Meditation apps: Value for money and the value of marketing

Cesci Shastri
Cesci Shastri
Meditation Header Image
Meditation Header Image

With a growing millennial interest in self-care, the last five or so years has represented a moment in the spotlight for meditation apps. Between 2015 and 2018 alone, more than 2,000 new meditation apps were launched – indicating their value for both users and developers. 

Now, as we find ourselves confined to our own homes during the Coronavirus lockdown, meditation apps are once again experiencing a surge in consumer interest. Since March, ‘meditation’ has maintained a near peak level of attention. Not only this, but the beginning of lockdown has clearly signalled a chance for novices to try it out for the first time, with a 130% increase in searches for ‘meditation for beginners’ and a 50% increase in ‘free meditation apps’. 

So, with this in mind, we decided to turn our attention to this booming market by looking into five popular meditation apps and discovering what exactly is contributing to their popularity.

Value for money

Digital Uncut has analysed the pricing of five meditation and mindfulness apps available for purchase right now. These are as follows:

  • Headspace
  • Calm
  • 10% Happier
  • MyLife
  • Buddhify

On the back of the current demand for meditation and mindfulness apps, we first wanted to see which of these specific apps were the best value for money – primarily based on the features they offer and the money they cost.

Free trials

Instantly we found four out of the top five apps offered free trials (Buddhify is the only one that currently has no free trial period, but offers an initial download cost instead of a subscription fee). 

Free trials are a common offering by subscription service apps, with the expectation that users will go on to pay once the trial period is over, or will have to pay in-app to unlock more advanced features. In these specific cases, all four required the purchase of a monthly or yearly subscription to unlock a majority of the content. 

Annual sessions per £1

Given that a majority of the apps offered a similar trial period with similar conditions, we went on to see which apps offered the most meditation sessions per £1 of their cost. 

The annual subscription costs and the number of meditation sessions each of the five apps offers are as listed below:

  • Headspace: £49.99/ year
  • Calm: £35.99/ year
  • 10% Happier: £87.99/ year
  • MyLife: £54.99/ year
  • Buddhify: £5.99 (one-off download cost)

After doing the maths, we’ve worked out how many sessions each app offers per £1 of its price tag. The final results are represented in the graph:

Meditation-app-infographic-1

But, what does this tell us?

Based solely on the figures, 10% Happier and MyLife offer the fewest sessions per £1 of their cost. On the side of things, Buddhify is the best value for money, offering 33 sessions per £1 spent.

This may have something to do with the pricing plans of each app. Buddhify is unique in that it offers a download fee instead of a recurring subscription cost, which comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages that could impact its value from a user perspective. By offering no free trial, Buddhify is potentially lessening its appeal for first-time users looking for a ‘try before you buy’ type agreement. On the other hand, by offering a one-off download fee, the app instantly provides users with its entire catalogue of features, without them having to worry about a recurring charge. 

Accounting for Popularity

From the 5 apps we chose to look at, the top two market leaders weren’t the ones that offered the most number of sessions per £1. Both Calm and Headspace were in the middle of the pack in terms of value for money, respectively offering 14 and 8 sessions per £1. Despite this, they are the two most popular and successful meditation apps available right now. In fact, last year Calm was named as tech’s first meditation start-up to reach a value of $1 billion. Likewise, Headspace is dominating the market, boasting an impressive 2 million paying subscribers and 62 million downloads compared to the likes of 10% Happier’s 10 million and MyLife’s 4.5 million downloads. 

This success can possibly be attributed to the specific content within each app. For instance, Headspace’s position as market leader has been helped by its focus on content geared towards beginners or meditation novices – i.e. those who were most likely to embark on at-home guided meditation. 

However, it’s also fair to say a large part of each app’s successes can be put down to marketing exposure. 

Being the two most popular meditation apps available, it follows that Calm and Headspace have the highest monthly search volume out of our five. 

Monthly searches for the brand term ‘Calm’ comes in at around 92,000 whilst Headspace leads the pack with a search volume of 110,000 for its brand keyword. Both of these apps are benefitting from a large portion of the market share, not solely because of their value for money, but because of their wide reach and their unique positions as first-movers (both Headspace and Calm were among the first meditation apps to hit the market).

From this, it’s clear a fair amount can be boiled down to marketing strategy.

The Value of Digital Marketing

Below we have broken down the digital marketing approaches of each of our five chosen meditation apps, focussing in on their SEO and PPC strategies in particular. In doing so, we aim to uncover just how each app has managed to reach their respective position in the market.

Headspace

SEO:

As mentioned, Headspace has the most monthly search volume for their brand keyword. Not only this, but with around 338,878 visitors a month, they also benefit from the most monthly organic traffic out of the five apps we have looked into. Clearly, time and attention has been dedicated to their SEO strategy. Headspace has created a number of dedicated landing pages focusing on different key areas such as ‘Mindfulness’, ‘Meditation for beginners’ and ‘Guided Meditation’, all of which has helped them to rank in the top 10 in for over 1,000 of their keywords in the UK.

PPC: 

Headspace has run a total of 450 paid ads to date. Their ads mainly consist of short animations made to demonstrate features of the app, or the benefits of meditation to improve the quality of your life.

In terms of impressions and frequency, here are the top performers for the UK and the US: 

UK
US

In the US, the top performing ad was run on Facebook to advertise a new feature called ‘Everybody Headspace’.  The UK’s top performing ad was part of an app campaign made to encourage downloads. True to form, the ad was a short animation run across various platforms.

Calm

SEO: 

The monthly organic traffic for Calm’s website is lower than that of Headspace, but substantial nonetheless – with a total of 78,526 visits a month. Considering this high traffic, however, Calm is appearing in the top 10 for fewer organic keywords than would be expected. Calm’s website is also less extensive than its main competitor Headspace, with the homepage being the only page ranking for a significant number of keywords. 

What is most unique about Calm’s website, however, is the clear attention paid to its backlink profile. Calm’s 1.77million backlinks by far surpasses those of the rest of the five apps we have looked at, including Headspace.

PPC:  

Calm’s PPC strategy also predominantly focusses on video content. To date, Calm has run a total of 2,500 paid ads – surpassing the number run by Headspace.  

This is a quintessential Calm advert. It utilises a video format, and focuses on specific issues such as sleepless nights and trouble waking up in the mornings.

The angle taken in Calm’s paid ads differs from those run by Headspace who lean more towards highlighting how their app improves your life. Calm, on the other hand, positions itself as the app that helps you combat sleep problems and night anxiety. 

Differences aside, it’s clear that both Calm and Headspace have tapped into a winning formula by using video content in their ads. Much like Headspace, Calm’s top ads in terms of impressions and frequency utilise video. Both examples also follow Calm’s typical format and unique angle.

UK
US

10% Happier

SEO: 

One of the most outstanding characteristics of 10% Happier is its age. 10% Happier is relatively new on the scene, but has already made considerable efforts towards its SEO strategy. Out of our five apps, 10% Happier placed in position three for both monthly search volume at 10,100 and for organic monthly traffic at 19,245 visits a month – despite being the newest. They have also dedicated time to ensure they rank for a substantial number of keywords by creating various new landing pages.

Ultimately, 10% Happier has managed to carve out a cosy niche by positioning itself as the meditation app for cynics, complete with straightforward and practical content – a fact which has enabled them to quickly rise to the top of the industry and sit with the likes of Calm and Headspace.

PPC: 

10% Happier is the newest app we looked at, which is why they have only run one social ad so far. 

This ad follows the lead of Calm and Headspace by also utilising  video in a campaign designed to encourage users to download the app.

In terms of overall ad campaigns, 10% Happier has still only run seven, and are yet to launch any campaigns outside of the US. 

10% Happier Ad

MyLife

SEO:

MyLife (formerly known as Stop, Breathe and Think) stands out due to its rebranding. Our research suggests the company has undergone two different name changes since 2010.

Currently, the platform is in the process of rebranding  from Stop, Breathe and Think over to what we know as MyLife. Given this fact, there is no SEO data to be pulled. 

PPC:

In a similar vein, PPC data for MyLife is currently non-existent due to the current rebranding. However, it seems even before the rebrand, there were still no social ads run under the brand name Stop, Breathe and Think. 

Buddhify

SEO:

Earlier we mentioned that Buddhify’s monthly search volume was amongst the lowest of the apps we looked at. More so, the organic traffic to their website is on the lower end as well at 2,245 visits a month. Buddhify has clearly dedicated time toward SEO, with the creation of several landing pages on its website made to target specific keywords, though these have evidently been less successful than those of 10% Happier, Calm and Headspace – indicated most strongly by the fact that the website ranks for significantly fewer keywords than these competitors.

PPC:

Buddhify currently have no record of running social ads on Facebook.

So, how can we account for the relative successes of these five meditation apps? 

Objectively speaking, value for money seems like the most rational criteria – but what this analysis has shown us is that the price tag is a secondary factor. 

10% Happier, despite being one of the more expensive subscriptions and the newest app to launch, has risen to become the third most downloaded of our selection – already competing with established platforms like Headspace and Calm. A platform like Buddhify, on the other hand, though established, popular and offering more sessions per £1, is occupying less of the market share. 

Ultimately, the two main points we can take from this are:

  1. The importance of brand identity 
  2. The value of marketing strategy 

Taking the three leaders of our list (in terms of downloads and traffic) as examples, all three have positioned themselves within a distinct niche and have then used their marketing to reaffirm this. Headspace is the older, established brand with content made for meditation beginners, Calm is the app to help you sleep and 10% Happier is the app for cynics. In all of these cases, a comprehensive digital marketing strategy has been employed, focussing on both paid and organic search to extend each platform’s visibility. Compare the positions of these brands compared to that of Buddhify, who have not yet run any paid social ads, or MyLife, who have had to halt marketing efforts for a rebrand, and you’ll find the true value of a solid marketing strategy.