A global market that was once worth about $94 billion has taken an abrupt turn due to the coronavirus. Over the past year, everything that we thought we knew about the fitness industry has changed, and the future is poised to change even further. Uncertainty aside, it’s safe to say that those who lay down the blueprint for change today have a higher chance of survival in the post-pandemic future.
In light of this, how can we control the narrative of what the “new normal” is in the health and wellness sphere? What tools, software and best practices do we want to put forth as mechanisms and ideas that will help us not just recover but revolutionize the fitness industry?
Accelerate the Shift to Digital Fitness
Back in March, Peloton app downloads increased fivefold. Health and fitness app downloads increased by 47 percent just in the United States alone. Our own research done in partnership with EuropeActive shows that there were almost seven million online fitness community posts in April – more than three times the amount registered in February.
The industry needs to pivot toward technology-centered solutions, that is, leveraging technology to provide immersive and cutting-edge fitness experiences. This year’s trends have shown that the future will inevitably see a rise of app-based workouts, streaming, and on-demand fitness with virtual trainers.
These already existed before COVID-19, but how quickly fitness businesses embrace the shift to digital fitness will determine their success. This means digitizing (hybridizing) business models to generate additional streams of revenue. Furthermore, businesses should not regard digitization as a short-term solution but rather view it as a robust business model that will shape the fitness industry for years to come.
Nurture Your Community as a Commodity
Gyms and working out are inherently social activities. Whether people patronize gyms for inward reflection or to forge social bonds, there’s an unmistakable element of belonging to a larger environment within the spectrum of a fitness club. Even with the physicality gone, businesses can still emulate the social space of fitness – but to do so successfully, they must invest in communit- building as if it were a tangible asset.
Your gym’s community is a big selling point for potential new members. It’s essential to create an online and offline community that allows members to connect. Allow your coaches to create content from home in the form of videos and blogs to continue to support your business. At the same time, you’ll be facilitating meaningful experiences between members and staff amid a pandemic. Over the past year, we’ve seen that members with strong connections to their clubs and fellow members are far less likely to churn. If you expand your community beyond the physical space of your facility, you’ll create something that goes beyond business.
Address Safety Concerns in Your Facility
Despite gyms slowly reopening, people still seem reluctant to come back. Many cite a lack of trust or improper communication between clubs and members as a reason for not returning. To address this, learn about your members’ demands and set up a system that enables people to work out safely. Making sure that you have strict measures in place to control the spread of the virus is one impactful way to address those demands.
It also goes without saying that technology is a key method for maintaining hygiene protocols. QR code scanning and non-touch check-ins can limit contamination, and business analytics can be used to see who is in your gym at any given time. Consider using apps for class booking and to show capacity in real-time. Utilize features such as triage questions and community messaging to minimize the risk of the virus spreading in your facility.
Take the ‘New Normal’ into Your Own Hands
Whatever the future holds, one thing will remain certain: people will want to stay healthy. We’re still in the midst of learning about the coronavirus, but research has shown that healthy people tend to fare better. Working out and keeping fit will be at the forefront of many people’s minds going forward.
For fitness business owners, this means business – but not as usual. As key players in the fitness industry, it is our responsibility to put actionable solutions into effect to get our industry back on track. What we do at the threshold of the pandemic will eventually lay the groundwork for our industry to recover, and in return, help people live healthier lives.
Simon Aurik is CMO and CCO of Virtuagym.