It seems everyone in the fitness industry is busy again. We’re also in the grip of the most densely packed few months of tradeshow season and it shows. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 11.5 million business professionals returned to tradeshows last year, a 55% increase on 2020 and by the end of the year only a little over 40% down on 2019 numbers. I saw this myself last month at SIBEC, where two things were very evident: face to face meetings among our industry’s brightest brands were firmly back (and appreciated) and a surprising amount of innovation was on display everywhere you turned.
All of this got me thinking “what brought the fitness industry back from two of the most challenging years on record?” The answer, very clearly, is the people. Smart, creative, innovative and adaptable people – who are reinventing the fitness space around us. So as we look ahead to bolstering business in the months ahead consider adopting people-centric strategies from partners to members to plot a course for real growth.
1. Embrace connected experiences for members
The U.S. fitness app market is set to jump from $5.2 billion in 2021 to $15.2 billion by 2028. That’s a CAGR of more than 17%. Add to this estimates for on-demand fitness content usage to grow from a little over to $16 billion this year to close to $80 billion in the next four years, and it’s easy to see the fitness market has grown well beyond the stellar live experiences of clubs to embrace a more tech-enabled future. A big driver of the integration of technology and traditional fitness models is a rapidly shifting member mindset; Members now see fitness as an immersive, multi-platform experience. That means integration of live classes and on-site workouts at the club, on-demand specialty content and streamed classes on-the-go as well as 24/7 app access to information, content, advice and fitness resources.
The integrated fitness landscape of the next few years holds tremendous opportunities for club owners to communicate with, and engage, members in an always-on universe of touch points, all the time building brand affinity and loyalty. Clubs must embrace this rapid growth of all-access fitness and look to synchronize their on-demand and streaming content into one platform for a more rounded, 360-degree member experience.
2. Lock in an innovation mindset
Apple registered 61 innovation patents in the past year. This, from one of the most innovative companies on the planet. They’re not alone. Club owners surely have to be among the most adaptable and flexible business owners too, pivoting business models, rethinking offerings, and adapting physical spaces to member needs. But we need to ask ourselves, what can be done better? How can we bake innovation into our general business models? Many clubs are experimenting with multi-functional open spaces that bring members together into more collaborative and communal workout environments where free weights, recovery zones and small group on-demand fitness workouts can happen in close proximity.
At FitnessOnDemand we’ve heeded the call with product designs that help integrate digital fitness content into more traditional format workout spaces. That includes self-service, short-form daily exercise circuits to help members keep workouts varied. And the launch of our new platform to bring on-demand content out of studios into open club spaces to energize workout space and free up on-demand only studios.
Adopting an innovation mindset can mean a more formal and disciplined approach to tracking feedback and encouraging an open exchange of ideas. Meet weekly with your operations team, instructors (as possible), personal trainers and front desk managers. Solicit feedback on member attitudes, preferences and requests. Are there small changes that can be made quickly and regularly to create an atmosphere of attentive member service? Or can you incentivize members to share their ideas for improved service offerings with additional membership upgrades, free club swag or café discount packages? Look at live class participation data and most popular on-demand content accessed. Are there patterns and trends emerging favoring particular instructors, on-trend fitness classes or workout types? Is stationary bike interest spiking during the competitive race season? Can you promote more treadmill workouts to get members ready for marathon and triathlon season? Study the data and react accordingly.
3. Create a community of like-minded member
50% of members leave clubs every year. The key factors are often loss of momentum, lack of engagement or a feeling that members aren’t getting the best value. People-centric strategies must focus as much on the members at risk of dropping out as the motivated ones, otherwise a club will never grow. Look for ways to create a greater sense of community among members – online and at the club. Strategies can range from non-exercise mixers like healthy happy hours and roof top pool parties where members can connect as individuals outside of classes, to online and social communities where members feel connected wherever they workout. 80 percent of Instagram users now follow business brands, so build a social community by investing the time in not just posting pretty pics of your club and offerings, but truly engaging with members, commenting, liking and sharing thoughts and information to build connection.