As we expand Wexer’s APAC office in Auckland, I’m adjusting the rest of the global team to some classic Kiwi-isms. There’s a lot of saying ‘no worries’ and, of course, educating everyone on who first invented the Flat White. The biggest confusion, however, seems to be around the local phrase of ‘Yeahnah’ to express ‘I-kinda-thought-about-it-but-decided-not-to’. Are you coming out tonight? Yeahnah. Or, more aptly, are you coming to the 7.00am workout? Yeahnah.
All of which, in a roundabout way, takes me to the recent announcement of Apple Fitness+ and our industry chatter. Should we be worried? I reckon it’s Yeah-but-ultimately-Nah.
Fitness+ is slick: a fully licensed music catalogue; a diverse and engaging set of instructors; workouts that can be wholly personalised; and integration with all the brilliant technology of the Apple Watch. There’s also no doubt that Apple entering any business is a potential threat – just ask Nokia. But this isn’t a case of squashing a sleeping incumbent. The fitness industry is already digital, with tech unicorns like Peloton and ClassPass disrupting and challenging the traditional gym business and already forcing change in how we operate.
For physical gyms, the arrival of Fitness+ is ultimately more of the same, coming from the same mould as the threats we’re already learning to navigate: members working out at home, paying less attention to your brand and facility than before and probably bringing their at-home apps to work out with at your gym.
What’s different now is not just that Apple raises the bar when it enters a vertical. It’s that Apple makes something ubiquitous, be it touchscreens or App Stores. Digital at-home fitness is now going to be ubiquitous: you have to assume all your members will be using it.
This means clubs will need a content solution, and the means to distribute that content, in order to compete and retain ownership of the member journey beyond gym walls. Not just by using branded content, but also by unlocking a way to distribute and market in-house instructor content, and all within an environment that’s controlled by the club; rather than at the mercy of Facebook algorithms. Ultimately, we ‘own’ our members by the strength of the experience we immerse them in.
Those running D2C digital fitness businesses might be more ‘Yeah’ on the threat from Fitness+. Aside from its impressive product features, the marketing budget of a trillion-dollar company is going to raise the costs of acquisition as competition for targeted inventory increases. Businesses operating in the free tier are likely to be less affected, but those not offering differentiation and marketing themselves at a similar price – are probably having a few sleepless nights. There is, however, still space to fight for consumer attention; I should tip my hat to my former colleagues at Les Mills as an example of how to use your brand and deep IP to create a great D2C content experience.
So, what next? More than ever we must evolve to consumer needs and to the challenges of digital disruption. The good news, though, is that we have been here before: we know better how to deal with the threat. If physical gym operators focus on creating great digital experiences, they will be able to support and encourage members through solutions that they create and own.
Make those changes and should you be worried? Yeahnah.
For more information please contact Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org