Over the last month, fitness has changed beyond recognition. The unprecedented situation in which we all find ourselves has forced through a wholesale adoption of digital fitness – by gym operators and by consumers – and it has happened within the space of mere days.
A lightning-fast response to a global challenge, with solutions put in place almost overnight. The fitness sector – long berated for being slow to embrace digital – is to be congratulated on this.
But if anyone thinks the re-opening of gyms – whenever that milestone comes – will mark a return to business as normal, then it’s time for a reality check.
Because sadly, it won’t be over when people are allowed out of their houses. Members will return to clubs, but they are likely to do so slowly, cautiously, with a heightened awareness of hygiene. There may even be a reluctance to commit to long-term contracts for fear of a new wave of COVID-19 or similar.
But even more importantly, their behaviours and attitudes towards fitness will have fundamentally changed.
Even when a positive alternative hasn’t embedded itself, it takes a while for people to go back to their old behaviours. But in this scenario, digital fitness has quickly emerged as a popular champion. And the longer this crisis goes on, the more consumers will get used to this highly convenient, flexible, accessible, ‘any time, anywhere’ way of training.
A full analysis of COVID-19’s long-term impact on consumer behaviour may be months off yet, but what we can already say with confidence is that the New Normal of Fitness will include digital as an integral part of the overall membership experience. This is no short-term fix. It is a long-term strategy. This crisis may have accelerated the cause of digital, but the desire for it won’t go away with the end of the crisis.
Need proof? Even before COVID-19 hit, on-demand fitness was experiencing huge growth: a 129% growth in consumer spend between 2017 and 2019, according to CNBC, compared to a growth of just 6 per cent in spending on traditional gyms. The scales were already tipping.
And now your customers, inducted into new habits and behaviours, will actively expect it; they will certainly not want you to take away the service they’ve been enjoying during isolation. You may want to look at new ways to package it – putting content behind a paywall as a revenue-driving post-corona solution, for example. But the need to have a digital facet to your offering will be beyond doubt.
Fitness was heading in this direction anyway. That change has simply been accelerated. The question is, what is your long-term strategy?
The long-term solution cannot be classes delivered via social media – not if you want to retain customer loyalty beyond this crisis. The long-term solution has to be a seamless digital ecosystem, all nestled under your trusted brand. A fully connected, integrated, hybrid digital/physical offering that lets members train with the same trainers, and experience their favourite classes, wherever they are: in the club, at home or anywhere in between.
Now is the time to think about this, preparing your business to emerge as strongly as possible from this crisis. How will you make your experience seamless and own-branded? How will you control the full customer experience and the data that goes with it?
These are vital questions to be asked right now, and the answers are ones we at Wexer can help with. To continue this conversation for your business, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Digital isn’t a short-term fix. It’s a long-term need. Welcome to the connected future.