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Why Gyms Should be Going Digital

Why Gyms Should be Going Digital

INSIGHTS ARTICLE /
 October 2020

This year, the way we work, socialize, and of course, training has changed dramatically. The common thread tying these transformations together is digitization. Now, more than ever, digital media has become the cornerstone of most people’s day-to-day lives.

While it might seem sudden, this shift is not an overnight sensation. Innovative gym owners know that digital fitness-on-demand solutions saw an increase in spending of nearly 59% last year. Covid-19 has rapidly accelerated this trend, with a recent Deloitte Survey claiming that 88.9% of all fitness companies in Germany have offered digital courses at some point during the pandemic.

As gyms reopen, their owners will have to consider a variety of health and safety implications including social distancing measures and increased quality of airflow, as well as the implementation of immense sanitization requirements.

This new situation certainly adds significant challenges, so it is understandable if some gym owners may be hesitant to fully invest their time and money in digital fitness-on-demand. With plenty on the plate and the prospect of a crowded market, delving into a whole new venture may not seem that appealing.

At the same time, some statistics claim that gyms are currently only able to run at 20% capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions. Therefore, it could be argued that there’s an urgent need to diversify and innovate in order to stay competitive in a rapidly changing market.   

The digital age of fitness is just beginning, and for those savvy enough to incorporate virtual elements there is a wealth of exciting opportunities ahead. 

Audience: Millennials and Gen Z

Millennials and Generation Z account for 80% of all gym-goers so it is crucial to fully understand this demographic’s wants, behaviors, and needs. Instagram, YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify are important staples in the lives of modern-day youths, and gym owners wouldn’t be too far amiss in aiming to replicate those platforms.

Whilst Instagram and YouTube are characterized by light-hearted, free, and often user-generated content, Netflix and Spotify both have a reputation for offering a high-quality, premium experience (which oftentimes isn’t free of charge). The fact is that young consumers interact with both types of platforms and this illustrates that, as long as the content is good enough, consumers will be willing to pay.

Live Streaming: Social Media Strategy

According to LiveStream, 82% of social media users prefer to watch live video content over standard posts. Les Mills’ Live steaming Facebook group has grown by nearly 90,000 members in the last 3 months, with many posts attracting as many as 100k views.

The reason why live streams and fitness classes are a match made in heaven is because they offer schedules in a time where people have lost their routines. It removes the option of dropping a video into a “watch later” folder and motivates consumers to actually take part. 

Taking part, that is, if the sessions are worth attending. It is incredibly important that gym owners can offer a service that offers two-way interaction in an online setting. This grants consumers an authentic way to connect and build a sense of community through the screen. For example, Peloton’s cycling app allows users to hear their trainer’s voice and see their face, giving them real-time motivation and heartening feedback. Solutions like these help maintain that human connection many of us miss from pre-lockdown gyms.

Content 

Some claim that future gyms will be virtual, gamified, and totally immersive. Physical gyms are increasingly seeing a shift from traditional fitness classes to more interactive activities. Many have started to integrate various forms of audio-visual shows to further augment the workout experience.

Les Mills has jumped on this early, and one of its most popular activities is a cycling class called THE TRIP®. It takes participants down a hyper-real visual cycling track that twists, turns, and (sometimes) flips through all manners of virtual environments. The experience is unique and adds a whole different entertainment angle to fitness, both as a video-on-demand offering and in a physical in-club environment.

Trackability

Whilst the glitz and the glam of Virtual Reality is exciting, many fitness companies are equally intrigued by the trackability and raw data produced by Video-on-Demand solutions. For example, a gym owner or administrator can track classes and schedule performance within the application, then use this data to tailor future classes to ensure that their audience gets exactly what they like from the digital platform. Equally, consumers are tracking their own performance and consistency. Integrated fitness wearables are now mainstream. The ability for consumers to track their performance is something that keeps them aligned with their fitness goals and ultimately keeps them coming back for more.

The Future of Gyms

“Working out” from home will challenge the traditional ways of working out and gym owners need to embrace these shifts to stay ahead. At the same time, it offers gym owners an opportunity to diversify and generate additional revenue for years to come. It is a sector of our industry which is booming and savvy companies are wise to join the race. Having a strategy in place to optimize fitness-on-demand gives you an opportunity to get an edge over your competitors. Many consumers have already adopted a hybrid approach to fitness and in order for us to meet their needs, offering an engaging online experience is quickly becoming a necessity.

Community matters 

Feeling like you are part of something bigger is a great motivator for the fitness journey and has accelerated some of the most exciting recent fitness movements (Cross fit, F45, soul cycle). Our brains are wired to connect with others and it is one of the superpowers of group fitness classes. Building a virtual fitness community whether directly through social and live streaming or linked with the class content by letting people know who is online and by building opportunities to work out together, celebrate or help each other is one of the cornerstones of building a successful online fitness offering. The LMOD & Zwift community are great examples of this in action. 

By Chris McNair, Regional Director – Australia & New Zealand, Accedo

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