Many Weight Watchers members are becoming frustrated as they try to use newly updated versions of the company's app and website, only to find data missing or incorrectly entered. And that's if they are able to use the system at all.
Users continue to complain about various issues with the updated systems, which were largely rolled out the week of Thanksgiving, already a stressful time for many dieters. The changes, which the weight loss company said it is aware of and trying to address, come before the big launch of a new program planned for December. Weight Watchers International also plans to feature Oprah Winfrey, who recently bought 10% of the company and joined its board, in its winter marketing push.
"We are getting ready to launch one of the most significant program innovations in the history of this company and our global technology transformation is a vital part of that launch," the company said in a statement to Ad Age. "As such, we have been gearing up to deliver a better digital experience, which includes upgrading our app and web technology. As with any major change, challenges will arise and unfortunately a portion of our members have experienced some migration issues. We have already resolved some of these and continue to work to bring all of our members along with this change, which we believe will be a great step forward for our program and for them."
At a Morgan Stanley conference on Nov. 17, an audience member asked Chief Financial Officer Nicholas Hotchkin why he is so confident that 2016 will be better for the company, adding that he had signed up for the app and found it was not that user-friendly.
Mr. Hotchkin answered that the public would see the new launch around the middle of December and that the company was getting "very good response" through testing.
"We know it's a real major change to what it means to do Weight Watchers both in meetings and online. The technology working well is an essential part of this. It's an area where we've been putting a lot of time revamping the look and feel in addition to the content. And when we launch, there'll be a whole new app environment and website environment for our members to enjoy."
Issues reported included the app not working for users on the iPhone 4S, some activity devices not syncing properly, tracked foods missing from the system, incorrect weight details being displayed, and users unable to change the day for a weigh-in. The company informed members that many of the glitches stem from moving each individual's account over to a new system, and that once that move is complete for all, "these glitches will be resolved." While some issues appear to have been fixed in recent days, others remain unresolved.
Weight Watchers provided explanations and advice online, including telling participants to manually track a post-Thanksgiving walk if it was not automatically entered into the system via an activity tracker.
The company's outreach included a post on its Facebook page on the afternoon of Thanksgiving.
Along with complaints and feedback directed at Weight Watchers via social media, the current version of the app has hundreds of one-star ratings in the Apple App Store, the lowest rating possible, with many people suggesting the company bring back the old version of the app.
Dozens of users also posted their issues to the company via Twitter.
@weightwatchers is it a conspiracy that your app is down on Thanksgiving?— Jessica (@jbquinn) November 26, 2015
The @WeightWatchers app is now fabricating foods that I never tracked at all, in addition to tripling the servings of those I DID track.— tiptoe39 (@tiptoe39) November 29, 2015
@WeightWatchers May want to consider just rolling back the release. New update, web/App are worthless. Unusable at this time— Sean Hennessy (@henn0166) November 30, 2015
The negative feedback comes as Weight Watchers tries to overcome competition from free online weight loss tracking tools, as well as people tracking their activity on their own with gadgets such as Fitbits. In its recent third quarter revenue fell 21%, with declines in attendence, active subscribers and profit.