Weight Watchers taps mobile to support long-term behavioral changes
By Chantal Tode
December 18, 2012
Weight Watchers' new mobile app
Looking to harness consumers’ habits to support healthy eating, Weight Watchers’ new mobile application helps users track food choices, manage their environment and support long-term behavior changes.
The app complements the weight management service’s new Weight Watchers 360 program, which features a new curriculum and tools to help members make healthy choices. Mobile plays a key role for the new program in helping to educate members about the new tools and to encourage healthy habits.
“We see mobile as one of the best behavior change tools that is out there,” said Catherine Ulrich, senior vice president of product development and strategy at Weight Watchers, New York, NY.
“Research has shown that with Weight Watchers meetings and eTools, people can lose five times more weight than those who try to lose weight on their own,” she said. “Mobile has actually changed behavior in general – people carry phones with them all the time.
“We are trying to use that same behavior to help them track what they are eating or have the best meal that they can. We are leveraging members having mobile phones with them all the time to help them set up a supportive environment and to enact long-term behavior changes.”
A broader revamp
Weight Watchers is in the midst of a broader revamp that expands the service’s focus from short-term meal tracking and planning to include the role that environment plays on meal choices as well as supporting longer-term behavioral changes.
Mobile devices, which are almost always within an arm’s reach for many consumers, play a key role in bringing this new focus to life for members.
The program and the app both feature two new components: Spaces and Routines.
With Spaces, Weight Watchers is focused on tackling the role of environment and how this impacts someone’s weight loss efforts.
To support the focus on environment, the new app helps members set up strategies and action plans to take control in different situations, such as when they are eating out, traveling or shopping.
Users can browse six categories to find trouble spots and learn how to manage them. They can also personalize a collection of tips by flagging the most helpful ones so they can quickly regain control when tempted to stray from the program.
The new Routines component is focused on habit formation to support long term goals. Users of the app can select up to three tasks to do daily from an assortment of 16 routines with the goal of helping members learn healthy routines that can become second nature.
Another key feature of the app is Snap & Track, which enables users to take a picture of their food and drinks that will integrate right into the app's tracker for PointsPlus, Weight Watchers’ system for keeping track of meals.
Users can save their photos to track later, assign a "Quick Add" value or add all the foods and their corresponding portion sizes in that meal and let the app calculate the PointsPlus value.
Photos can also be saved as a "favorite" so users can quickly access the information at other times. Members can also share photos through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and within the Weight Watchers community.
The Weight Watchers 360 app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. It replaces the current Weight Watchers mobile app.
The new app complements Weight Watchers’ Barcode Scanner app which enables users to scan food labels and see an instant readout of an item’s PointsPlus value. That app was launched in 2011.
Mobile is also playing a bigger role in the educational materials Weight Watchers is handing out to members to teach them how to use the new program, with the app featured prominently in these materials.
“Historically, we were mainly focused on tracking with PointsPlus to help members what they eat,” Ms. Ulrich said.
“What we are doing with the new version of the app and the program is adding in a new layer based on the latest science on longer term behavior change,” she said.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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