Passwords. We all have so many of them. It gets overwhelming, right? That’s why that handy option to “Log In Using Facebook” is pretty much a lifesaver. But what would happen to a company’s web and app traffic if they removed that option? That’s exactly what Weight Watchers ($WTW) did recently and the results are fascinating.
Weight Watchers is a massively popular brand - both in the real world and on Facebook (is there a difference?). From September 2017 until early May 2018, Weight Watchers Facebook likes were on a steady increase.
Pretty impressive, right? Of course, Weight Watchers has been spot-on in its marketing of late. When Oprah Winfrey signed on to the weight loss giant, membership soared (alongside Oprah’s net worth).
Then, without any fanfare or so much as a press release, Weight Watchers removed the ability for its members to log in to their website or site using their Facebook accounts.
Before we get into those results, let’s look at the state of the company.
At the beginning of May, Weight Watchers International kicked off its fiscal year by reporting record-high membership numbers and solid first quarter results. Shares of Weight Watchers were up more than 7% after this announcement. The company reported earnings of $0.56 per share, which blew away analysts’ estimates of $0.06. Revenue was reported to be $408.3 million, once again shattering estimates of $388.67 million.
Subscriptions to Weight Watchers make up 80% of the company’s revenue. Those were up 29% compared to a year ago with 4.6 million subscribers. Member retention is at its highest level in company history due to the app, which makes it easier than ever for members track their calories. The new Freestyle program has also been a hit with subscribers as the flexibility of the program appeals to casual users. There has been a 40% increase in new member signups thanks to a number of factors, including celebrity spokesmen Kevin Smith, Chef Eric Greenspan, and DJ Khaled. Overall, Weight Watchers International is up more than 54% on the year.
So, here’s what happened when the company removed the ability for its members to log into the website or app with their Facebook account:
That’s a pretty stunning drop in use of the website and app via Facebook. We'd bet Weight Watchers' tech support team was also overloaded with forgotten username/password requests too. But why would the company do this?
It comes down to protecting their members’ user data in light of the Facebook data breach scandal. Cambridge Analytica accessed the personal data of more than 50 million Facebook users during the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign. Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of a congressional committee in April regarding this scandal and its implications.
Facebook recently took steps to introduce more stringent privacy protections for users with the Clear History feature, which will allow Facebook users to clear anybody or any company that has been tracking their movement across the social network. But that doesn’t sound like nearly enough to quell privacy concerns.
Until Facebook can prove that it is secure, more companires like Weight Watchers who collect a large amount of personal data are likely to follow suit. It’s a good move for Weight Watchers in particular, as it shows care for their members even if it causes a temporary inconvenience.