How the digital transformation can benefit the fitness industry
Philipp Roesch-Schlanderer, CEO of EGYM, spoke with us about what customers need with digitalisation and shared his vision for the fitness industry.
In future, it might well be impossible to be successful without a strong digital programme and infrastructure. That is because many studios face the prospect of financial losses over the long term unless they invest in digitalisation. At EGYM, the digitalisation of the fitness industry began in 2010. In the years since, the company has developed into an international enterprise with more than 350 employees. Founder and CEO Philipp Roesch-Schlanderer has a clear vision for digital success strategies and the fitness industry of the future.
FIBO: What are the biggest drivers of the digital transformation in the fitness industry?
Philipp Roesch-Schlanderer: Naturally, the members are one such factor – they all have smartphones, their lives are increasingly digital, and modern home fitness equipment is actually connected. In this situation, gyms cannot ignore these developments unless they want to be left behind – connected fitness is a megatrend! This is joined by growing competitive pressure – that is because digitalisation is not an end in and of itself, but rather a key factor for sustained business success. And the operators certainly talk with one another. If they are hearing about success stories wherever they turn – lower cancellation rates, greater member satisfaction, more successful training – they certainly don’t want to be left behind. There is no question that the coronavirus has accelerated the digitalisation process considerably. One reason: a training regimen focused on personal health is extremely important to members, and they want to be certain that their training is beneficial.
In your opinion, how does the fitness industry rate when it comes to digitalisation: are they pioneers, or are they late bloomers?
Roesch-Schlanderer: Numerous studio operators have been offering supplemental digital products for quite some time now. In my opinion, however, the most important thing is digitalising the core product. In other words: digitalising the training area. Our vision is to offer a fully digitalised training area in which trainees not only enjoy the perfect training environment, but are also able to see the impact thanks to digital measurements. I believe that measurable training performance is the industry’s biggest trump card. As I’ve said before, in 2021 a gym can no longer be an analogue island in the largely digital lives of its members. Most of the industry is working very hard to upgrade their facilities accordingly.
You launched your company in 2010, but your vision behind that move – ‘Fitness studios for everyone’ – is more relevant today than ever. What can we do – once this is possible again – to get people back into fitness studios?
Roesch-Schlanderer: Although the data is absolutely clear – such as on the positive impact of muscle training – governments everywhere moved quickly to close fitness studios right at the start of the pandemic. Neither the government nor the general public currently sees our industry as actually being part of the health sector. That is why we all need to ask ourselves what we can improve so that we can do a better job of communicating our product: better health through fitness. Simply knowing this is not enough. It is far more important that we change and strengthen the public image of the gym so that it does justice to the positive impact of our numerous fitness and health facilities. Measuring the success of training, such as by using our ‘EGYM BioAge’, plays a big role when it comes to motivation and to ‘sticking with it’.
What are the three biggest customer requirements for fitness studios that can be satisfied using digital solutions?
Roesch-Schlanderer: Strangely enough, we asked this very question as part of a small study we conducted a few years ago. Our findings: smart onboarding for new customers, recurring measurements and flexibility tests, and visualisation of training success. All three of these customer needs are addressed by our new ‘Fitness Hub’, which utilises cutting-edge technology to raise member support to a whole new level.
Wearables and fitness apps are becoming ever more popular. How can studio operators take advantage of this trend?
Roesch-Schlanderer: By combining these digital tools with their studio’s fitness equipment to create an entire ecosystem. The ‘Fitness Hub’ is but one component of our open ecosystem that encompasses our equipment, a steadily growing range of connected equipment from external providers, and naturally our company's own apps for trainers and members. For our members, this means that all training progress made within the ‘Egym Fitness Hub’ ecosystem is reliably reported by the ‘EGYM Branded Member App’, including through its popular ‘BioAge’ function – and it is done separately for the strength, cardio, metabolic and flexibility disciplines.
Let’s turn our attention to working from home and insufficient physical activity for a moment: how can the fitness industry step up its collaboration with companies and move into the occupational health management market?
Roesch-Schlanderer: Under the aegis of ‘EGYM Business’, we already have an extremely successful programme for companies throughout Germany under our corporate fitness brand ‘qualitrain’. Here, we offer their employees access to more than 4,000 sports, fitness and health facilities and online courses promoting movement, nutrition and meditation. We are already keeping over 70,000 employees active in this way.
What is your vision for the fitness industry ten years from now?
Roesch-Schlanderer: Members will enjoy a seamless fitness experience: this means that, no matter where they are or what area they are training in, they will be able to target their efforts according to their own requirements and abilities. Training will be focused on prevention and on improving personal health. Digital support will make it possible to entirely free trainers from routine tasks, allowing them to concentrate all their efforts on coaching. This will greatly increase the status of trainers. Significantly more people will be training in our facilities than ever before. The reason: by continuously improving our programmes, we will have succeeded in making them indispensable – you could even say systemically important.