New McKinsey research: Ways to win in a hybrid fitness world

Wexer Blog

26 July 2022

What does the fitness consumer of today look like – what are their priorities, their behaviours, their expectations – and how have these been affected by the pandemic? These are some of the questions addressed in a new report, A changing fitness consumer, published in June of this year by McKinsey & Company.

We’ll be sharing our own take on these new findings in a forthcoming blog – but for now, let’s dive into some of the report’s fascinating discoveries and explore what “imperatives and opportunities” McKinsey believes these present to players across the global health and fitness sector.

  

The prioritisation of wellness

McKinsey found that post-pandemic, wellness is a top priority in everyday life for 50% of all consumers, up from 42% in 2020. In line with this, a full 81% of consumers now agree that wellness is important.

Interestingly, the data is even more powerful among consumers with hybrid fitness routines: among this group, 61% now prioritise wellness more than they did pre-pandemic.

And that’s exciting, because over the last two years, the proportion of fitness consumers with hybrid routines has grown 1.4x – up from 46% in 2020 to 65% in 2022.

As a result, home fitness is now almost as prevalent a behaviour as in-club/studio fitness: McKinsey notes a 32% growth in the number of people taking part in home fitness in 2022 versus 2020. Sport and fitness apps are also up, with 30% of respondents now using these (versus 20% in 2020) and 33% (versus 22%) using wearables.

But it isn’t only the pandemic go-to channels of digital and at-home that have grown: the sector’s total revenue pool is on the rise as more people engage in exercise, more often than they did two years ago.

Indeed, in 2022, 20% of respondents are reporting buying personal training outside of the home (up from 7% in 2020), 36% say they’ve purchased fitness club membership (up from 28%) and 22% have used a boutique studio (up from 10%).

 

Hybrid is here to stay

It’s clear that fitness consumers now see digital offerings as complementary to, rather than a replacement for, the gym: even during the pandemic, only 17% considered live-streamed content a substitute for the gym, while only 15% and 21% respectively saw free and paid apps as gym substitutes.

Yet as McKinsey observes, “people’s fitness routines have evolved meaningfully” as consumers around the world have adopted “a more hybrid routine”. Gyms are absolutely still in the mix, but fitness consumers have quickly showed a willingness to embrace new digital habits within the norm of their wellness routines.

Indeed, today’s reality brings to bear the predictions of lockdown, when fitness consumers told McKinsey they planned to adopt more diverse, hybrid workout routines once fitness facilities re-opened – routines that would incorporate digital and at-home alongside traditional facility visits.

Specifically, even in the early days of lockdown, people were expecting their usage of free fitness apps to be even higher post-pandemic than during it – up 263% versus pre-COVID – while content streaming was looking to continue at +146% of pre-COVID levels, paid apps at +182% and usage of connected equipment at +123%.

As the pandemic stretched on over the months and years, this intention was only reinforced: by February 2021, 50–80% of US consumers said they expected to continue with their lockdown-enforced levels of digital wellness consumption, with online fitness, TikTok and wellness apps emerging as the most popular platforms.

And this is reflected in spending patterns now, with McKinsey finding the percentage of fitness spend apportioned to gyms – and even to the more traditional forms of at-home fitness – down in 2022 versus 2020.

Now is therefore the time, say the report’s authors, to consider what consumers really want and build new business models to meet these emerging needs.

 

A new role for gyms

And there’s additional reason for these models to be hybrid, with this new report suggesting that hybrid fitness models seem to help people achieve their objectives more effectively.

In McKinsey’s research, hybrid fitness consumers were more likely to report positive health outcomes, with 55% saying their wellness had improved from one year ago compared to just 41% of all respondents.

The challenge for health club operators, say the authors of this new report, is therefore to “understand their role in today’s routines” – where they can add true value to the consumer in a hybrid world that’s more broadly focused on wellness, not just fitness.

Gyms must also look at how and where they present themselves to their target audience, with McKinsey finding that 76% of fitness purchase decisions are researched and/or executed online (22% purely online, 54% omnichannel), while 46% of fitness consumers are influenced by social media in making their fitness choices – the highest of all surveyed categories.

As the report concludes: “The need is there. Innovation is increasing success rates and growing the revenue pool. The bar is rising on what it takes to win.”

 

If you’re still assessing how digital can help your club grow its revenue and win, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to share our expertise with you – contact us at info@wexer.com

AuthorRobert Louw