Revolution in the fitness industry: What the hybrid future may cost
In einer hybriden Welt müssen Studiobetreiber an die digitale Komponente in ihrem Business denken
by Herman Rutgers
The $94 billion global fitness industry is undergoing a digital transformation, with the digital fitness sector alone forecast to reach $27.4 billion in 2022. Big (tech) brands are capitalizing on the opportunity, as seen in Apple’s introduction of Fitness+ and the rise of smart connected fitness companies such as Peloton, Mirror, Tempo and Tonal.
Consumer preferences are changing, with exploding interest in livestreamed workouts, new fitness apps and wearable technology.
Since March 2020, when the Corona crisis hit us all, 85 percent of Mindbody consumers have attended livestreamed classes weekly versus 7 percent in 2019. As a result of pandemic-related restrictions worldwide, people can work out more frequently from the comfort of their homes. With 46 % of participants intending to make virtual classes part of their weekly routine even after gyms reopen, a virtual arm will be essential for gyms and studios to thrive.
Customer acquisition as an additional benefit
In a hybrid world, fitness professionals and gym/studio owners must build a virtual side of their business that complements the in-person experience. This will help retain current members, but it is also how growth will happen: A recent Mindbody survey revealed that 40 % of consumers are booking virtual workouts with studios they have never physically visited, allowing those businesses to reach “digital-first” clients. Taking virtual fitness seriously gives businesses the concrete advantage of reaching consumers where they make buying decisions.
Hybrid in many ways
To truly succeed, coaches need to craft digital fitness experiences that deliver the same value that in-person classes gave consumers in the past. This is possible by leveraging the right toolset—one that includes best-of-breed streaming platforms and artificial intelligence-powered engagement enhancements.
In our industry we should not forget the emergence of “old fashioned” outdoor fitness as well. The annual trend survey by Class Pass found that there was a 400 % increase in the number of outdoor classes offered by studios last year and is predicted to stay as an important service to clients.
The value of the gym
I hope that by the time you read this article we are back to some kind of “normal”. With the lockdowns and deprivation of social contact behind us, I believe strongly that people will want to meet again other like-minded people and that is why I am convinced the physical club space will be extremely important. The gym as physical “home” or “hub” where the members have the feeling of belonging and community cannot be replaced by the online/digital experience.
We should always remember that fitness is a local business (within 5 kilometers from a person’s house or workplace) , with its own culture, language and personalities. Yes, people have become more used to streamed fitness classes but nothing beats a live group ex class with a great instructor. Many experts are debating how this will impact future / post Covid behavior of our members and potential members….we have seen during the first lockdown that many people picked up using the on demand solutions, but when the clubs were open again this usage dropped.
Re-imagining the competition
But something else has happened which changes the landscape of our sector. We have seen “big tech” enter our industry; Apple ( Fitness+), Amazon ( introduction of HALO fitness tracker and app ), Google ( acquiring Fitbit) and Peloton ( with Byoncé as celebrity trainer with exclusive content) …just to mention a few.
The ecosystem of our industry has changed for good and will never be the same again.
The good news about these entrants with very deep pockets is that it adds credibility to the health & fitness sector and with membership based high quality content they create more awareness with the consumer of the benefits of exercise and that there is value in online offering and that there is a price tag attached. During the lockdown, many clubs were offering the digital solutions for free. Now it is important to monetize this.
As an example, Lifetime Fitness and Planet Fitness in the US are offering Apple Fitness+ as an add-on to the membership for $ 6,99 per month. The good news about this is also that in a future lockdown, clubs can continue to bill this digital part of the membership.
Let me end this article with 3 tips.
The three keys to driving hybrid success are:
Deliver a virtual coaching experience that meets consumer expectations formed in person. A coach must bring energy, draw out motivation from athletes and monitor progress over time. Coaches are a critical source of accountability, and they will need to become fluent in livestreaming and on-demand platforms and use data-powered tools to enhance the experience.
Evolve into a creative streaming professional, and hone that craft to stay ahead of the competition. Pay attention to all the details that go into streaming a pro-style workout: choosing locations and backgrounds, and optimizing lighting, music selection and audio broadcast levels. Live workouts can be broadcast to multiple social platforms at once, and real-time timer visuals can delineate segment lengths and indicate what exercises are coming next. Breakout rooms, athlete spotlights and group competitions offer novel ways to engage participants.
Leverage artificial intelligence to simulate the in-person studio experience and enhance your ability to connect with your community. AI-powered tools can enhance virtual workouts by providing real-time metrics that coaches can use to personalize every athlete’s experience, deliver accountability and feedback, and monitor progress over time. AI can give you a second set of eyes on every athlete in your group sessions, and it can even augment the experience with automatic rep counting and real-time form correction.
Ultimately, the coaches who will thrive in our increasingly hybridized world will be those who leverage the tools at their disposal. These platforms, tools and innovations can engage and strengthen fitness communities and enhance the virtual experience, leading to a strong and growing business!