Discovery has announced a third change to the way it allocates points to members of its Vitality Active Rewards programme inside its first year. The programme, first piloted in the UK before being launched in South Africa last September, is simple: reach a points goal (tailored to you) every week and you’re rewarded with a free coffee/juice/smoothie from partners.
What’s not so simple is how you get there. Until January, it was very easy to reach your goal and for bad apples to simply game the system (by logging fake manual workouts, strapping step trackers to pets, and so on). In January, at the time it makes its annual changes, Discovery tweaked the model, and in April it made it noticeably more difficult. But — to its credit — at the time, it reset everyone’s weekly goal to a ridiculously low 300 (and in some cases, even lower).
From 20 August, it will lean in the other direction and introduce less aggressive heart rate categories for exercise as well as some altogether new entry-level activity categories (more details in a bit). It has also dealt with the higher-end of very active, engaged members in a sensible way.
Now, one might cynically look at three rounds of changes as evidence that Discovery keeps lurching too far in either direction (either too easy to get points, or too difficult). And that might be true. But, behavioural economics is hard!
Broadly speaking, as I argued in April, Active Rewards and those changes announced at the time were good. Discovery’s goal is to get its members to exercise more in a trackable, verifiable way. This means they’ll be living engaged, healthier lives and there are direct, tangible correlations with non-insignificant things like lapse rates, claims, hospital admissions and mortality.
The reason these changes were (mostly) good, I argued, is precisely because you were strongly incentivised to exercise more. In other words, they made it harder. And, at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, that’s good!
So, what changes?
Very simply, there are three groupings of changes (although the insurer isn’t messaging them quite as such):
Here, the changes are simple. It’s reintroduced a 50 point level for 5 000-9 999 steps a day (if you don’t trigger a heart-rate related workout of 30+ minutes). Also, it’s added a heart-rate category for “light” workouts of 60-69% of your age-related maximum (and tweaked the allocations for moderate workouts).
In my case, at age 33, the new thresholds look something like this:
- Vigorous workout: >80%: an average of 150bpm = 300 points for 30+ min
- Moderate workout: 70-79%: an average of 134bpm = 200 points for 30-59 min
- Light workout: 60-69%: an average of 115bpm = 100 points for 30+ min
Here’s the full, updated heart rate table.
A lower maximum weekly goal
The previous maximum of 1 200 points a week has been lowered to 900 points for all Vitality Active Rewards members. From personal experience over the past nine months, the gap between 900ish points per week and 1 200 is larger than it seems. Sure, it might “only” mean another 30+ minute run at 80% of your maximum heart rate, but sustaining this over time, especially during winter (and with time restrictions of 20 minutes on gym treadmills) is tough.
A new tier for endurance/high-performance members
This was hinted at in Discovery’s April changes and from 20 August an entirely new category has been added “to enable points earning for longer duration workouts”. This requires members to apply and to fulfil ongoing eligibility criteria. As a start, Discovery will look at “race event participation or device-recorded vigorous workouts of at least 90 minutes”.
The same base point categories apply, but there are additional 450- and 600-point ones for longer events. For example, a 120+ minute vigorous workout (at 80% of maximum age-related heart rate) will earn 600 points, like it used to before April’s changes. To go back to my Cape Town Cycle Tour example from April, training rides for an event of this nature will net you 600 points, not the 300 you’d be stuck with currently (obviously, timed and verified race events still earn big chunks of points outside of the fitness points structure (1 500 in the case of Cape Town Cycle Tour, at 100-179km)).
Here, Discovery should be commended for trying to find the balance between those of us who do things like cycle for three or four hours every Saturday morning and its broader base which it is trying to incentivise to be more active more often.
Here is the full breakdown of fitness points from 20 August.
These changes (with effect from 20 August) address one of the two revisions that I argued four months ago would’ve benefited from “a little more effort, thought and research”.
The one remaining bugbear among many members is the continued non-support for workouts logged in Strava. In April, Discovery said it was working with “Strava, Suunto and TomTom to get the required integrations in place to award Vitality points” but to date only Suunto integration has been reactivated.
The actual technical integration, from a dig around Strava’s application programming interface, is not complex given that manual workouts can simply be excluded altogether. As a regular Strava user, I know I’m speaking for a good few thousand engaged members when I say that re-enabling this integration will make Active Rewards as close to the perfect behavioural, fitness-driven rewards programme as it probably can be.
The clichéd million dollar (1 200 point?) question is why another round of changes?
Vitality CEO Dr Shrey Viranna says: “Periodic refinements are important to ensure the model stays up to date and motivates the right health behaviour.” But it said the same thing back when it made changes a few months back. The carrots (rewards) have remained the same, but maybe that new “stick” in April was a little too big? Achieving the right balance was always going to be the hardest part.
And perhaps Discovery realised that on-boarding members was proving more difficult than it should be. There is a big difference between engaged, active members hitting their goals each week and those “endurance and high-performance” members at the higher end. Equally, there’s a large gap between those engaged, active members and those starting out, who are probably not that fit or active.
Kudos to Discovery, these changes go a long way to making it easier to get over that first hump (never mind to those of us who prefer to cycle our weekends away).
- Hilton Tarrant holds shares in Discovery, acquired in September 2013. He has done work for content providers to various of the group’s businesses. And he is a Vitality Active Rewards member
- This article was originally published on Moneyweb and is used here with permission