The future is hybrid. As you re-open physically, don’t drop the ball digitally

Wexer Blog

1 July 2020

As gyms and studios around the world begin to re-open from lockdown, it’s hard not to breathe a communal sigh of relief.

Because of course this is great news: however impressive our sector’s online pivot over recent months, we still have bricks and mortar facilities to operate (and earn revenue from).

And the great news is that these facilities have a newly invigorated purpose: health protection. This supercharged message, heard by a far more responsive audience than ever before, has the potential to drive many more people into our care.

All of this is to be celebrated.

Yet we must also remember that re-opening is just the first step in the road to recovery. As a sector, we must explore ways to support people over the next 12–24 months, or as long as it takes for a vaccine to become available. We certainly aren’t re-opening to the world as it used to be.

In the short to medium term, many people will remain nervous about attending a gym – they may cherry pick activities where they feel safer, such as one-to-one personal training, but will they return to multiple visits a week? The jury is out. Meanwhile, research suggests many will, sadly, go as far as cancelling their membership when asked to start paying again.

This isn’t about painting a picture of doom and gloom: we’ve all seen the reports that show members are champing at the bit to return, and that is also true. But even this group of loyal members will adopt different routines and behaviours, both out of choice and social distancing necessity.

So, it’s simply about recognising the ongoing challenges and being prepared for them. And the fact is, online fitness will continue to play a huge role in the success of health club operator businesses.

As you plough your energies into preparing to re-open your physical facilities, you neglect your digital services at your peril.

 

Nervous members

Already familiar with at-home training thanks to lockdown, this is a group who can slowly be reintroduced to the in-club environment via carefully selected activities, but who in the meantime can have their baseline fitness needs met through online provision.

The key here: do not fight the safe space. Help members to still work out at home, where they feel safe, rather than forcing them to return to the club. Ensure your online feed is still full of great, regularly refreshed content to keep this member group engaged in fitness – and engaged with you.

 

Potential cancellations

If the choice is to lose a member altogether, or to allow them to trade down to a digital-only membership, it’s a no-brainer isn’t it? Chances are, those members may eventually return to full membership, but only if you treat them well and respect their choices now.

Once again, new-found familiarity with online training should make them more open to a digital membership. Your challenge: to ensure they purchase this from you rather than using one of the many other (sometimes free) online fitness providers. Make sure you’re adding value, including continuing to stream classes by your own instructors; this should not be something you abandon just because lockdown is ending.

 

The die-hards

Even this group, keen to return to the gym for the community and variety of training it offers, will have taken part in online training over recent months. Will they now come back to the gym every day? Maybe, if they could. But social distancing may render that impossible, at least for now: in-club workouts will likely be supplemented with at-home and in-park training. Make sure the online workouts they choose are yours, delivered on your own platform for a seamless digital/physical experience, with hybrid membership packages giving them the best of both worlds.

 

New prospects

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 just think of all those former members who moved out of the area, and the friends and family who could be referred by existing members. 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 – and why digital has to remain a key focus even as clubs re-open.

For all of these audiences, the Wexer Web Player is the perfect solution. White labelled, on-demand access to 600+ classes from the world’s top instructors, as well as a steady stream of your own fantastic content – all available any time, anywhere, on any internet-enabled device.

 

To find out more, please contact us at info@wexer.com

AuthorRobert Louw