3 key learnings from 2021 – and what they mean for 2022

Wexer Blog

6 January 2022

2021 was unquestionably another tough year for us all, but there does finally seem to be genuine light at the end of a long, hard tunnel. So, what plans do you have in place to ensure you come out firing on all cylinders this year?

Let’s take a look back at what we learned last year, what this means as we move into 2022, and how gyms and health clubs can best implement these learnings.

 

#1 – Hybrid is here to stay

2021 taught us that clubs will bounce back strongly as people seek out the human connection they’ve missed during lockdown.

Yet omnichannel fitness – a hybrid blend of at-home and in-club – is here to stay. Because fitness consumers aren’t choosing either/or. They’re doing both, almost interchangeably depending on their needs and schedules each day.

The consumer mindset, says Accenture in its new Life Reimagined report, is now: “Are you meeting me where I am, in the digital world, the physical world, and through a blend of the two? Are you able to deliver what I need, when I need it, across all channels?”

The stats back this up. In recent research by Credit Suisse, 76% of all consumers said they now exercise more at home, while 66% said they prefer it. Meanwhile, 62% of active people use a specific online workout service, 57% of club members expect their club to offer them a hybrid physical/digital experience, and 52% of club members would be happy to pay for a digital tier to their membership.

That’s a lot of revenue being left on the table if your gym operation isn’t yet embracing the hybrid model.

 

#2 – Digital drives purchase behaviours

In its research, Accenture also found that 25% of consumers are now prepared to actively change brands if a competitor allows them to engage digitally – a new purchasing behaviour that’s been born out of lockdown.

Not only that, but a full 50 % of consumers say they’ve totally re-thought their personal purpose and re-evaluated what’s important to them in life. This includes how they choose the brands they want to do business with, with their top priorities now ease, convenience and a personalised service – priorities that inevitably point to digital, with its 24/7 access and vast scope to personalise the experience.

This group of consumers is also surprisingly heterogenous, spanning all ages, genders, locations, employment status, income levels and other demographics; this isn’t some Gen Y / Gen Z trend. All of which means every business is now compelled to adapt. No brand is immune to the new reality.

Whatever industry you’re in, if you aren’t offering a digital service and your competitor is, you’re going to be left behind.

In the fitness sector specifically, if you aren’t embracing the hybrid model, you will struggle to survive.

 

#3 – Clubs have a huge USP in the digital world

From celebrities to media networks, it seems everyone is looking to become a fitness content provider these days. Yet clubs do still have a major USP: their in-house superstars.

GX instructors have been key to club loyalty for decades, renowned for building communities of enthusiastic followers. But they have become even stronger during lockdown, their personalities, programmes and friendly faces reaching beyond club walls and making us all feel better during the pandemic.

As we continue towards a hybrid future, we need to recognise the true power these instructors and trainers now hold. They are the content creators. They are the faces your members know and the people who, as channels to market proliferate, have the power to reach huge audiences.

The long and short of it is this: if you’re looking for a USP versus the big digital players and the global fitness influencers who try and seduce your members away with their ‘three months for free’ offers and their Hollywood eyes, this – your team of local rockstars – is it.

 

Implementing the learnings

So, how can gyms and health clubs best take these learnings and use them to shape their businesses – and their bottom lines – for the better over the next 12 months and beyond? Digital expert Wexer is here to help.

 

#1 – Make hybrid a reality

Digital isn’t, or certainly shouldn’t be, an add-on. To bust a common misconception, hybrid categorically doesn’t mean ‘in-club over here, digital over there’.

What hybrid actually means is embracing digital and in-person equally, adopting an omnichannel approach where a seamless series of touchpoints allows every single customer to consume your product in the way that best suits them on any given day.

Of course, as the number of touchpoints grows, your challenge as an operator is to ensure you deliver the same user experience whatever the access point. And when we say the same, we mean exactly the same, because each customer will use multiple touchpoints and expect to dive straight in to a familiar experience.

Which means you now have to view everything you do as one big customer-centric experience – an experience that’s led by your content, as the element of your offering that can transcend all boundaries and be perfectly replicated through any channel.

And Wexer can facilitate that. With a white labelled digital ecosystem that seamlessly integrates on-site (Wexer Virtual, for in-studio virtual classes on a big screen) and at-home (Wexer Web Player and our SDK and API solutions – more on those in just a minute), we have all the technology you need to create a seamless ecosystem of your own, delivering a seamless experience to your customers, wherever and however they choose to consume it on any given day.

 

#2 – Maximise digital opportunities

With consumers now willing to switch brands if it means they can enjoy the ease and convenience of a digital service, it’s critical that gyms ensure they’re the brands consumers are switching to, not from.

Yet even now, after a near-universal pivot to online during lockdown, many gym operators remain unsure how to go about digitalising their whole business. Where do you start? Which digital touchpoints do you need? How do you own the experience? How do you charge for it? How do you sustain it when there are physical clubs to be run?

Wexer is here to help, with expert advice, support and an entire digital ecosystem that’s been created to keep clubs at the very heart of the experience. Everything is white labelled – it is your brand your customers are consuming – and our wide range of world-leading products ensures we have the perfect solution for your business, however far along the path to digital transformation you’ve already come.

For on-site experiences, there’s Wexer Virtual, the big screen solution offering 1,600+ virtual classes that can be scheduled or made available on-demand. All classes are led by top instructors from around the world and curated from many of the world’s leading programme creators, including Zumba, CYBEROBICS and Daily Burn, just to give a few examples. You can even upload your own-produced content into Wexer Virtual, for members to do on-demand classes with their in-house favourites. More on that in just a moment…

Meanwhile, Wexer’s at-home product portfolio is hugely flexible.

Want a password-protected web portal for your digital workout content, so customers can log on to it any time, anywhere, through any connected device (and so you can brand, own and monetise it)? Then you might like to explore the Wexer Web Player, which can be embedded into your website or app and which provides an area exclusively for your business to stream its own content alongside all our fantastic third-party content; think of it as your very own TV channel.

Alternatively, if you’re already some way down the line and simply want to source great content to supplement what you’re producing yourself, our SDK and API solutions are great options. These allow you to cherry-pick from the Wexer content library, drawing your chosen content into your own connected ecosystem – whether that’s your own app via the Wexer SDK, or else app, smart TV, interactive mirror or other connected hardware via the Wexer API.

In short, we have all the technology you need. Not only that, but boasting a 99.9% uptime, it’s technology you can rely on.

 

#3 – Cement a competitive edge

Content is now the key to customer loyalty. It’s what today’s fitness consumer seeks, inside your facility and out. But while every man and his dog is now offering fitness content – just look at YouTube – clubs have an opportunity to stand out in this crowded market courtesy of their local superstars.

Quite simply, clubs have to maximise every opportunity to put their superstars – the local faces their members know and love – in front of their customers both on-site and at-home.

We’re talking about live, in-person classes and workouts in your studios. But we’re also talking about filming this live content (and/or creating bespoke digital content) and then uploading it, on-demand, into your app courtesy of our SDK. We’re talking about making it available on all manner of smart devices via the Wexer API; streaming it on your white labelled Wexer Web Player; showing it off-peak on the big screen of your in-club Wexer Virtual GX studio.

We’re talking about making the most of your studio space, as well as giving members easy, convenient access to their favourite faces 24/7.

We’re talking about maximising the power and reach of your superstars to create a USP for your club brand.

 

To discuss these trends in more detail, and how Wexer can help you embrace them to futureproof your business, get in touch now at info@wexer.com

 

 

AuthorRobert Louw