Thought Leadership
Outrunning the Competition, in User Acquisition

Josh Schaeffer

Josh Shaeffer
VP, Business Development

Josh Shaeffer is Vice President of Business Development for Runtastic and is focused on growing Runtastic’s presence in North America. Josh manages the company’s business relationships, App Store Optimization, user acquisition, and co-marketing arrangements. Josh has both founded consumer enterprises and worked with technology start-up companies. He holds an M.B.A. in Marketing and Innovation and a B.S. in Finance. Josh is an avid runner, and he also loves playing tennis and soccer.


Please give us a little background on Runtastic, for those of us that aren’t familiar with your apps. 

Runtastic is a leader in the digital health and fitness space that started with a single GPS tracking app for running and outdoor activities. From there we designed and grew an entire ecosystem of apps. We have apps for all types of fitness related activities, from running and ab workouts to heart rate monitoring. In addition, we have our own fitness hardware which includes a wearable, smart scale and more which all work with our apps so users can get even more out of their workouts.


Is there a reason why you’ve ‘unbundled’ some of these apps– does specialization help with ASO and app store rankings for specific user needs?

The reason why Runtastic has multiple apps for several specialized activities is first and foremost for our users. If we tried to include push-ups or six pack workouts in our core running app that could overwhelm them and make the experience less enjoyable. By having specialized apps for activities, it hones the user experience. Although this takes more from our developer and graphic resources, we feel that it is worth the time. A definite positive side effect of having an ‘unbundled’ strategy is that we’ve seen a boost in ASO for these apps by learning about which keywords and titles to use for them. This was not something we would expect to show so strongly, but have been pleased with the results.


Does having multiple apps also allow you to cross-promote, and be able to funnel users into your main app? What are some suggestions you have for other developers looking to do the same?

Absolutely! We want our Runtastic users to feel engaged with our platform and have the opportunity to access as many of our apps as possible. The average Runtastic user has over two of our apps on their phone, which shows that we have been able to educate and cross promote our other apps to our 60-plus million users.

For other developers that have multiple apps, I would suggest finding a place in your app where users communicate positively and would be more inclined to download another app based on those positive experiences. Don’t view it as an ad; instead, educate them on another great app your company offers. Marketing additional app offerings via email is another great strategy that has been extremely effective for us.

If you don’t have multiple apps, reach out to complementary apps and suggest doing ad swaps or content sharing on each other’s blogs or in email newsletters.


Being in the health & fitness category, how do you approach both paid & non-paid user acquisition?

Runtastic has mostly relied on non-paid user acquisition through building high-quality apps that are easy to use for a specific purpose. We localize in numerous languages (up to 18 for our top apps) to increase discovery and use the latest technologies for iOS, Android and Windows. For example, we adopted Apple Health and were a lead developer on M design on Android. Keeping up on cutting edge technologies has led us to create numerous new features for Runtastic, which have in turn helped boost downloads. Recently, we have experimented with paid acquisition to help improve ASO and app discovery, however, historically we have had over 95% organic downloads.


Does virality, or friends inviting/sharing with their friends play a key role in your non-paid user acquisition strategy? What kind of lift have you seen from these organic channels?

Facebook has helped grow the Runtastic brand enormously. We’ve seen upwards of 20% of our regular users share their workout activities on Facebook. This leads to millions of impressions in Facebook newsfeeds each year. Also, in Europe our users enjoy sharing their activities on WhatsApp…who knew?!?

The lift is hard to measure but we know it has added greatly to the overall success of organic downloads. Our users are proud of their accomplishments and want to share them. We say be proud and well done!


Have any mobile app partnerships worked well for you, and if so, why do you think that was the case?

We’ve primarily done the heavy lifting on our own, but working with select partners does prove successful. Being a launch partner with MyFitnessPal’s API led to great app installs and connected users between the two companies.


On a scale of 1-10, how important is localization when entering a new market? How specifically do you localize, and how much would you say this has attributed to your success in new geos?

11! As an app developer from a small country in Europe – Austria – we had to think big and not just focus on our home market or even the DACH region – Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. We immediately launched into other key European languages, basic Chinese and Japanese. One challenge we faced being a non-native English speaking company was the ability to successfully hone in on the English language quickly. However, as English-speaking growth opportunities expanded, so did our focus. It’s very important for app developers to find what other markets their apps may perform well in. And don’t forget to update the metadata of your app in that language as well.


What are some strategies you use for entering new markets? Focus on a few key markets at a time, or expand to as many geos as possible. Only go to tier 1, tier 2 markets, or really go after the long tail

As mentioned above, localization is key! Find true native speakers and bring them in-house or find a high-quality localization company to do the work for you. There is nothing worse than launching in a new market with a poorly translated app. You may get killed on reviews from users and it will be tough to recover.

Once you’ve localized, reach out to your contacts at Apple and Google and let them know you are releasing an updated version of your app in a new language.


Having both a Pro & Lite version of your apps, how do you approach In-App Purchases and monetization through ads?

Runtastic has apps with both PRO & Lite versions and apps only with IAP. We find that both models still work effectively for us, however, we believe with our strong ecosystem and product offerings that the subscription model, along with the IAP revenue, will be the future model to pursue.

Ads are another great tool for monetization and we have seen success with them. One of our key features for upgrades is an ad-free experience, although free users have come to accept them.


Lastly, what do you see as the future of mobile user acquisition for the health & fitness category, for paid & unpaid channels?

With the skyrocketing cost of app installs, it’s going to be more difficult for health & fitness apps to compete with gaming companies. We will have to be more creative and work with more partners on cross-promoting apps. Working with complementary verticals like lifestyle, medical and sports could lead to new ways of gaining new users.

If your company doesn’t have a large growth or user acquisition team then finding the right partner company to run campaigns will be even more crucial. If the company is not hitting your set goals, be quick and move on to the next one.



With over 150 million downloads and 75+ million registered users, Runtastic is a leader in the digital health and fitness space that provides a comprehensive ecosystem for tracking and managing health and fitness data.

Runtastic offers over 15 unique apps, including the flagship Runtastic app, Runtastic Me, Six Pack, Sleep Better, Strength & Fitness apps, and more, which work in unison with the company’s proprietary hardware, including the Runtastic Orbit, the Libra Smartscale and Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor, to provide high-quality activity stats and progress reports so users can boost lifestyle awareness and improve their overall health and fitness. All data syncs to, where users can view online training logs, access detailed data analysis, engage with a supportive community and access additional services.

If you want something, go get it.

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