Over the last year, the vast majority of fitness businesses have pivoted online to survive and thrive through Covid-19 lockdowns. Now, as vaccine rollout begins in various parts of the world, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: at some point this year, gyms will be able to reopen and hopefully, this time, stay open.
But as we know, the pandemic has totally changed consumer expectations for the future. And when it comes to fitness, a hybrid offering is, and will continue to be, normal. Whether live or on-demand, online fitness classes have presented fitness businesses with a unique opportunity to reach a previously untapped audience.
With this, it’s clear that while moving online may have been a matter of survival through 2020, continuing to provide an exceptional member experience online, even long after the pandemic, is the key to long-term success for gyms and fitness studios.
Online fitness is now hugely competitive; there are thousands of options to choose from. But every member is different, so each class can offer a unique appeal.
The gyms of the future are building communities, delivering great workouts, and providing an exceptional member experience – both in-person and online. Here, we’ve curated a list of some of the best online fitness classes out there. Each brand stands out in one area particularly well, and there’s something you can learn from each of them.
- 4 Fitness Businesses Standing Out From the Competition With Online Classes
- The Squad
- Fitness Blender
- Turf Games
4 Fitness Businesses Standing Out From the Competition With Online Classes
From HIIT and dance cardio to yoga and spin, the online fitness scene is now hugely diverse, and the flexibility and convenience of online workouts mean more and more people are choosing to try a variety of different classes to mix up their exercise routine.
Every workout has its own appeal and advantages, but as we know by now, when it comes to long-term retention, it’s accountability, the relationship you build with members, and experience that will set your business apart from competitors.
Below, we’ve picked out some excellent examples of fitness businesses succeeding online and the key takeaways for success from each one that you can apply to your own gym.
1. The Squad
Classes offered: Live group workouts
Get inspired by: Their tight-knit and community and growing brand awareness.
The Squad is a gym and fitness center in Cork, Ireland that offers personal training and group fitness classes. Online classes are 40 minutes long, with various class packs and membership options available. Single online classes start from just over $9, and those new to The Squad can sign up for a free trial class.
The brand has survived and thrived online in recent months with its community of loyal, happy members. The workouts are carefully curated to push members through their paces; instructors will offer up modifications and hold joiners accountable during a live class, and call out the team’s efforts on social media afterward.
Aside from ensuring that each live class is energetic and motivating, the key areas you can take inspiration from The Squad go beyond offering great workouts. With almost 8,000 followers on Instagram, The Squad has an engaged membership base and a loyal following on social media. Owners Kate and Josie have built more than a fitness business: they’ve built a brand. Below are a few simple tips you can implement as part of your marketing strategy to reach and appeal to a wider audience and engage your community:
Key Takeaways from The Squad
- Make your members a central focus in your marketing strategy. The Squad builds brand awareness through social media with their online community, encouraging members to share their experience with photos and stories using the hashtag #ImWithTheSquad.
- Be authentic and engaging on social. Their online tone is conversational. Of course, they promote the business and push for signups with the regular posts and stories they share – but their content isn’t solely focused on selling classes. They’re engaging with their audience and building relationships.
- Experiment with the type of content you share to find what aligns best with your goals. During last year’s lockdown, the brand uploaded a weekly workout to its IGTV channel. Each video has received thousands of views, and it’s an excellent way to give potential members an insight into what to expect from a class and the instructors behind the business. Get creative to find what works for your business and your audience!
2. Fitness Blender
Classes offered: On-demand fitness videos
Get inspired by: Their well-structured workouts and value-oriented pricing
The Customer Engagement Playbook for Your Fitness Business
Fitness Blender is an on-demand workout platform, delivering hundreds of online workouts for people of all levels of fitness. Founded in 2009 today, the digital fitness provider has over 6.5 Million subscribers on YouTube. More than 600 of the workouts are free to everyone, and paying members can gain access to regular challenges, recipes, and meal plans.
Like many of the now household fitness names, including Peloton and Beach Body, Fitness Blenders’ wide range of workouts have grown more popular through the various lockdowns we’ve encountered over the last year.
Pricing and packaging varies, along with the access members, gain to certain types of content. The brand breaks down its options in a way that provides great value for members at every level, from free memberships to paid with options to purchase special meal plans and 4-week workout programs as add-ons. Without any program upsell packages, paid memberships start from $8.99 a month on an auto-renew subscription, $79.99 yearly, or pay as you go from $11.99 a month.
Key Takeaways from Fitness Blender:
- Implement a ‘something for everyone’ structure to your workouts and pricing. In the 11 years it’s been running, Fitness Blender has always been an only-only fitness provider, so they’ve had a lot of time to nail down their offering and pricing structure. Their offering caters to all levels of fitness, at all price points: even the free workouts are graded at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Plus, there’s a wide choice of workouts varying in length – squeeze a 20-minute session in at lunch, or go all-in for 60 minutes when you have more time.
- Focus on quality and value. The impressive catalog of workouts for free members delivers great value, and it’s a great way to incentivize people to buy into a paid membership. We’re not saying you need 600 free on-demand workouts to appeal to potential members, but it’s a good idea to focus on offering value at every level.
- Ensure your on-demand workouts are easy to follow. The fitness instructor leading your pre-recorded workout video is showcasing a routine they’ve planned and are familiar with, but a member may be trying the routine for the first time. Each Fitness Blender workout video has a clear structure that’s explained at the beginning and is easy to follow throughout. There’s no jumping from one exercise straight into another without preparing the viewer for the next move. Your instructors shouldn’t come across as if they’ve just recorded themselves doing a workout; they need to keep the audience in front of mind to keep them engaged to the end.
For more great tips on pricing and packaging your online offering, check out this episode of the Fitness Founders Podcast with Jack Thomas, CEO of BASE Gyms:
Classes offered: Live and on-demand
Get inspired by: Their personalized, motivating live classes
Digital fitness has been on the rise long before the pandemic, but with its acceleration over the last year, Peloton has become a brand that needs no introduction.
Most famously known for it’s $2,500 spin bike and accompanying live and pre-recorded classes, the brand has branched out with its digital services to offer a range of general home fitness workouts – no bike necessary. The company’s main money-maker comes from its monthly subscription service with users paying so they can take part in classes – owning the bike alone doesn’t grant you access to this.
Aside from the Peloton bike (and the brand’s more recent addition of its Treadmil) Peloton is known for delivering a hyper-personalized and motivating live class experience, which is something all fitness business owners can implement.
Key Takeaways from Peloton
- Make your live class experience a personalized one. The more personal the experience, the more your members feel included and like they’re a part of your community. The key message here is that personalization will help you build community, in turn fostering loyalty and increasing retention – your live classes need to make members feel like they’re a part of something to keep them coming back for more.
- Call out members during a live class. During live classes, Peoloton instructors use the data being tracked through riders bikes and online profiles to give shoutouts for performance milestones, efforts, and birthdays. It adds a personal touch to the experience, and makes members feel important – and you don’t need live data to do it. Your trainers can see who’s giving it 100% and deserves a shoutout, they can see people who are struggling and offer up some words of support. They likely see a lot of the same faces on a weekly basis, your team should understand that part of delivering a great live experience is making the effort to build a relationship with members.
4. Turf Games
Classes offered: Live and on-demand
Get inspired by: The competitive element that keeps members engaged and motivated
The Turf games focuses on the social and competitive side of exercise. There are few widely-known opportunities to be challenged in a competitive fitness environment, so in 2017 the brand was created to cater to a gap in the fitness market for an inclusive competitive functional fitness event.The competitive element keeps members engaged and motivated, something that the brand has recreated effortless since moving online with its series of ‘Home Games.’
Home Games offers members of all fitness levels the chance to take part in a virtual competition with 5 workouts that are revealed across 2 weeks. Progress is tracked by members logging their scores on the virtual leaderboard, and members are incentivized by prizes from the brands sponsors including Blk Blok, Optimum Nutrition, and Under Armour.
While you don’t have to partner up with big-name brands to incentivize members, fitness challenges are an excellent way to keep motivation high and deliver a great experience – and that’s what stands out about the Turf Games.
Key Takeaways from Turf Games
- If you’re not running online challenges – you could be missing out. A fitness challenge is a great way to bring all of your members together. If you’re already running challenges, maybe it’s time to kick them up a notch. Experiment with a new challenge, new incentives, or new structure to excite and engage members.
- Research what will work for your members. Whether it’s a quick poll on social media or reaching out to members via email asking for their input: What type of challenge would they find most motivating? Would they prefer a team-based or personal best competition? Doing this means you’ll like create something that has a better uptake, and it shows your members that their feedback and opinions are important to you.
Whether live or on-demand, the majority of online workouts are much the same across every online offering. But the best online fitness classes go above and beyond workouts. It’s a combination of personalization, community, accountability, and value that make up a great fitness experience and create a reason for members to keep coming back.