness” can thus be used to describe a way of life that continuously and wholeheartedly strives for the achievement of what is sometimes referred to as the “ideal body” or the “body associated with high social status” (Mansfield 2005). Freund and Martin (2004) argue that fitness is better understood as a consumptive relationship, detached from its progressive aim of improving health and wellbeing. Smith Maguire’s (2008)  work highlights the complex relationship between fitness and health, where fitness is more of a consumer activity than a means to improve health – she argues that fitness “is about possessing the appropriate capacities and resources to undertake the project of the self in a competent fashion, minimizing health risks, and maximizing market value.  Fitness is a measure of aptitude for life in consumer culture and a service economy.” Thus, fitness encompasses more than just healthy eating, regular exercise, or pursuing a career in a sporting activity – instead it denotes an enterprise that governs the self through the project of achieving the high-status body.

In the contemporary world, the focus has shifted from ultimate human life goals to practical means, with fitness replacing health as the desired status of the corporal body. Bauman (1998) sees this as problematic, as fitness presents self-referential issues that health was free from. According to Bauman (2000), health was valued in early twentieth-century societies as a physical state necessary for fulfilling societal roles. It involved maintaining a normative physical condition to carry out work, familial and social responsibilities. Health was defined by empirical and measurable terms set by modern medicine. On the other hand, fitness in consumer-driven societies is motivated by desire rather than necessity or duty. Fitness is subjective, and based solely on one’s lived experiences and internalized cultural ideals. The pursuit of fitness promises ongoing victories but lacks a final triumph. The fit body is portrayed as flexible, absorptive, and adjustable, always ready for new experiences and increasing its desirability (Bauman 2000).

As digital health technologies continue to advance and become more popular, there has been a growing interest in the relationship between digital fitness apps and well-being, and in the potential for these apps to improve connected health outcomes. With a growing focus on the self-management of fitness and health, mobile applications are increasingly becoming sites of behavioural health interventions (Milne-Ives et al. 2020). The vast diversity among mobile fitness applications, including in their intended user group, focus on health behaviours and methods and features used for promoting change, has led to a substantial body of literature. At large, the research reviewed suggests that users’ perceptions are generally positive when it comes to fitness and health applications and that there is a statistically significant correlation between the use of digital fitness interventions and the users’ health behaviour (Han and Lee 2018; Zhao et al. 2016). But not all digital intervention tools are equally effective — the mere inclusion of digital technology and mobile applications is inadequate to modify users’ fitness habits, satisfaction, or intention (Valcarce-Torrente et al. 2021). Strategies such as self-monitoring, self-motivation, goal setting, personalised feedback, participant engagement, and psychological empowerment can lead to more successful fitness outcomes (Compernolle et al. 2016); however, since apps contain a limited number of these techniques, multiple apps may be necessary to effectively promote fitness activity in completely sedentary individuals.26 The research reviewed suggests that the active use of fitness apps is helpful in promoting fitness activity in the short term, but, as a behavioural change intervention, there is no evidence to suggest that individuals who choose to use fitness apps are more physically active than those who do not (Barkley et al. 2020). 

“…on the basis of the seemingly incontrovertible evidence that physical activity and exercise contribute in a simple causal manner in improving health, it is now commonly thought that fitness is the most desirable state of the individual’s body in modern society – something akin to the new health – and promises nothing less than new and improved standards of wellbeing in the public domain.” (Neville 2012)

In a systematic review conducted by Chatterjee et al. (2021) to evaluate the effectiveness of digital interventions for healthy lifestyle management, the authors found that interventions that included personalisation and behaviour change techniques were more effective than those that did not. Romeo et al. (2019) conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of smartphone apps in increasing physical activity and found that fitness apps were particularly effective in increasing physical activity when they were used in combination with other interventions such as text messaging or coaching. They also found that apps that focused on goal-setting, feedback, and self-monitoring were more effective than those that did not. A pre-pandemic study (Chen et al. 2014) examined the motivational aspects of social interactions on fitness apps. Gamification typically plays a role in most fitness apps, with competitive activities dominating, while aspects of social interaction play a less important role. The authors recommended options for app design that included cooperative features, as opposed to competitive features. 

McKay et al. (2019a, 2019b) used two scales to rate smartphone apps: Mobile Application Rating Scale (MARS) for functionality, and the Application Behavior Change Scale (ABACUS) to determine the potential for behaviour change (Stoyanov et al. 2015). The most common behaviour change techniques included in apps in this study were those related to practice and rehearsal, instruction, self-monitoring behaviour, customising features, and the inclusion of reminders or activity prompts. Of these, the features that encouraged practice or rehearsal in addition to daily activities were the most commonly identified, followed by the feature to allow the user to self-monitor behaviour. 

The study also noted that despite existing literature and user research identifying goal setting as important in achieving behaviour change, a disappointingly low number of applications included an option for users to set and change goals. A gross majority of the applications reviewed also failed to enable the user the ability to plan for constraints, export data from the app (i.e. to a health care professional), or gather background on willingness for behaviour change.

“[Health] is a norm, and norms are clearly delineated from above and below alike. ‘Fitness’ has perhaps its lower, though rather blurred and murky threshold, but cannot, by definition, have an upper limit; ‘fitness’ is, after all, about the constant ability to move further on, to rise to ever higher levels of experience. Hence ‘fitness’ will never acquire the comforting exactitude of a norm. ‘Fitness’ is a never-to-be-reached horizon looming forever in the future.” (Bauman 1998)

Chapter 3

Categories: Offerings, features and positioning

In recent years, the fitness industry has experienced increasing disruption from digital opportunities and innovative technologies aimed at addressing complex issues and meeting diverse user needs. We conducted a competitive analysis of 30 fit-tech brands, including Nike+ Training Club,, and Samsung Health, as well as several digital apps in health-tracking and educational learning domains. Through this analysis, we gained a comprehensive understanding of the current landscape, identifying key features, UX/UI trends, and unique aspects among the major fitness and health applications. Our research allowed us to categorize the fitness app market, gather insights, assess offerings, determine unique selling points (USPs), and identify different positions within the industry.

View the full benchmarking here

1. Relatedness and Community driven fitness

Fitness apps are focusing more on community-driven fitness, featuring social components like feeds, adding and sharing with friends, group training sessions, and topic-specific forums as drivers to keep people committed, engaged, and motivated, which have proven successful in helping people stay on track with their fitness goals. 

One key driver of this trend is the recognition that people are more likely to stay motivated and engaged when they feel connected to others who share similar interests and goals. By offering features such as topic-specific forums and the ability to share workouts and progress with friends, fitness apps and other digital platforms are able to create a sense of community and support that is proving vital to help people stay motivated and engaged. 

One key driver of this trend is the recognition that people are more likely to stay motivated and engaged when they feel connected to others who share similar interests and goals. By offering features such as topic-specific forums and the ability to share workouts and progress with friends, fitness apps and other digital platforms are able to create a sense of community and support that is proving vital to help people stay motivated and engaged. 

For example, the Fitbit app’s dedicated “Community” section features over 40 topic-specific groups, ranging across varied fitness subjects. Through these, members can grow and discover like-minded people and share interests, inspiration, updates, goals, and progress relevant to the group. Other apps like Aaptiv even let users rate and review a workout programme, adding a layer of social credibility and feedback while also building a sense of community. 

A significant number of these apps also feature exercise challenges, tapping into the psychology of healthy competition and gamification. Samsung Health’s “Together” feature allows users to create and join themed global challenges and participate in different workout contests with members from all over the world. Users can compare their stats with their friends and other Samsung Health users. They can even filter by age, giving them greater control over how they measure their success and ensuring that the fitness data they consume is relevant.

Virtual group sessions gained momentum during the pandemic., which was already working towards introducing online group classes on their app, fast-tracked the rollout of this feature due to the lockdown and shifted its focus entirely to live in-app workouts. Mindfulness app Headspace has also introduced a feature allowing users from all over the world to anonymously join and meditate together in the hope of building a stronger sense of community. Headspace noted an uptick in the usage of its live meditation feature even after lockdown restrictions were lifted, indicating that despite anonymity and no tangible interaction between users, people valued the shared social experience of meditating together. In 2021, Apple launched a new social feature in its Fitness+ app that lets up to 32 users exercise or meditate with each other. 

Fitbit app’s dedicated “Community” section, featuring over 40 topic-specific groups, ranging across varied fitness subjects, provides a platform for members to connect, interact, support and encourage each other. 

Samsung Health’s “Together” feature, allows users to create and join themed global challenges with members from all over the world. Users can even filter leaderboard by those their age allowing greater control over their measures for success and motivation.

Mindfulness app Headspace recently introduced group mindfulness sessions where users from all over the world can  anonymously join in and meditate together

2. Hyper personalisation

Hyper-personalization in fitness apps is a trend that leverages AI, machine learning, and data analytics to customize the fitness experience for individual users. Through onboarding surveys, fitness apps gather information on user preferences and goals, enabling them to deliver relevant content and plans. Some apps even integrate with inbuilt health-tracking tools, allowing for further personalization. Aaptiv, for instance, employs an AI assistant called Aaptiv Coach to provide tailored plans and suggestions. This AI assistant takes into account user input, engagement data, diet, fitness levels, habits, and external device data to continuously learn and offer personalized recommendations. The app’s flexible guidance empowers users to adjust and update their plans on the go, ensuring a unique and personalized experience.

Fitbod takes a similar approach by utilizing machine learning to create workout routines tailored to individual preferences. The app adapts its recommendations based on users’ past workouts, achievements, and preferences, allowing them to fine-tune their goals, equipment, available space, and time. This adaptive approach ensures that each workout plan is unique to the user and can be modified as needed.

Nutrition tracking applications, such as MyFitnessPal and HealthifyMe, utilize AI-powered algorithms to deliver personalized insights and recommendations to their users. By harnessing the power of data analytics, these apps provide comprehensive nutritional information, track calorie intake, and offer customized meal plans. They consider individual factors like user goals, dietary preferences, and health conditions to deliver highly relevant and tailored content. Through their extensive food databases and advanced machine learning algorithms, these apps empower users to make informed choices towards achieving their desired health outcomes. 

While hyper-personalization offers exciting possibilities, it is essential to address the ethical implications and privacy concerns associated with data collection and analysis. The extensive use of personal data and algorithmic decision-making raises questions about privacy, surveillance, and potential risks. It is crucial for fitness apps to prioritize user privacy, personal autonomy, and transparency. Developing robust policies and regulations that protect user data and inform users about how their data is used and stored is imperative as these technologies become more prevalent. By considering the ethical implications, fitness apps can ensure that hyper-personalization is implemented responsibly and with respect for user rights.

Most fitness apps also take users through a comprehensive onboarding experience with the option to sync data to smartphones and wearable devices to offer greater personalisation and relevant content

AI-powered fitness app, Aaptiv Coach helps advise members on achieving and maintaining holistic health goals. The flexible nature of guidance allows users to easily tweak and update their plans as they advance through their fitness journey.

Fitbod uses Machine Learning (AI) and customisation to offer hyper-personalised fitness routines. 

3. Immersive experiences

Technologies like augmented reality/ virtual reality (AR/VR), 3D scanning, and motion tracking are transforming the future of workouts by delivering immersive experiences that make exercising online more engaging and effective. AR overlays the real world with virtual elements to generate live information or create an immersive experience. In VR applications, users become entirely immersed in the virtual world. To increase engagement, digital sports solutions for home often employ AR, VR, or even mixed reality (MR) technologies, which have previously found little use in private households outside of the gaming domain (Ruth et al. 2022). 

Immersive approaches to digital fitness can even help simulate the experience of working with an actual trainer by providing real-time data to correct form and measure recovery, the quality of workouts, and so on. Gymaholic, for example, leverages innovative features, including 3D animation and a customisable avatar that users can view and rotate at different angles, to accurately gauge movement and proper form. Users can even use AR to place the avatar in the physical space to visually understand how to perform a specific activity, what muscles the exercise targets, and how to correct posture and technique. 

Interactive UI interventions can also make working out digitally more immersive and entertaining by adding rewarding elements to reach fitness goals. introduced a virtual energy meter within their in-app live workout classes to replicate the enthusiasm people feel when working out together in a physical class. The feature requires camera permissions to capture movements and assigns each online participant with an energy score based on their range of motion and intensity. The energy score assigns users a rank at the end of the class, which they can share on social media and use to challenge friends. 

Another major component of fitness is the importance of muscle recovery; immersive UI, like on the Fitbod app, can help users better visualise recovery recommendations. Fitbod provides a composite heat map visualising how a set of exercises has collectively impacted the muscular system, allowing users to efficiently track the recovery of their muscle groups. After completing a full workout, Fitbod’s analytics and machine-learning capabilities help determine progress and smart recovery times to intensify or relax its recommended routines for future workouts. Additionally, Fitbod also focuses on correcting form and technique by offering detailed breakdowns of movement along with visual aids like videos. 

Gymaholic’s customisable avatar can be viewed and rotated at different angles to help users accurately gauge proper form and movement.

4. Motivation and Gamification

Consumer behaviour is influenced by feedback and rewards, which can lead to improvements in physical activity levels (Sullivan and Lachman 2017). Positively framed messages are more effective on user perception compared to negatively framed ones.33 External factors, such as technological devices and their features, are likely to influence consumers and their attitudes. Ryan and Deci (2000) define motivation as an impulse or sensation to “be moved to do something”; motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic, with intrinsic motivation, determined by internal rewards, considered the most important and pervasive.34 Mobile fitness applications that show a summary of daily activity act as an external factor that provide quantitative data as a reward to the user. 

Gamified features provide feedback and rewards that can lead to an increase in intrinsic motivation as users feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from achieving their physical activity goals. Furthermore, a positive framing of messages within these apps and devices can also contribute to a more constructive attitude towards physical activity, leading to further improvements in overall physical activity levels. Extrinsic motivation can also play a role in the effectiveness of these devices. External prods and pressures, such as reminders and notifications, can also contribute to an individual’s motivation to engage in physical activity. Overall, consumer behaviour in relation to physical activity is highly influenced by feedback and rewards, both intrinsic and extrinsic, provided through technological devices. Gamification as a motivational tool, from e-learning to loyalty programmes, has become a significant part of digital experiences. 

Fitness apps like Aaptiv, Fitbit, and Nike+Training Club award members with gamified badges to motivate them and help them track progress through milestones, streaks, competing in athlete challenges, and other specific activities. In addition to in-app training activities, Aaptiv also awards users for supplementary activities like sleep and socialising, taking a holistic approach towards encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Alternatively, some apps incorporate a simple points-based rewards system: Google Fit awards heart points based on the intensity of a workout (a high-intensity workout will increase the heart rate, which will earn the user more points); the WellnessWins section of the Weight Watcher’s WW App awards users “Wins” for building healthy habits like tracking food, activity, and weight, which can then be traded for real rewards like products and experiences. 

On the other hand, Fitbod focuses on the satisfaction of accomplishing the exercise. By giving users clear weight and repetition goals for each activity, Fitbod harnesses the psychology of “rewards of the self,” showcasing personal bests as Fitbod Achievements. Users can earn strength-training achievements as they reach exercise goals and share their workout achievements and session summaries with friends and family.

Fitness apps leverage gamification through badges and points based-rewards to motivate users and help them track progress.
The WW App earns users “Wins” for healthy habits that can be traded in for real rewards like products and experiences, all for free.

5. Progress and Tracking

Digital fitness and fit-tech solutions have the potential to improve wellness by providing easy tracking and reminders to follow through on goals. Research on exercise motivation and adherence has shown that the ability to easily track and visualise progress can play a significant role in maintaining engagement and promoting self-awareness and accountability. Lifesum and Adidas Training, for example, allow users to monitor their progress through logs, entries, and milestones. Adidas Training allows users to document their transformation by taking pictures of themselves at specific intervals (visible only to them) as they advance through workout sessions. These photos, paired with relevant progress statistics and recommendations, are a form of  results-based motivation. 

Digital solutions can also offer detailed reports and analytics in the form of intuitive dashboards, biometric charts, and graphs to allow users to feel more in control of their progress. Fitbod provides subscribers with comprehensive weekly reports highlighting a variety of exercise-related stats, streaks, and achievements to keep them motivated and aware of their training progress. 

The Samsung Health app offers users the ability to personalise the way in which their progress and analytics are organised and consumed. The app’s customisable dashboard allows users to monitor a large range of health data and lets them track their heart rate, sleep cycle, calorie consumption, water intake, caffeine, blood glucose, menstrual cycle, and more. Each parameter is organised into cards or “widgets” that users can rearrange and hide, as per their preference, making the experience of tracking their health more intuitive and relevant to their fitness priorities. Complementarity is another crucial feature of fitness-tracking apps like Fitbod and Google Fit, which allow users to sync health data from their smartphones and wearable devices. 

The Adidas Training app’s photo-logs, paired with relevant progress statistics, aims to encourage users through results-based motivation.

6. Marketing & Influence

Partnership marketing can add value to fitness services by providing unique opportunities for establishing more robust app ecosystems (holistic health solutions), acquiring a larger user base, and earning more revenue (through ancillary entry points, companion apps, celebrity/athlete endorsements, etc). For example, the OTT service Disney+Hotstar partnered with, Sarva, and Brilliant Wellness to expand their offerings towards holistic health and wellness content. Disney+Hotstar did this in response to the slow adoption of their premium subscription service due to the absence of the Indian Premier League and other live sports during the pandemic (Live sports are Disney+Hotstar’s biggest customer acquisition and revenue vehicle). 

On the other hand, growth and business head Naresh Krishnaswamy said the company saw a three-fold increase in the amount of time its users spent on its online fitness vertical, Piggybacking on the increase in demand for remote health and fitness content during the pandemic not only allowed companies to position themselves as viable options for at-home fitness training but also increased digital touch points and audience reach. 

Ancillary apps and IoT integrations also help in improving the overall fitness experience for users. Popular diet and food tracker Lifesum extended its offerings to support Google Assistant integration, given that a lot of households now rely on voice assistants for their daily tasks. By leveraging voice technology and virtual assistance, Lifesum is able to make logging details quicker, easier, and more accessible. 

Content endorsed by celebrities can also increase audience reach and motivation through recognition and relatability. In India, 50% of endorsements feature celebrities compared to 20% in the U.S. Brands like Nike have successfully leveraged a global network of brand ambassadors for its Nike+ Training Club app, which features athlete workouts and holistic health and motivation tips from personalities like Cristiano Ronaldo and Serena Williams, positioning the brand and its app as leaders in training and fitness content. 

Brands like Nike and leverage celebrity endorsed content and marketing 

Celebrity endorsements have also always been a key aspect of Indian marketing. This can be further evidenced by the fact that close to 50% of endorsements in India feature celebrities as compared to around 20% in the U.S. Celebrity endorsed content and apps can also increase audience-reach and motivation through recognition and relatability. It can even help establish a clear brand image associated with the ideals of a specific celebrity, influencer or professional athlete.

7. Digital Content Hubs and Streaming assisted-workouts (Video + Voice)

Fit-tech and health-tracking apps can act as one-stop shops for fitness-related activities and media by offering robust content hubs and feeds featuring unique articles, resources, and other related content. A repository of rich and diverse content not only improves customer engagement but can also help establish brands as thought leaders and industry experts.

The Nike+ Training and Run Club apps both feature a feed of professional athlete-endorsed media that explores holistic fitness through content from industry experts on topics related to sports, workout regimens, Nike product experiences, and health and nutrition tips,. Through this, Nike is able to drive its customer engagement and brand retention and provide users with a more robust guide to fitness. Similarly, women’s health, fitness, and menstrual tracking app Flo features a rich multimedia content library of menstrual, sexual, and wellness articles, videos, courses, podcasts, questionnaires, and discussion boards. The app also uses machine learning to push the most relevant and personalised resources through its feed based on user logs. Flo also conducts regular user surveys on app content and uses the insights gained to fine-tune its offerings. A board of 80+ medical experts co-create and review content on the app, making it a credible resource and go-to solution for wellness and reproductive health. 

Voice training offers new avenues for fitness, including voice-assisted runs, HIIT workouts, cardio, and more. Aaptiv is one of the few fitness apps that focuses solely on audio-based training, allowing for more free and fluid movement while training. For users who require additional help and visual cues, the app includes visual guides for hundreds of movements across more than 400 workouts offered in the app, with the aim that users will eventually transition to audio-based cues only. Apps also leverage voice to build a tone for their brands. Aaptiv offers access to audio recordings of thousands of guided workout classes led by certified professional trainers. The tone of voice, coupled with inbuilt upbeat soundtracks and cues on maintaining proper form, tips, and encouragement in between intervals, set the mood for a workout. Nike+ Training’s standard fitness content also includes voiceovers that give tips and advice on correcting form mid-movement and inform users of rest intervals and upcoming exercises. The tone is more neutral, informative, and matter-of-fact. 

Headspace offers wellness and mindfulness through audio-guided meditation, using a single, distinct voice that spans across their meditation sessions and video/audio marketing collateral (they recently added a female voice to create a more inclusive environment). The calm and consistent tonality makes users feel a sense of trust and comfort, establishing the app as a safe space. Even in their new workout mode Move, the same calming and instructive tonality is carried forward, even though the instructors change. 

Aaptiv is one of the few fitness apps that focuses solely on audio based training allowing for more free and fluid movement, especially for cardio-based workouts

Chapter 4


The fitness industry is shifting from surviving the COVID-19 crisis to looking for ways to thrive in the next normal, building consumer relationships that last and grow. Providers of solutions and services for fitness practices both inside and outside the home will need to reassess their value propositions, articulate their roles in consumers’ fitness routines, and commit to an approach that will win over the right consumers for them. Digital-enabled solutions have evolved from low-cost alternatives and add-ons to stand-alone offerings that are a regular part of consumers’ lives, offering them convenience and personalization. Moving forward, providers of solutions and services for fitness practices both inside and outside the home will need to reassess their value propositions, articulate their roles in consumers’ fitness routines, and commit to an approach that will win over the right consumers for them. Specifically, providers of on-site fitness solutions should consider a more hybrid approach that keeps consumers figuratively and digitally connected; makers of in-home tools and equipment should lean into the normalisation of hybrid fitness, and all digital solutions on the product to service continuum should prioritise the data security os users while maximising personalization and connectivity.

In recent times, personal quantification, or self-tracking of behavioural outputs such as physical activity, sleep, and food intake, has become increasingly prevalent. The rise in popularity of wearable devices, fitness apps, and other self-measurement systems has made it easier for individuals to monitor and track their behaviours. Despite the claimed benefits of personal quantification, such as improved health and wellbeing, increased productivity, and a better understanding of one’s own behaviour, there has been limited research on the potential negative effects of self-tracking on consumers. This highlights the need for a more nuanced approach to understanding the impacts of personal quantification on individuals. To achieve a more holistic understanding of personal quantification, design practitioners must move beyond merely quantitative data and consider the subjective experiences of individuals who engage in self-tracking. Anthropological and sociological inquiries can be especially useful in providing a more nuanced understanding of the social and cultural contexts in which self-tracking occurs, as well as the subjective experiences of those who engage in it.

As noted in previous sections, many studies suggest that personal quantification may result in feelings of anxiety, self-criticism, and obsession with metrics and goals. The constant monitoring of one’s behaviour may also create a sense of pressure to constantly improve, leading to burnout and disengagement with the activity. Therefore, it is essential to investigate the potential drawbacks of personal quantification technologies and develop design strategies to mitigate negative impacts. These strategies may include designing more user-centred tracking systems, developing tools to help individuals contextualise and interpret their data, and providing resources for individuals to manage their self-tracking behaviours in a healthy and sustainable way.

 Fueled by advances in high-tech equipment, integrations, and virtual and augmented reality, the at-home workout experience became more similar to big gyms than ever before, as consumers wanted products to suit their lifestyles—and a wide variety of them. As a result, a more diverse and higher-quality set of home equipment and other tools emerged in markets around         the globe.


1. Offer a combination of  in-person and digital services

Fitness technology companies can adapt by offering a combination of in-person and digital services, allowing customers to choose the option that works best for them. As people start to return to more normal routines, they may be looking for options that allow them to enjoy the social aspect of in-person fitness classes while still having the convenience and flexibility of digital options. Fitness technology companies can adapt by offering hybrid in-person/digital options, such as live streaming classes or offering on-demand content that can be accessed after the live class has finished. To thrive in the next normal, fitness providers will need to focus on building long-term relationships with consumers and offering value that goes beyond just physical workouts. This may include offering personalised nutrition plans, mental health support, and other wellness resources. On-site fitness solutions should consider offering a hybrid approach that combines in-person workouts with virtual options. For example, a gym could offer live streaming of fitness classes or virtual personal training sessions, allowing consumers to continue their fitness journey even if they are unable to visit the gym in person. For digital fitness providers that offer at-home workouts and equipment, this trend towards a hybrid approach can be an opportunity to reach a wider audience. By offering a range of workouts that can be done at home or in the gym, these providers can appeal to a diverse group of consumers. They can also offer personalised workout plans and tracking tools to help users stay motivated and track their progress. For digital fitness providers that offer virtual fitness classes or personal training, this shift towards a mix of local gym and at-home solutions can be a chance to expand their reach and offer more convenient options for users. By offering virtual classes or training sessions that can be accessed from any location, these providers can make it easier for users to fit workouts into their busy schedules.

2. Emphasise the convenience and flexibility of digital fitness 

Even after the pandemic ends, many people may continue to appreciate the convenience and flexibility of digital fitness options. Fitness technology companies can emphasize these benefits to attract and retain customers while they continue to innovate and offer new features. Fitness technology is constantly evolving, and companies that are able to stay ahead of the curve by offering new and innovative features are more likely to succeed in a post-COVID world.

3. Focus on mental health, stress management and community

Digital fitness providers can broaden their offerings beyond physical fitness by incorporating meditation and mindfulness sessions into their content, and developing specific programs dedicated to stress management. Through  virtual support groups focused on holistic wellness, apps can engage users and foster a sense of community and peer-to-peer connection.

4. Establish a positive design process

Positive design is a new theoretical perspective based on positive psychology. Positive Design focuses on designing artefacts, environments, and services that promote flourishing by fostering virtue, pleasure, and meaning. Fitness apps can establish a positive design process by prioritizing user-centered design, fostering positive emotions, facilitating meaningful goal setting, providing feedback and encouragement, promoting social support and community, enabling personalization and customization, and emphasizing the journey and process of fitness engagement. By incorporating these principles of positive design, fitness apps can create meaningful and engaging experiences that enhance users’ psychological well-being, evoke positive emotions, and support their overall flourishing in their pursuits.

5. Privacy, data transparency  and data portability

Fitness apps can prioritize data privacy and data mobility by implementing transparent privacy policies, secure data storage and encryption, user consent and control, anonymization and aggregation of data, data portability, regular audits and compliance with privacy regulations, and user education and awareness. These measures ensure that users are informed about data practices, their personal information is protected, and they have control over their data. By prioritizing data privacy, fitness apps can establish trust, respect user privacy rights, and address concerns associated with personal data usage.

6. Reinforce the role of ‘expert knowledge’ in addition to that of networks of peers and self-experimentation, to responsibly democratise fitness

Fitness apps can responsibly democratize fitness by combining expert knowledge with peer networks and self-experimentation. They can empower users through reliable information, access to qualified professionals, evidence-based recommendations, educational resources, and a supportive community. Strategies include curated content, collaborations and directly access to healthcare professionals and specialists, science-based suggestions, educational materials, community engagement, data-driven insights, and partnerships with reputable health and sport organizations. By combining user-driven experiences with expert knowledge, fitness apps promote informed decision-making and enhance the effectiveness and credibility of fitness experiences for a wider audience.

7. Encourage users to be more intentional in their decisions to review any quantitative feedback

Fitness apps can encourage users to be intentional in reviewing quantitative feedback by allowing them to control the visibility and accessibility of their data. Providing contextual information helps users understand performance fluctuations, and goal-oriented feedback emphasizes progress towards meaningful milestones. Customizable data alerts enable users to manage the impact of fluctuations on their well-being. Educational resources teach users how to interpret data effectively and promote the idea that fluctuations are part of the learning process. Self-reflection features encourage users to consider qualitative aspects of their fitness journey, considering not only quantitative data but also qualitative aspects such as how they feel, their enjoyment of the activities, and their overall well-being. By implementing these strategies, fitness apps can help users develop a healthier relationship with their performance data and make more informed decisions.

8. Center fitness by giving users more agency

Personal agency is a big factor to consider while making design changes to the interface and experience. To center user agency, fitness apps can involve users in the design process, seek their feedback, and allow customization of the experience. Educating users about technology limitations and data accuracy empowers them to interpret information effectively. Reducing data overload by enabling customized reminders and notifications prevents overwhelm. Offering tailored tracking options lets users choose what to track, avoiding undue pressure. By implementing these strategies, fitness apps empower users to make informed decisions aligned with their preferences and values, promoting a more personalized and user-centered approach to health and well-being

Chapter 5

Annexure: User Personas

Raw Mango

Other Campaign

Aposematism is when animals take on visual characteristics to signal that they are venomous in an attempt to ward off predators. Bright acidic colours are a common manifestation of aposematism and became the starting point of our narrative for Other.

The idea should cost less than 10 rupees,” Sanjay joked. Through Other, we learnt the importance of frugality; relentless editing and abstractness became our approach for the campaign.”

Founder, Sanjay Garg, challenged us to find meaning in aposematism that could live beside Raw Mango’s brand language. True to the brand, the idea needed to be simple while creating maximum impact; “the idea should cost less than 10 rupees,” Sanjay joked. Through Other, we learnt the importance of frugality; relentless editing and abstractness became our approach for the campaign.

Apposematism: A poison dart frog. Image source unknown.

While Indian nostalgia is a prominent visual device for Raw Mango, surrealism lives as a silent pillar. The label’s first published photo was of Sanjay’s sister with her face painted in the Raw Mango’s primary colour: forest green. Another campaign, Cloud People, imagined a community of cloud-worshipers with painted faces. Iconography and symbolism are abundantly clear to the informed. Antique deity figures litter Raw Mango stores, and symbolic inspirational imagery is plentiful on its social media pages. Even the inspiration for the campaign’s ceramic eyes came from a bronze statue lying on Sanjay’s office desk. 

“While Indian nostalgia is a prominent visual device for Raw Mango, surrealism lives as a silent pillar.”

Raw Mango’s Cloud People, 2017 photographed by Ashish Shah.

Sanjay Garg and Now Form founder Vikramaditya Sharma directed the campaign photographed by Shubham Lodha in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. We also worked with musician Sid Vashi to create custom music for the short films shot by Vikas Maurya and edited by Akash Sharma.

Now Form created all the graphics and collateral for the campaign, including a custom animated typeface. We also designed and coded a responsive and interactive web experience that ran for the campaign’s duration. You can view the website here.

We designed a custom typeface and frame-by-frame animation for the collection title, Other.
We directed short films by Vikas Maurya and edited by Akshay Sharma. Musician Sid Vashi made custom music for the films.
We designed and developed a responsive and interactive website that ran through the duration of the campaign. Users could click and drag to experience a 3D replica of the Jaiselmer landscape while the eyes followed the user’s cursor. We also optimised the experience for mobile. 

Other had a polarising effect on viewers and quickly went viral. Many viewers found the images grotesque and scary and accused Raw Mango of going too far. However, a large audience found the images pathbreaking. Istituto Marangoni, Director, Diana Marian Murek shared an Instagram story with the caption “maybe the best campaign ever”. Every major publication in India wrote about the campaign, including non-fashion publications such as The Times of India, Indian Express and the Hindustan Times. 

“Istituto Marangoni, Director, Diana Marian Murek shared an Instagram story calling the campaign the best campaign ever.”

While we didn’t intend to shock our audience, we did intend to challenge a fashion campaign’s limits (in an Indian context). We achieved our goal of creating a conversation that questioned the vernacular of contemporary Indian design and fashion. 

Screenshots of Diet Sabya’s Love/Hate poll

Truth, Lies, and Secrets: a brief history of privacy

Our design strategist, Shivangi Tikekar moderated a talk for Ashoka University on cryptography and digital privacy. The seminar by MIT and Ashoka University professor, Debayan Gupta explored the history of privacy and security as well as the dissemination of information, its impact on our daily lives, and how emerging technologies have revealed new ways to use data for good or ill.

Note: The thumbnail image is by Berlin-based artist and researcher, Adam Harvey. The piece titled CV Dazzle explores camouflage from face-detection technology.

Pranoy Sarkar

Pranoy Sarkar is a prominent Indian photographer, with an extensive fashion portfolio. His clients include Torani, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Raw Mango, Tarun Tahiliani, and Good Earth.

Pranoy approached Now Form to design his digital portfolio. We opted for an unadorned interface which showcased his work without cropping or compromising the photos.

The stories page features a seemingly straightforward grid; however, achieving a responsive asymmetric grid with virtually no cropping was a technological feat. The content management system also simplifies content upload and reorganisation of content.

candi Solar

candi Solar is a dedicated commercial, and industrial rooftop solar solution installer, financier, and operator geared towards SME’s, family-owned businesses, and schools across Asia and Africa. With an affordable payment model, short contract period, and easy installation/ de-installation, they leverage the vast untapped rooftop potential in these underserved sectors to free up capital for SMEs by lowering their effective power price.

Recognising that sales agents were making false promises about the product in order to make a sale, candi approached us to design a short video for their third-party channel partners and sales representatives to present to potential customers. They needed a fool-proof video that could streamline the sales process by clearly and accurately explaining the solution and its benefits to prospective clients.

“The demonstrative and visual approach of the video also avoids any potential language barriers by aiding comprehension for a predominantly semi-English speaking customer base.”

We created a short, illustrative video that combines text, animated graphs and graphics, and drone footage to clearly highlight candi Solar’s unique offerings. The demonstrative and visual approach of the video also avoids any potential language barriers by aiding comprehension for a predominantly semi-English speaking customer base. Accompanied by an explanatory voice-over, the video serves the purpose of being transparent, informative, and easy to understand.

China India Foundation

China India Foundation is a non-profit organisation with the mission to increase mutual understanding between the people of India and China by creating avenues for collaboration, building people-to-people exchange, and strengthening the capacity for cross-cultural engagement. We worked with CIF to create their brand identity and digital language.

“A type-only logo felt like the right choice for being unbiased and apolitical.”

The organisation is for students, academics, policy practitioners, and business people from India and China.

The relationship between India and China is sensitive; A type-only logo felt like the right choice for being unbiased and apolitical. Even the countries in the name are sequenced alphabetically. The variation in line weight found in traditional Asian calligraphy inspired our serif-type logo.

Gender & Sexuality in the Digital Age

Technology has allowed us to expose large communities to liberal narratives instantly and effortlessly. By designing more inclusive digital experiences, we can increase social tolerance through mere exposure. With a few lines of code, we can begin to challenge archaic understandings of gender and sexuality, and years of patriarchy. The right digital interventions can even challenge governments to consider a new and transient world order — what a time to be alive.

What does this reform look like in practice? As a digital architect, I work very closely with large enterprises. We were recently approached by one of our banking clients to revamp their customer-facing website. Unsurprisingly, market research showed that Indian banks perform poorly on accessibility and inclusivity. In the digital world, large banking companies rarely have a voice. With more and more companies turning to natural language (conversational copy), a digital persona has become a mandate. Can we find ways to make these personas more inclusive and empathetic? Via social media, blogs, chat interfaces, and on-site content, companies providing essential services can reach millions of users. With the correct language and content, they can help positively change the narrative for marginalised communities.

Companies employ personas to communicate with their target audience. According to a survey by Jay Walter Thompson Innovation Group, 80% of Gen Z (13–20 years old — born between 2006–1999) believes that gender no longer defines a person as much as it used to. This shift in gender perception shows a need for institutions to build diverse personas. Brands like IndiGo, Hubspot, and Capital One have shown us that having a point of view humanises companies and thereby instils a sense of trust. By creating inclusive and accessible services, companies can increase their customer base and build brand loyalty. With estimates of the global LGBTQ spending power at $3.6 trillion ($117 billion in India), enterprises have an opportunity to create valuable and lasting alliances by embracing diversity.

Capital One is a rare example of how companies can play an essential role in shaping society. According to Kris Dunn & Shane P. Singh, subconscious exposure to diversity can create positive perceptions of diversity. They refer to this normalisation of difference through exposure as pluralistic conditioning. For a second, let’s imagine being confronted with a form that puts Ms. before Mr. on a dropdown. Now imagine a dropdown that covers a spectrum of genders (HSBC is one of the few banks which provides ten gender-neutral title options). What about a form that allows you to include two parents of the same gender? Or photographic content that celebrates diversity? For an American same-sex couple settled in India, this is good user experience. For a teenager in rural India, struggling with their identity, this is recognition.

HSBC is one of a few banks that provides numerous gender-neutral title options.

Most banking chatbots use a female as their logo/icon. The gross stereotype of a female assistant has been digitised. Capital One is one of the few banks that uses a non-gendered chatbot icon, and if you ask it its gender, it will reply, “non-binary”.

HDFC India’s female chatbot logo (left). Capital One’s gender-neutral chatbot logo (right).

The Siri on my iPhone has a male voice. It has been the subject of numerous discussions with my friends because it always catches them off guard. Having a virtual assistant with a female default voice is so normalised that we forget to examine its implications. Have you questioned why Alexa, Cortana, and Siri have female names? With the nascent adoption of voice assistants and chatbots, there is still time to course-correct and build inclusive technology. We should start by noticing how digital tools around us have adopted physical, societal conventions and hold companies accountable for embracing these antiquated norms.

It is essential to recognise the reach of enterprises; the cumulative impact of micro-changes by these ubiquitous giants can radically transform the cultural environment surrounding us. Because of limited exposure, many people write off ‘non-traditional’ gender and sexualities as abnormalities. Introducing a spectrum of genders and sexuality to daily life, through channels such as digital-banking, can increase the acceptance of non-binary communities.

Being aware of underlying bias can orient us to question institutional processes. Awareness can also help us incorporate changes in the organisations we interact with.

SBI Card

Our engagement with SBI Card

Now Form works cross-functionally with SBI Card’s Marketing, Digital, Business, and IT team to design their customer-facing website. Through primary and secondary research, including trend analysis, benchmarking, and analysis of their existing digital assets, we identify and create new strategies and interventions for their B2C and B2B flows.

In acknowledgement of our work, SBI Card also approached us to create a new visual language and experience for their website as part of a larger digital transformation. Based on our comprehensive research of digital and industry trends, we’ve redefined several journeys, including their pre-login card application, first-time user registration, and onboarding experiences.

Notably, we also designed the UX and interface of their new Chatbot ILA, which is amongst the most advanced banking chatbots in India and internationally.

Our Approach

Our team uses a range of UX tools to get a comprehensive understanding of the scope and requirements of SBI Card’s digital assets and user needs. Through UX processes like competitive research, benchmarking, A/B testing, and rapid prototyping workshops, we can make informed decisions towards identifying and co-creating more resilient solutions.

A/B testing– Use case one: Segregated fields into collapsible sections to contextualise stages of the flow and reduce scrolling; Use case two: Upfront input fields under a single section feels lengthier, requiring additional scrolling.
Through rapid prototyping, we collaboratively establish the experience and content structures

Understanding the global banking landscape

Through our research, we learned that traditional online banking services are rapidly being redefined from money management platforms to 360 social payment platforms. Using AI, they are also focusing on customising user experiences and making websites more dynamic. Additionally, recognizing the growing needs of Millennial and Gen Z populations, banks like Bank of America, Santander and DBS leverage dedicated content hubs and tools for financial advice and management to address this demographic.

As part of our research, we identified key digital innovations that have been implemented across Banking and Financial Services.

Our research continues to inform SBI Card, and our approach to new journeys on the website.  Based on our documented research, we have designed several new features, including a two-factor authentication journey or a secure login experience and a more robust spend analysis tool accessible through SBI Card’s chatbot, ILA. The research has also informed our strategy behind the revamp of their UI and experience, helping identify emerging technology and global banking trends to enhance their virtual presence.

Based on our study of general UI and UX trends and digital and tech innovations in BFSI, we identified ways in which SBI Card can improve their digital touch-points.

SBI Card 2.0

Our new visual language for SBI Card abandons traditional, dated banking UI for a more clean and contemporary look and feel, displaying full-screen content and less dense layouts to keep important information in focus. The new UI also focuses on providing users with more personalised, interactive, and mobile-friendly experiences. Playful illustrations, transitions, and pared-back interfaces simplify navigation and help increase engagement.

The use of personified guides featuring women, men, and gender-neutral characters illustrate the narrative of a user’s journey, humanise the interface, and create moments of playfulness in otherwise lengthy flows.”

The use of personified guides featuring women, men, and gender-neutral characters illustrate the narrative of a user’s journey, humanise the interface, and create moments of playfulness in otherwise lengthy flows.

As part of their ongoing transformation, we have redefined several key flows on the website:

New user registration and digital onboarding: Our team redesigned the digital registration and onboarding of first-time SBI Card customers. To reduce high drop-off rates, we created a more engaging onboarding experience featuring micro-animations, dynamic visual content and progress trackers that help simplify the experience and motivate users to complete the journey.

To reduce high drop-off rates, we created a more engaging onboarding experience featuring micro-animations, dynamic visual content, and progress trackers that help simplify the experience and motivate users to complete the journey.”

Online Card Application: Our redesigned card application form helped digitise the entire process of applying for an SBI Card credit card online. Previously, prospective customers could initiate a new card application on the website. However, to complete the process and procure any necessary documentation, an SBI Card executive had to manually reach out to customers and schedule a visit, thus breaking the journey by taking it offline. 

Our solution allows customers to complete the entire application process and upload supporting documents online, reducing human intervention and therefore, costs, as well as facilitating faster processing times.”

The customer is only required to provide a physical signature for which they can schedule an appointment online for the SBI Card’s executive to visit.

Our solution allows customers to complete the entire application process and upload supporting documents online, reducing human intervention and therefore, costs, as well as facilitating faster processing times. In case human intervention is required, a customer can easily schedule an appointment within the flow, eliminating the need to exit the application process mid-way. The redesigned form also accommodates additional benefits such as add-on cards and standardised cross-selling.

Rewards: We redesigned SBI Card’s rewards experience; The previous interface deviated from a standard e-commerce experience making it difficult for users to seamlessly spend and purchase. Our solution, designed with the end-user in mind, is more buying-focused. The new interface includes intuitive shop-friendly filters, a seamless mini cart, add-to-cart functionality, and a structured interior product and voucher page that clearly communicates relevant features, information, and supports video content to better showcase products.

Our solution, designed with the end-user in mind, is more buying-focused.”

Clickable categories are positioned at the top of the page for quick and easy filtration, and a scrollable grid of promotional banners highlights featured offers for users to quickly explore and save. The new journey makes it easier for customers to search, set goals, and redeem rewards with available payment and redemption options, displayed up front.

Designing B2B and B2C journeys for the existing website: 

Now Form works on customer flows and B2B portals for SBI Card’s existing website. We work on the tonality, architecture, and implementation of digital strategies and interventions based on our research of industry trends, as well as on focused benchmarking for the functionalities we tackle. 

We work on customer-facing interfaces ranging across various stages of an SBI Card user’s online banking experience. Some of the flows we have designed include: 

Virtual Card: SBI Card’s virtual credit card or “Insta-card” is an intermediary digital card that allows new cardholders to make transactions, view card details, and get an overview of available features before they receive their physical card. We designed the overall experience and content architecture, including digital representations of their horizontal and vertical cards.  

Insta-card, an intermediary digital card, allows new card-holders to instantly make transactions and view their card details and features even before receiving a physical card.

Two Factor Authentication: Although transactions are made secure through an OTP, other sensitive financial information remains accessible through a simple (less secure) login. Our two-factor authentication design, which includes intuitively placed smart options, made the overall banking experience more secure for users.

Our two-factor authentication design made the overall banking experience more secure. We made the experience more dynamic by including intuitive smart options.

Card and wallet limits: We designed a journey to allow users to manage their Card and Digital Wallet spend limits online. Through this, users can see an overview (dashboard) of their limits, as well as modify and manage individual limits. Our solution mainly comprises toggles and sliders to help users visualise and edit limits with ease.

Our solution for setting Card and Wallet limits comprises mainly of toggles and sliders to help users visualize and modify the values with ease.  

Online dispute management for fraudulent charges: Our online Dispute Management solution streamlines the process of raising disputes on fraudulent charges. Before this, the experience was primarily offline and tedious. Our solution helps users raise multiple disputes quickly and with ease and track real-time progress on a timeline.

We also work on SBI Card’s external B2B flows and portals, for businesses to manage their financial transactions and communications with vendors. Some of the B2B journeys we have designed for SBI Card are:

By digitising SBI Card’s dispute management journey, we helped streamline the process. Our solution helps users raise multiple disputes quickly and with ease and track real-time progress on a timeline.

OnUS, a B2B online dispute management portal: OnUS is a B2B portal that enables the card issuer, SBI Card, to file a dispute directly to the merchant and overturn a fraudulent or accidental transaction on the cardholder’s behalf. Our solution helps facilitate simple back and forth interaction, providing a chronological history of the communication and the supporting documentation shared between SBI Card and the merchant.

A merchant can enter into the process of representment simply by raising dispute online and providing supporting documents.

D2i, a payment processing portal for businesses: Designed to cater to three distinct users, the D2i portal streamlines the processes of creating and managing payment instructions for multiple vendors online. We worked closely with the SBI Card marketing and tech teams to identify the steps for each user through rapid prototyping. Our solution allows businesses to systematically execute the entire journey directly through the portal, including adding vendors, creating and editing payment instructions, and accommodating multiple levels of validation and approvals on these instructions, making the process more seamless.

The list of all the payments is shown in a tabular format that is categorised into sections providing ease of access to the required set of data.

ILA, a transactional AI-powered banking chatbot

Now Form designed SBI Card’s new Chatbot, ILA. ILA’s goal is to give users access to pre-login and post-login assistance on their SBI Card account information and financial tasks. It is amongst the most advanced chatbots of any banking website as, unlike other chatbots, it is capable of handling transactional commands and complex post-login functionalities within the chat window. Using natural language, users can access advanced features including EMI conversions, balance transfer options, raising and tracking service requests, applying for a new card, and blocking and reissuing a lost or stolen card, among other account management options. 

Our interface structure for ILA drew on familiar, conversational paradigms and queues; We included timestamps, feedback icons, and “typing” loaders to provide contextual indicators.

Using natural language, users can access advanced features including EMI conversions, balance transfer options, raising and tracking service requests, applying for a new card, and blocking and reissuing a lost or stolen card, among other account management options.”

Our role involved shaping the overall visual language and pattern library for ILA. We adopted a contemporary UI approach with a simple interface, micro-interactions, customised iconography, and linear, frictionless flows.

Through benchmarking (secondary research), we reviewed chatbots and financial websites to gain a better understanding of the existing landscape and identify best practices and patterns for conversational interfaces. We also created high-level flow charts to help define basic conversational modules, message types, and conditional logic.

Designing a conversational interface: We designed the interface and patterns for ILA, drawing on familiar visual paradigms and conversational queues. For instance, we included timestamps, feedback icons, and “typing” loaders to provide familiar contextual indicators to users. We also implemented response buttons, in-text links, and a menu of primary actions to ease navigation and afford simple and straightforward actions.

We created UI provisions to efficiently convey a variety of content types (such as video, image, illustration).
A short welcome message, clear CTAs and quick-links, and a menu of primary-actions help to set expectations, ease navigation, and afford simple and straightforward actions.
We made the live-chat experience easily discernible for users through transitions, modified inputs, and the inclusion of an avatar and agent name on the timestamp.
Patterns such as expandable points breaks-up long, text-only responses into parsable chunks to avoid overwhelming users with lengthy text.

Our team at Now Form has taken new and varied approaches to redesign SBI Card’s existing web journeys for a chat interface. For example, in place of tabular account summaries, we used descriptive phrases placed contextually beside account details to maintain a consistent, conversational tone and allow users to parse through information in a readable flow. For complex actions such as EMI conversions and balance transfer options, overlays within the chat window help keep the conversation focused, remove distractions, and avoid drop-offs on lengthy flows. We also designed the experience for a Live Agent Chat within ILA. The use of seamless transitions, a modified input field, and the inclusion of an avatar and agent name on the timestamp help make the two experiences easily discernible for users.

Spend Analysis: SBI Card approached us to design a more robust spend analysis tool accessible through the chatbot. Our solution helps users easily manage and track when and where they’ve spent their money. Through machine learning and AI, the interface automatically organises a user’s credit card transactions into colour-coded categories like Travel, Health, Utility, Electronics, Entertainment, and more, accompanied by distinct icons for each. Quick summaries are accessible within the conversation itself while more complex data takes users into an overlay-view, with information neatly organised into filtered tabs for easy access and comparison. Daily, weekly and monthly overviews and category-wise spend breakups, dynamic graphs, and clear, conversational labels allow users to visualise their spending habits easily. 

Our solution helps users easily visualise and track when and where they’ve spent their money.
Quick summaries are accessible within the conversation itself while more complex data takes users into an overlay-view
Through machine learning and AI, the interface organises a user’s credit card transactions into colour-coded categories accompanied by icons for each

Since its launch, SBI Card has been able to replace their first-line customer support with ILA, addressing over 23 million queries and receiving over 25 thousand service requests booked using ILA.”

Business impact: Since its launch, SBI Card has been able to replace their first-line customer support with ILA, addressing over 23 million queries and receiving over 25 thousand service requests booked using ILA. The integration of ILA with the SBI Card app has also seen a 7x increase in average daily users and 8x increase in average daily questions asked by users. Adoption of the conversational AI solution has helped SBI Card acquire over 130 thousand leads, resulting in revenue growth of thousands of dollars.