(Editor’s Note: This sponsored article is part of the Club Industry report, “Technology: Agent of Growth for the Health and Wellness Industry,” which can be downloaded for free by going here.)
For more than a decade, the fitness technology market has grown steadily. Wearables enter the market regularly, thousands of health- and fitness-focused apps are available, and at-home workouts have evolved to include state-of-the-art connected equipment, such as Peloton, Mirror and Tonal. Fitness technology had been moving from niche to mainstream, but in March 2020 that all changed.
COVID-19 and the shutdown of gyms caused fitness technology to change from a “nice to have” to a “need to have” for both consumers and fitness businesses—and its trajectory for steady growth became exponential overnight. This acceleration of fitness tech adoption left fitness clubs in an unprecedented situation. Where before, technology had been an addition to the services clubs offered, it was now the replacement, and if fitness club owners didn’t want their businesses to become a relic, they needed to act fast.
Tech adoption rates sky-rocketed, but this rapid pivot had also accelerated our understanding of what consumers want in a digital fitness experience. On the top of that list? Human connection.
Consumers are craving connection, not just because of new quarantine lifestyles. Research shows that social factors can play a key role in how long and how often individuals work out and that adherence to an exercise program increases when fitness activities are completed in a group environment. It has also revealed that making fitness social can increase enjoyment of physical activity, decrease exercise anxieties and yield additional mental benefits, such as decreasing stress levels.
While digital fitness providers scramble to make community and social interaction part of their products, fitness club operators are already experts in building community and using social motivation to engage and connect with members. They just need to find a way to digitize it.
What fitness clubs need is a platform that:
- Lets them maintain their club brand and personality but translates it from in-person to online
- Puts their team of trained fitness professionals front and center, emphasizing the importance of their knowledge and expertise
- Supports relationship-building with tools that connect members with club staff, such as in-app messaging, video streaming, video calls and one-on-one appointments
- Fosters a sense of community, bringing members together in online support networks, groups and challenges
- Extends the experience beyond the gym and takes a 360-degree approach to member health and wellness, including exercise, nutrition, habits, sleep and mindfulness
- Integrates with wearables and technology, building an ecosystem of tech that supports members constantly
- Collects powerful member data that can personalize fitness experiences and help trainers make recommendations to help members hit their goals
- Fits seamlessly into the club’s existing software stack and helps streamline the process of going digital
What we’ve learned from watching the first wave of fitness clubs pivot to digital is that even if it’s their first foray into fitness technology, they won’t be entering the race as any competitor—they’ll be coming in as leaders. Reaching the fitness consumer is not just about going digital; it’s about facilitating relationships with tech—going digital with a human touch.
Laura Dunlop is the senior marketing manager at Trainerize, the fitness club software making fitness accessible by empowering businesses worldwide. By combining fitness, nutrition and habit coaching with client communication, in-app payments and access to the world’s best fitness and business add-ons, Trainerize allows fitness businesses to extend the experience beyond the gym, build online communities and tap into the growing market of digital fitness enthusiasts.