So, your gym has re-opened. It’s baby post-COVID steps towards business recovery, but you’re finally going in the right direction. However, after what’s happened over recent months, you aren’t going back to a pure bricks and mortar model: you’ve kept your online fitness provision going too, catering for members who haven’t yet been tempted back to the gym, as well as those who switch between in-person and online workouts to suit their schedule each day.
You’ve embraced a hybrid model, simultaneously offering both in-person and online fitness experiences.
That’s great. Now, what next?
Because putting the systems in place to enable a hybrid model is just the first step. The next step is the really exciting, business transforming part: maximising the power of this model to exponentially grow your business.
It’s about making sure your in-person and online experiences aren’t only simultaneous, but also complementary.
It’s about putting a comprehensive digital strategy in place, identifying new opportunities, devising ways for the two halves of your hybrid model to work powerfully together. It’s about making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Here are just a few questions that might shape your thinking…
Q: Have you reviewed your pricing structure?
“Online content can’t be free forever,” says Wexer CEO Paul Bowman. “It has to be monetised. However, if you just look at your current membership packages and try to crowbar digital in as an add-on, you’ll limit your creativity. You’ll also fall into the trap of overtly attributing a price to an online offering that was previously free, and that’s a difficult conversation to have.
“What’s needed is a fresh approach that combines digital support and physical attendance into new membership tiers: the more a member pays, the more personalised it becomes online and the more human elements there are to the offering.”
Q: Have you reviewed your full member journey?
“Map out your entire online customer journey and your entire in-club journey and review them with a critical eye,” advises Bowman. “Where do they overlap? What can you add to them? What are their respective USPs?
“We know that exercising 2+ times a week drives loyalty to the platform or brand facilitating it, so start with the objective of getting people to work out three times a week. Where might that mean a digital workout and where it might be in-person?
“And how do you combine all of this into new packages that put the customer first, making sure you’re offering something for everyone, wherever and whenever they want it?”
Q: Have you questioned your own mindset?
Says Bowman: “Pre-COVID, digital was seen as an online extension of the in-club experience, but lockdown has flipped this on its head. Training at home is just so convenient that this is where the bread and butter of fitness will now happen. People will still be willing to pay for programming, expertise and support, but the baseline of this will be delivered online via convenient, high-quality, personalised fitness content.
“Clubs should now start with the home fitness journey, working out how to gain a competitive advantage here, before working out how to dovetail physical visits into this.”
Q: Have you considered adaptations to your in-club offering?
When we ask this, we don’t just mean the protocols put into place to keep members safe and socially distanced.
“Given ongoing social distancing requirements, live classes are quickly hitting capacity,” observes Bowman. “We’re therefore seeing higher demand for virtual classes and expect live streaming to come into its own, not only to members’ devices out of the club but also to overflow zones in-club.
“But we need to think more creatively still, including making physical visits more of a VIP experience. Do you offer priority booking for live classes to members who regularly do an online class with that instructor, for example? How can you dovetail online and offline so they complement each other?
“In-person will have to become more special, with experiential events that take place both in clubs and at other great locations via partnerships.”
Q: Have you looked beyond existing members?
Digital fitness provision means no geographical limitations. There’s no reason why someone halfway round the world might not be a digital member of your club, if you give them a strong reason to join. But the low-hanging fruit are your former members – especially those who loved you but who moved out of the area – and the friends and family who could be referred by existing members.
“There may be less revenue per head with a digital-only offering, but there are many more heads to go after,” says Bowman. “Done right, this could be a significant new revenue stream. It’s why USPs in the digital experience are as important as USPs in the in-person experience these days.”
Q: Do you have a digital strategy?
The call to action here? Now is not the time to sit on nascent hybrid laurels. From Apple’s rumoured virtual fitness launch to Facebook’s new content paywall, there is huge interest in the online fitness market. Clubs have a hybrid advantage, but to thrive in the New Normal, this advantage will need to be hammered home at every opportunity. It’s time to think strategically and for the long-term.
How will you make hybrid count in your business?
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