Designing an omnichannel experience in the fitness industry
Updated: Feb 7
This post looks to build upon our analysis of the trends and data around “at-home fitness” we also shared in the blog.
After gathering information from market experts such as eMarketer, Statista or eBay and opinions from major players such as Equinox, Peloton or Nautilus it seems clear that the future of the fitness industry relies on combining online and offline experiences.
At the end of the day, those who better understand the needs and concerns of their customers and tailor their health & wellbeing offering to them as much as possible, will have higher chances of succeeding, assuming of course, that they do so profitably and sustainably.
Why should your fitness brand embrace omnichannel strategies?
Europe Active shared a document in which they outlined the main conclusions they have drawn out for the fitness industry:
Consumers are still looking for in-home solutions.
Studios are embracing digital solutions to stay engaged with their customers and make up for lost revenue.
Non-fitness companies such as retail and apparel looking for partnership solutions to drive customer engagement.
Similarly, IHRSA, in their August 2020 edition of Club Industry, ran a special report on omnichannel services and how “virtual-based exercise is reshaping the landscape.” While cloud-based solutions have so far been able to impact the areas related to revenue generation (CRM processes automation, content publishing, advertising and other marketing tactics) and cost management (through technological solutions such as AI messaging, chatbots or machine learning) it is in the “arena of fitness and healthy-lifestyles instruction that omnichannel yields the greater return in terms of improved customer experience and increased retention.”
Along those lines, Julie Rice, co-founder of Soulcycle believes, as shared on this episode of the Finding Mastery Podcast, that it will be around two years until people regain trust in going back to fitness and other shared spaces such as co-working sites.
Moreover, in this episode of the eMarketer podcast they talk about the “decentralization” of the fitness industry, which basically implies that customers no longer need to go to a physical gym to satisfy their fitness needs.
The Decentralization of the Fitness Industry
Fitness businesses face an uncertain environment. While we have talked with some executives in the industry that claim that “people will always want to go back to their gym,” we are not so sure, at least in the short-medium term.
The customer should be the starting point of any future strategy. Those looking to thrive will need to understand the needs, concerns, and problems that they face from a “health & wellness” standpoint and develop solutions that address them.
Executing an omnichannel strategy with the 8C´s framework by Roland Berger
Delivering an omnichannel experience should start by identifying the stage of the “health and fitness” journey customers currently are going through. Then, teams and necessary resources need to be assembled to deliver an experience that meets expectations. Certainly, without the skills and competences required, any omnichannel strategy will not be executed correctly so we wanted to share the following framework developed by Roland Berger as we believe it could be of help when designing the strategy for your fitness brand.
1. Competence: Businesses need to develop teams with the required skills and most of all, ensure the degree of collaboration among them is high.
2. Category: As we explained above, the fitness industry is experiencing major disruption and people are getting used to meeting their fitness needs outside of the traditional gym. In fact, a small business owner we know is earning more money through Zoom personal training sessions than what he was earning before the lockdown, driven by the capacity to reach new customers outside its traditional “area of influence." Customer research and staying on top of market developments are critical to define coherent channel and communication strategies.
3. Channel: In this new environment, you will need to identify potential channels to deliver your service (mobile apps, TV apps, videoconferencing software, the gym, etc.) and most of all, measure the performance of those you choose. Our recommendation, based on what we have observed thus far, is that it is better to prioritize quality over quantity. This means that it is preferable to choose less channels but be able to deliver a good service rather than being mediocre across several of them
4. Customer data: Ideally, gather information in real time and enable automatic reports that show data from all channels and touch points to enable faster decision making. In this sense, there are many tools available that do not require huge investments such as Google Data Studio, for example. This will help you with segmentation of customer groups, tailor your offering to them and ideally, improve conversion rates in the long run.
5. Code: Embracing new digital technologies is a must assuming that a “trial and error” culture needs to be adopted. In this context, we are sure the “No Code” movement will be of great value for the industry as it will enable the development of solutions from several angles such as gathering customer data, develop apps, design marketing strategies and much at tremendous speed and relatively low investment.
6. Chain: While Roland Berger, in their report, defines the scope within the supply chain of a retailer and the need to be agile, we believe this can apply to your fitness organization as well; you will need to ready to deliver your service through emerging platforms even if it requires last minute changes.
7. Costs: Obviously, cost management keeps on being a fundamental aspect of running the business. Prioritize those projects that will deliver most value to your business and make sure you commit to them over the long term. Having ideas is great, but focus should be on cash management and long-term sustainability.
8. Culture: Arguably, the most important “C” of them all. Without the right mindset from the team, everything that has been talked about before will not reach the market in conditions to succeed. Transparency, constant communication and setting clear objectives is of the upmost importance. Similarly, as we said before, foster a working environment in which trial and error is accepted.
The full report from the firm is available for download and it provides greater detail on delivering a successful omnichannel experience.
It is worth pointing out before finishing this post, even if it seems obvious, that this is an ongoing process. Customer needs are in constant evolution (especially during these uncertain times), new technology disrupts markets both in an experience and a process level, competitors emerge, etc.
Agility will be key; those businesses looking to thrive need to be capable of reacting to innovations from all angles.
We will keep sharing relevant content and examples related to delivering omnichannel experiences in the fitness in the future, to try and help you navigate these turbulent times.
Meanwhile, keep safe.