Vhi parkrun Rewards Programme

Vhi parkrun Rewards Programme: User Research, Design Sprint & Prototype

VHI Parkrun video


Vhi asked Graphite Digital to work with them to gain an understanding of how to motivate and reward customers for taking positive steps towards a healthy lifestyle using the Vhi parkrun Rewards Programme to motivate members.


Vhi parkrun Rewards Programme 

Vhi is Ireland’s leading healthcare insurance company, and they are committed to helping their customers lead longer, stronger, healthier lives. In December 2016, Vhi partnered with parkrun; a volunteer-led running club which has community running groups all over the world. Vhi parkrun Rewards is a digital loyalty programme that allows all Vhi customers the opportunity to earn healthy lifestyles rewards as they participate or volunteer in parkruns. 

- In just a few days, Graphite were able to conduct generative user research interviews with ten users. All of the interviews were conducted remotely by user research consultant Anna Allan. 

- Within just five days, the team had created a prototype incorporating the learnings from both the research and internal stakeholders. The insight gathered was used within a design sprint process with the Vhi and Graphite product, development and design teams. 

- The prototyped designs were then tested again with users for their feedback. The outcome of the usability testing helped to prioritise the product roadmap for the parkrun Rewards feature of the Vhi mobile application. 

- The Vhi parkrun Rewards programme was updated and relaunched in January 2020 using insights from the research and prototype. The app now includes digital voucher rewards and will in the future also include personal goals and badges, which allows customers to set goals and build towards their achievements.

What was the Vhi parkrun Rewards challenge?

Everyone is welcome to join a parkrun event whether they walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate. Saturday morning events take place in parks, and open spaces. The experience is welcoming and inclusive for all fitness levels. Vhi parkrun Rewards is a digital loyalty programme that gives all Vhi customers the opportunity to earn healthy lifestyles rewards as they participate or volunteer in parkruns. The objective is to encourage participation in a healthy physical activity each week that also encompasses community engagement. Vhi is the first health insurer in Ireland to tangibly reward customers for making healthy choices and taking part in a healthy activity. The programme began by providing customers with seven physical rewards when they met specific challenges over six months, and later 7 further rewards were introduced. 

The Brief

In 2020 the Vhi team wanted to upgrade the programme to be more innovative, health-focused and environmentally friendly. Vhi also wanted to give customers more choice and control over their rewards experience. The Vhi team approached Graphite as they wanted to understand how users felt about the current rewards and if there may be a preferred reward system that was more motivating. 

Art board VHI Parkrun Rewards

Our Approach

Graphite conducted generative user research, a design sprint, created a prototype, and ran usability testing. The two teams, Vhi and Graphite, worked closely together to design the new user experience and prioritise a future roadmap for Vhi parkrun Rewards. Graphite began by conducting generative research with ten users. 

Generative research 

The generative research process helped us to focus on a deeper understanding of users' needs, desires and frustrations and helped us to define the problems to solve. It also identified patterns in motivation across users. As part of this process, we created a discussion guide and conducted interviews with a cross-section of customer segments, including existing Vhi parkrun runners, walkers and volunteers. The interviewees included families, empty nesters, and a mixture of ages as well as a range of running experience levels including regular attendees, commitment dependent and those who stop and start in their attendance.

The research focussed on discovering interviewees motivations to attend parkrun, their current thoughts and feelings about the Vhi parkrun Rewards feature and understanding their preferences for rewards. The findings were presented to key stakeholders as part of the design sprint process.

Design Sprint

The Graphite and Vhi teams worked together in a design sprint workshop and ideated and created conceptual design prototypes based on customer insights to test with users. On day 5, the team tested the newly created prototype with users. 

A prototype of static screens was used to gather opinions, identify opportunities and ensure understanding of the proposed concepts as well as validating the decisions around the reward offering. Areas of opportunity arose around three main areas:

- Personal Goals

- Digital Reward system

- Achievement badges

Art board VHI Parkrun Rewards

What did we learn about Vhi parkrun customers?

The research discovered that having a sense of belonging and achieving personal goals are vital motivators for attending parkrun. These motivators outrank physical rewards by far. Physical rewards were redeemed but were getting tired, or were sometimes left unused. 

- 8 out of 10 of those interviewed said that feeling part of a community was one of their biggest motivators in attending parkrun.

- All of the regular participants set their personal goals for taking part, and those goals were often linked to speed of completion or improving distance.

- Distance to the location of a parkrun was particularly important, with many participants who had moved 30 minutes away from a parkrun choosing not to take part.

- Sports equipment, especially things such as headphones are very personal.

- Users dislike the idea of having the same as everyone else and like researching their products before purchase. One user said,  “It’s more of a gift if you get to choose it.”

- Many of those interviewed felt that achievement was more rewarding and acknowledgement of doing well would be more motivating.

- Nearly all were positive about receiving digital rewards

- Smaller motivators were found to be less useful, and insight suggests that those taking part would be more interested in saving up and having money towards annual high priced running equipment such as trainers. 

The Solution

As part of the design sprint process, the Graphite and Vhi team used the insight from the research to re-focus their goal. The newly formed long term goal was to help create a positive running experience, reward healthy behaviours, give added value to Vhi members and make it easy and approachable to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

They identified that supporting and helping participants of all levels with their goals and building healthy habits through relevant motivators, rewards and nudges was a priority for the sprint. Vhi wanted to create a positive experience, making it easy to take steps towards health and fitness. 

VHI Parkrun rewards

The prototype was designed to allow users to set their own goals within the app. People enjoy setting their personal goals, whether that is to get a PB or complete long-distance training. The prototype incorporated adjusted goals based on behaviour. As well as tangible rewards, digital badges were used as recognition for achieving goals.

VHI Parkrun rewards

The new reward system was well received and understood by all the users, the offering themselves received mixed reviews, although all users found something they would be happy to use within them. Badges and goals were more motivational for some users. 

Even though users suggested personal goals were their priority, most preferred the second version of the prototype, although many suggested that this was because it gave more detailed information. Views were also very positive towards the idea of including rewards/goals for volunteers. One user said:

Badges are the feel-good factor for achieving your goal; rewards are a nice extra.

Digital Rewards

The testing also helped to identify which of the partner offerings for rewards from partnered suppliers were most appealing and attractive - a sports partnership was the most appealing offer for those that took part in the research. Vhi were able to prioritise their partner relationships according to the feedback and allocate budget towards valuable rewards.

Saving towards a reward the users choose

Digital Rewards were chosen so that users could save vouchers and earn towards higher priced equipment like new trainers. Users can earn a €5 voucher for every 5 runs and save their vouchers to use on the partners and rewards they want the most. The app allows users to identify how many more runs until they earn their next reward.

VHI Parkrun rewards

Results & what’s next?

Vhi has now prioritised a roadmap of developments to the parkrun Rewards programme. The new feature launched in January 2020 with digital rewards. The rewards are now in a practical digital voucher form and include rewards users can choose and save up for. The app lets users track how many more runs they need to make to earn further rewards. The inclusion of badges and goals has also been scheduled for later in 2020. Through numerous badges, Vhi can give customers dynamic challenges that will motivate them to continue to take part in the programme. 

62% of app users with linked accounts have completed at least one run using the app. 

Over 8% of those that completed a run, have claimed the new digital rewards. 

57% have saved digital rewards towards a bigger item to redeem as the user research suggested.

The inclusion of goals allows customers to set and reach their desired achievements. Vhi will continue to add brands to give relevant rewards to those that take part in parkrun. While parkrun is on hold during the current COVID-19 crisis, Vhi are looking at ways to help and motivate customers to come back to parkrun when it resumes.