CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Fitness On Demand.
During my last 12 years in the industry, I have had the blessing and the challenge of – like you – holding positions that required creativity and demanded results. During this experience, I've learned from some of the most recognized experts and business models in our industry.
I will be leaning on this experience to share with you the three market forces (social, economic and technological) that are converging to create a brief window of opportunity for you to separate yourself from the pack. In addition, you will learn two methods that you can employ right now to gain a competitive edge.
Let's begin with an explanation of the three market forces:
Consumers, previously unresponsive to commercial fitness industry efforts (this is the 80 percent we always like to loosely reference), are becoming more aware of their health. Managing one’s sleep patterns is suddenly a trend. Almost everyone can relate to the feeling of guilt that comes when you forget to log a run.
Advancements in technology manufacturing and the decreasing barrier of entry for developing applications have made mass marketing, distribution and, thus, consumption possible. Begin by typing any fitness keyword into the iTunes or Google Play store and you will see what I mean. Wearables, as one example, are available in every department store through kiosks and sometimes even through employers.
As the sales channels for consumer fitness services erupt, services that were previously esoteric and insulated by the commercial fitness industry are moving toward mass public ubiquity. Most of these services are now low cost or freemium and scale toward completely free. Such services available to the mass public include video training, coaching, consultation, guidance, community and data tracking.
The data and statistics around this universal uprising in consumer health attention are well documented and indisputable. What do we do as commercial fitness operators to remain relevant and better exploit this new market opportunity?
I have found there is still a widespread lack of awareness around the advancements in consumer fitness.
When I was speaking at a fitness conference this past March, I asked the people in the room, “Who has heard of Fitocracy?” Of the roughly 70 well-respected and knowledgeable fitness operators, only six people raised their hand. Fitocracy – for those who can relate to the audience on that day – is an online platform for the everyday patron in need of fitness guidance. This simple app connects its users with a fitness coach who can prescribe a tailored plan. The user then completes the plan at their own convenience, tracking their progress through the platform and checking in with their coach only as frequently as they prefer. Today, Fitocracy has amassed 2 million users on its platform. By commercial fitness industry standards, this would place Fitocracy in the top five global health club brands, and the majority of us don't even know they exist.
One cannot turn on the news today without witnessing the popularity of wearable fitness technology. Today, one out of five people in North America own a wearable fitness device. But what I find most interesting is how widespread the spectrum of demographics is for its user base. From young to old, fitness illiterate to fitness elite, a variety of motivating factors lead to the purchase of these devices. Those factors seem to cross gender, age, ethnic and some income gaps.
In addition to wearable technology, digital forms of training extend the consumer’s fitness experience beyond the health club. A 2013 Nielsen survey discovered that an unprecedented 52 percent of active gym members also used a DVD and/or online workout program to supplement their membership.
How are these trends valuable? Many products with their origins in the consumer market can enhance the member experience. Often, these products provide a novelty or excitement factor that wasn’t possible before. Using an example from the statistic on digital training noted above in this article, virtual cycling races allow participants to compete with people in-studio, on the fitness floor and/or at home, providing real-time results along the way.
And as is the case with the results provided by virtual cycling races, the majority of these digital solutions offer better transparency and, if exploited properly, clearer accountability benchmarks to training professionals. If training professionals can embrace this data and put it to work, they can make the shift from the proverbial motivator to a true consultant and in turn provide more precise outcomes and better incentivize behavior.
Action items for garnering a competitive edge:
Commit to devising a plan. How can we change our mindset to be discerning innovators and avoid some of the noise? Best-in-class operators will be careful not to be misled by an artificial sense of personal touch when evaluating lead generation opportunities through unconventional products and services. A brand’s sense of personal touch or perceived premium status is the oldest resistance to new ways of thinking.
Go beyond your four walls. Gone are the days of sheltering or barricading products and services. The rest of the world is gravitating toward “try before you buy.” Prevailing brands will seek opportunities to integrate with unconventional products and services to harness new market opportunities.
Garrett Marshall is the vice president of Minnesota-based virtual group fitness solution Fitness On Demand. Marshall combines a breadth of experience with an industry-specific, laser-focused, career path. Investing himself fully in each opportunity along the way, Marshall has been fortunate to play a role in several successful fitness businesses. His achievements span a variety of employment positions in small and large organizational settings that have included an IPO, two private equity events and three Inc. 5000 nominations during his employment tenure.