Complementary Vs Competitive – the new approach to digital fitness
If you’re still thinking of virtual fitness platforms (even a little) as something that really helped engage and retain your gym members during the early days of the pandemic, or a nice to have, you’re missing out on an important business strategy.
Digital on demand fitness is now estimated to be worth $1 billion annually but more importantly, for members who evolved the way they work out over the past couple of years, it’s now an expected part of a premium fitness experience. If you’re on the fence, or wondering how better to incorporate digital content and virtual group fitness experiences into your traditional fitness offerings, consider these four strategies to take a complementary versus competitive view of what digital brings to your fitness club.
Let your gym members lead
Studies suggest more than 83 million Americans who work out now use some form of digital fitness app each month. That’s an increase of more than 15 million people since 2020 and estimates suggest it’s still climbing. For your club members, that’s because their typical fitness experience, beyond live group exercise classes and fitness studio workouts, now includes making class reservations on gym apps, engaging with friends and other members across social channels, looking to your gym website as a source for workout and nutrition information, and catching a live streamed group exercise class from their favorite instructor.
For health club operators, this behavior shift is an opportunity to engage gym members across multiple digital touch points but an indicator that you could be doing more. If you’re streaming a fitness class or two, stream most to reach a broader member base and introduce new class participants to your group exercise instructors and offerings. Many fitness instructors now offer on-demand class and content recommendations for members who want to work on their technique and form out of class, truly integrating live and virtual fitness offerings. Look for ways to do this across your fitness club programs and bring members a more seamless experience.
Optimize cardio equipment with companion apps
All of that high-investment commercial gym cardio equipment that gets heavy use during peak hours but can also lie dormant or under used at other times, could be working harder for your club. Companion apps, like FitnessOnDemand synchronize with your fitness studio on-demand platform but allow members to access specialty content specifically designed for cardio equipment workouts anywhere in the fitness club. Equipment needs no expensive flat panel upgrade. Members simply access the class or workout they want on their own tablet or smartphone. Options include fitness instructor-led and motivational treadmill training, elliptical workouts, cycling session and wind downs or stretches that gym members can use during mat workouts. Make sure to promote the availability of cardio-equipment based virtual workouts and content to members with signage on or near equipment stations, on your gym app, website and social channels.
Bring digital workouts out of the fitness studio
The average health club footprint in the U.S. today is more than 40,000 square feet, but even if your gym is smaller, the chances are some workout zones can still feel underutilized. Many fitness clubs are embracing the trend for open, multi-functional fitness training spaces that can serve as free weight workout areas and mat conditioning but also as areas where digital fitness stations can help elevate member experience and the environment. Hanging a simple, self-service flat panel in any of these areas can provide a fast, flexible and inexpensive way to engage members with all kinds of content from small group fitness sessions to solo exercises and short form content for free weights, equipment-free workouts and stretches. Many newer hardware fixtures from on-demand fitness providers require no complex install and almost zero maintenance.
Use daily, revolving content to motivate and retain gym members
Member retention comes down to member motivation. Even the most dedicated, frequent-visit gym goers can get in a rut and lose their momentum because they’re not inspired by their workouts. Over time that can lead to member fall off. It would take enormous time resources to motivate with personal interactions from personal trainers and group fitness instructors, but integrating more exposure to digital fitness content, classes and workout inspiration into member experiences can be efficient and maintenance-free.
Again look to bring content out of dedicated “digital fitness studios” and integrate opportunities for member experience and engagement throughout the club. Create a digital workout station in the open floor fitness spaces of your club. Some on-demand platforms offer curated short-form groups of exercises that members can access easily by themselves and add to their daily workouts for something fresh, energizing and motivating. Or host more virtual fitness workout events both in-club and online to promote and showcase the kinds of classes and wide variety of content and classes in the health club portfolio.
Do all of this and very soon your gym members will enjoy an even more premium, engaging fitness experience every time they interact with your health club’s brand.