In the past year, hundreds of articles have been written about the fitness industry and the gym experience for consumers. It’s unsurprising, considering how things have changed so rapidly. We now live in an age where gyms and studios need to be flexible, embracing digital to offer the member a service they can use anytime, anywhere.
In truth, this change was always out there on the horizon. Fitness industry experts have known for a long time that digital fitness was poised to take over soon, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only sped up the process. One of these experts, Bryan O’ Rourke, wrote about his thoughts on this topic at the beginning of 2020 (pre-COVID) which we highly recommend you check out.
At the beginning of the article, he points out that in 2019 there were 1.173 billion users of fitness tracking devices and fitness apps globally, compared to the 183 million engaged in brick and mortar memberships during the same period. This is notable as it shows that digital fitness already had established a significant foothold in the industry. You can listen to Bryan’s recent thoughts on the impact of digital on our podcast, where he joined us for this great conversation.
The gym experience has vastly changed over the past year, and that change will continue well into the future. The industry as a whole has had to learn to become more flexible and has had to offer a more well-rounded offering that allows the member to achieve their fitness goals inside and outside the four walls of a gym or studio. This article will take a closer look at how the gym experience has changed over the past year and how gyms and studios need to respond.
What Does the Gym Experience Look Like Now?
The gym experience, like everything else, is now primarily experienced through the home. Our homes have now become the office, the restaurant, the cinema, favorite local bar, and most importantly, the gym. Fitness activity has increased exponentially in recent months. According to this Financial Times article, Myzone, the fitness tracking app that turns workouts into points, has seen a 20% increase in points month on month since April compared to last year. This snapshot is a small indicator of a larger shift towards increased activity during the lockdown.
Anytime and Anywhere
Probably the best description of what the gym experience looks like now comes from Les Mills Media CEO Jean-Michel Fournier. In an interview with the Futures in Focus website, he observed that gyms and studios need to meet consumers where they are. He described it as being anytime, anywhere. He also pointed out that apart from bread makers, gym equipment had experienced the most growth in terms of products last year!
His assessment is correct, though. Throughout 2020 fitness fanatics, both new and experienced, became used to working out in their living room. Even as countries went in and out of lockdown and gyms opened and closed, the online element persisted and was needed to help gyms and studios survive. The report we compiled from our original data, entitled The Impact of Covid-19 on the Fitness Industry – A Glofox Report, showed that areas like the UK and parts of Asia showed substantial numbers for online even as brick and mortar reopened.
The key takeaway from the past year is that gyms and studios need to adapt to survive and be successful. Futureproofing your business depends on how much you embrace technology and can deliver an experience that transcends the studio’s four walls. Gym owners need to create a positive atmosphere, high levels of customer service, and employ strategies that offer people a sense of community and connection whether classes are online or in-studio.
In the next part of this article, we will look at how you can do this.
How to Provide a Great Gym Experience in 2021
The state of play in the industry is evident. Digital needs to be an integral part of your offering if you have any chance of survival. We have seen numerous examples of this throughout the past twelve months. Podcast guests and studio owners like Brittany Welk and Jack Thomas showed the value of pivoting quickly and going all in. Glofox customers like Toronto-based Girls Just Wanna Box showed how innovation in other areas of the business could help you grow.
Gym and studio owners need to provide a safe environment for their members to train when returning to the studio. This means thinking creatively about space and making the process of singing into the facility as hands-free as possible.
The Customer Engagement Playbook for Your Fitness Business
1. Keep Your Studio Clean
Hygiene is going to be a critical factor in maintaining a safe space. This will include several elements: masks for team members, available masks for customers, increased regularity of deep cleans and disinfecting throughout the day, more hygiene stations for members to wipe down equipment before and after their workout, and easy access to hand sanitizer.
Let your members know from the minute they step into your facility that you are taking precautions seriously. The pandemic has made people feel cautious and uncertain about sharing public spaces, such as gyms. In 2021, it will be necessary for the fitness industry to win back consumers’ trust by providing exceptionally high hygiene standards.
2. Think Creatively About Your Space
As well as keeping your facility super clean, you need to think creatively about your space and how it’s laid out. It would help if you also thought clearly about how members are going in and out of your gym. A great way to do this is to use touchless check-in. These systems give your members access to your facility or allow them to unlock certain areas without needing to touch anything, keeping both security and health concerns at a minimum.
The layout of the equipment may need to be shifted to facilitate social distancing. Class sizes may also need to be reduced. If this is the case, to facilitate all your members, consider putting on more classes in your studio and more classes online. Keep top of mind that your service needs to remain interrupted by the member.
3. Make Use of Outdoor Spaces
Another innovative way to facilitate more members safely is to host more outdoor classes, where members can work out at a safe distance from each other. Outdoor fitness has picked up massively throughout 2020 while gyms were closed. It reduces the risk of transmission if members keep at least 2 meters apart from each other. As well as that you should thoroughly clean any equipment used or encourage members to bring their own.
Outdoor classes are a great way of providing an alternative environment for fitness. You can arrange small group workouts outside and engage your clients in HIIT or circuit classes by throwing in some ad-hoc fitness challenges that can be completed outdoors. By holding outdoor classes, you can also maintain a sense of community amongst your clients. Check out our recent article on outdoor fitness for more information.
4. Incorporate Wearable Technology
With fitness enthusiasts having more choice than ever before, they are also becoming far more attuned to their fitness needs. Wearable technology that allows users to track workout metrics in real-time alongside a whole other slew of information has seen a significant increase in sales. The wearable tech industry has expanded beyond simple fitness trackers and smartwatches; there are heart monitors and full GPS trackers available on the market.
Data is super specific to your requirements and activity, creating a much more bespoke experience. Fitness centers can now harness this data and collect valuable insights into their user’s fitness journey and offer real-time feedback, updates, offers, etc. Users will be provided with an elevated and personalized fitness experience.
5. Provide Online Group Training
There is no doubt that online group training is here to stay in one form or another for the foreseeable future. A study conducted by Gympix found that 60% of fitness consumers were willing to continue spending on digital fitness after the gyms reopen. In comparison, 52% were happy to pay more to benefit from hybrid memberships at their gyms. The convenience of online training is undeniable. All you need is a phone or tablet and an internet connection. People can easily schedule classes at any given time, even during their working day.
YouTube has an infinite supply of workout videos, but the difference with an online class is massive. You can help clients to achieve their goals while correcting form and, of course, maintaining motivation throughout. The general movement towards virtual fitness classes continues to increase. The consensus is that they are here to stay, with many consumers suggesting that they want to have a fusion of online and in-person classes moving forward.
The online shift and the boost in people spending money on their ‘at-home gyms’ will cause a permanent change in how the $32 billion industry works. Surveys have shown that 75% of people will return to their pre-pandemic routines in due course and eventually go back to in-person classes. Many of these indicated that they would like to preserve an online component.
COVID-19 has sped up the implementation of a new hybrid fitness model of online and in-person training at an astonishing rate. Many gyms and fitness studios will maintain this combination even when the pandemic begins to retreat. Many people will still be working from home, and online fitness has been a critical player in creating a healthy at-home routine.