A look at Nutrisystem's digital strategy: In pursuit of apps, DIY dieters

Nutrisystem is hoping a mobile platform called NuMi can reach DIY dieters. Aditi Gokhale, Nutrisystem's digital chief, talks shop, CRM platforms and digital strategy.

Nutrisystem is going after the do-it-yourself dieting crowd with NuMi, an interactive platform that aims to help people cut weight, improve fitness and get emotional support while hitting those goals.

Aditi Gokhale

The catch is that Nutrisystem, which is expected to have 2014 revenue of $400 million, down from $527.7 million in 2009, is going against Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers is expected to deliver 2014 revenue of $1.43 billion, down from $1.83 billion in 2012.

I caught up with Aditi Gokhale, senior vice president of digital at Nutrisystem, to talk about NuMi and strategy.

Here's a look at the highlights:

The business challenge. Nutrisystem offers a structured dieting program where you get 20 days of food in a box. The problem: Do it yourself dieting is a big market. "What we realized is that DIY dieters skew to their own food and technology plays an important part in their program," says Gokhale. Meanwhile, Nutrisystem has to battle Weight Watchers, a much larger company in the DIY space.


Where digital products fit in? Nutrisystem has launched an iOS app and an Android version to lead what will become a suite of digital products. Gokhale said her unit is more of a startup in a larger company and is currently in "test and learn mode" to monitor behavior, research and test pricing options at $19.99 a month. The primary product that relies on technology is NuMi, a service that aims to blend nutritional knowhow with activity and emotional support. "It's not just about logging food and activity," said Gokhale. "There are plenty of apps that do that. NuMi offers insights, advice and recommendations on the go. It tracks slip-ups as well as victories."

Analytics. Nutrisystem is monitoring its web and mobile products with Google and Omniture primarily as well as internal tools. Behavior monitoring will be critical so NuMi can offer food recommendations whether eating in or out. "We love to predict what a person likes to eat, propose activities and collect data," said Gokhale. "If we see someone slipping up at 3 p.m. every day we should be able to offer support."


Running the team. Gokhale likes to run a small and lean team that stays entrepreneurial. The team is stacked with technology and data science people and few business people. "We're heavy on the technology and developing algorithms as well as decision trees," said Gokhale.

The CRM system. To track user behavior and profiles, Gokhale started looking at Salesforce.com, but then decided to leverage a home-grown internal system. "We had a beta but discontinued it," said Gokhale. "It was not a hang-up with Salesforce, but the version in the field with the contact center and counselors was the internal one. We had a home-grown system perfected over the years for us. Why use a separate platform?" Gokhale said the home-grown system was integrated with the counselor workflow so she didn't want multiple screens to move through.

Reporting structure. Gokhale reports to the CEO and is part of the executive committee. She collaborates with the chief marketing officer and chief financial officer. Gokhale's team is building out an innovation center and working with the CMO to integrate customer data. She also controls the tech spending and her group is treated like a startup.

Integration. Gokhale said NuMi will integrate with fitness devices like Jawbone and Fitbit because the DIY crowd is tech savvy. Nutrisystem is closely watching Apple's health efforts as well as Google Fit. Gokhale is hoping that Google and Apple can provide one integration point.