“Everything used to be better.” It is up to each one of us to decide whether this can be considered a universal truth. To the fitness sector it does apply though to a certain extent. Members used to attend their fitness clubs and find everything they needed there – equipment, courses and support. Club owners did not have to think beyond their own four walls and – if at all – only when preparing for a sales stall in a shopping precinct or at a local event. Life really used to be easier for our industry.
26. July 2021, by Andreas Bechler
The new Fitness Industry Triad: Indoor, Outdoor & Online
In future, the core competence of fitness clubs will no longer “stand alone”. What you should consider when implementing indoor, outdoor and online measures in your club.
Then along came COVID and turned the fitness sector on its head. Suddenly, members were no longer to be found on site and the club’s “own four walls” were no longer the boundary. Operators rushed to take measures to tie their members to the club and not lose touch with them. The clubs’ own courses, streamed online via the well-known platforms, became a popular tool. Members accepted all of this gladly.
Some time passed, outdoor temperatures rose and customers felt drawn to outdoor exercise. Some fitness providers realised the better image of outdoor versus indoor sports in COVID times and followed suit. Their members again gladly accepted. The new triad in the fitness industry was born.
The new core elements of the fitness sector
As already mentioned in the introduction, the fitness sector is by far no longer as one-dimensional as it used to be. COVID has given rise to the new triad: Indoor, Outdoor and Online.
Andreas M. Bechler is an author, consultant, lecturer and podcaster in the fitness sector. In addition, Andreas is the spokesman of the “Arbeitskreise Fitnessbranche des VSD – Verband für Sportökonomie und Sportmanagement e.V.” (Working Parties Fitness Industry of VSD – Association of Sports Economy and Sports Management). You can contact Andreas via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreasmbechler/
The indoor segment continues to form the backbone of fitness clubs. This is where it all started. Needless to say, this segment has seen constant change over the years, but some components have actually never changed – equipment pool, courses, support. For a long time, fitness services were only provided here. In future, this segment will also remain the central meeting and service point for members – but it will no longer be exclusively synonymous with our service.
The COVID crisis has provided the outdoor segment with unforeseen new momentum. Outdoor exercise has given back many members that sense of safety they had lost in enclosed spaces. At the same time, it was not subjected to the same strict rules as indoor sports even though not all the concepts complied with authority controls. What remains, however, is a segment of the future that members will demand. Whether at the end of the day this is separate outdoor areas with the same old fitness equipment or whether the great outdoors is used for functional training with small equipment, will – at the end of the day – only be a question of space available, the willingness to invest and already existing individual concepts.
Unfortunately, the fitness sector has neglected the online segment for too long. The crisis has brought this home to us more than probably anything else. What used to be ad-hoc measures before turned into permanent services by the second lockdown if not before. Not losing touch with existing members outside the fitness club is of pivotal importance especially when there are no new business contacts. At the same time, it is the only option, for the time being, to guarantee training for your own members everywhere and also during potential restrictions. This means members no longer have an excuse to shirk the exercise so valuable for health, and our industry no longer has an excuse to not integrate online offers into its service portfolio.
You can, of course, discuss whether these elements really stand side by side on an equal footing or in the end everything still revolves around the core elements of indoors. There are good reasons to assume that indoor offers will also remain a central focal point in future. At the end of the day, each club has to decide for itself where it sets its major focus. However, you should not neglect any of these three areas in future.
Putting things into practice
Paying lip service is easy but the most important task is to walk the talk – and each of these topics could fill many pages of discussion. There are already some interesting practical approaches here (compare for example FIBO Online seminar series on club concepts “Outdoor Training at Fitness Clubs: Hype or Trend?”). Needless to say, the individual ambience of each facility needs to be considered so that the result never looks artificial or contrived or simply out of tune with the overall concept. It is nigh on impossible to discuss all conceivable implementation options within the confines of an article of this kind but there are a few basic tips you should take into account when implementing any indoor, outdoor or online measures at your club.
Tip 1: Do not re-invent the wheel
A common mistake is the desire to introduce new formats when integrating new components. The first outdoor course on offer is suddenly jogging and the first step online is to offer webinars, even though there have never been seminars in the club. However, your members are used to your previous formats and react to changes and anything new rather sceptically at first. So do not turn your members’ fitness world upside down right away – instead, transpose existing formats to a new environment. If you offer Personal Training as a service at your club then why not offer it outdoors or online in future, too?
→ Which of my individual offers can I transpose to online or outdoors (almost) 1:1?
Tip 2: Create clear responsibilities
Club owners are often inclined to manage everything themselves. This was not a problem in times of smaller product/service portfolios. With today’s triad this is no longer manageable. As an owner you will in future also need to delegate and trust in your employees’ ability to make things happen. You recruited a club manager to look after all aspects of your indoor training, didn’t you? Why not recruit one person to take charge of outdoor and/or online offers? A person focused on one topic will, as a rule, work better and produce better results.
→ Who is responsible for establishing and permanently developing further these segments internally?
Tip 3: Do not shy away from bringing in external support
Many club operators like to manage everything themselves for cost reasons. An economical approach like this may be well intentioned but often falls short at the end of the day. In a worse-case scenario you lose a lot of money and fail to produce any positive effects. So find out which colleagues in your network have already acquired some experience implementing these segments and “quiz” them. Attend (online) congresses or trade fairs and be inspired by the cases presented there. Get an external consultant on board with extensive experience of implementing such measures. All of this will substantially reduce the risk of failure.
→ Where do I lack internal know-how that I have to buy in externally?
Tip 4: Take your time for this and plan clear milestones
In this industry we are tempted to think getting started today will bring success tomorrow. This way of thinking probably stems from the days when you could actually open up completely new clubs and be successful in no time. We will now have to part with this approach and allow things to develop. All this takes time and we have to be prepared to give it. However, do not go about this without a clear roadmap. Set clear milestones so you can judge the positive or negative development of an implementation project. If you fail to reach a milestone, ask yourself why this was so. Were the targets unrealistic or did you make any mistakes? Then adjust or pull the “rip cord”, if need be.
→ What are my expectations timewise and/or when do I expect the projects to produce which results?
Follow these fundamental tips and you will at least be on the right track to successfully implementing the new fitness triad in your club. And don’t allow setbacks to discourage you. As we said in Tip 4: “good things come to those who wait”.
The world has changed and so have customer expectations – so the fitness industry also has to adapt to the new requirements. Not every concept will have to fall back on the three new core elements but ignoring them altogether will become increasingly difficult. So don’t shy away from adapting your concept to the new era either.
About Hashtag Fitnessindustrie
“Hashtag Fitnessindustrie” is a podcast on the German fitness industry covering all its facets and actors. It aims to promote knowledge transfer between interviewees and listeners for the benefit of the industry as a whole.
Current trends and developments are just as much part of this podcast as are basic, strategic questions arising in the daily business of fitness service providers.
For more information go to: https://hashtag-fitnessindustrie.de