Work Out and Date: Personal Fitness 2021

The personal fitness industry is booming. But how people stay fit has probably changed for good. Personal fitness brands are now stay-at-home fitness brands and providing a great customer experience sets them apart.

In the post-pandemic age, going to the gym is out; exercising at home or outdoors is in. The Washington Post, citing data from research firm NPD, recently reported that U.S. sales of health and fitness equipment more than doubled from March to October 2020 as people adapted to quarantine living. This behavioral shift has been a boon for providers of at-home fitness companies such as Peloton and Lululemon, each of which saw their stock values soar in 2020. Brick-and-mortar fitness gyms have not always been so fortunate – but they’re adapting. 

Gyms Connect with People at Home Through Mobile

Many national gyms adapted by going digital in 2020. For example, Orangetheory took its training classes online with the help of the company’s native app and Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS was crucial: the cloud-hosting platform offers tools such as AWS Amplify and Amplify Video that make it possible for developers to quickly create video-on-demand and live streaming applications. And that’s exactly what Orangetheory did by launching OrangetheoryAtHome

Orangetheory and gyms such as Planet Fitness created a template for others: using no-frills video to replicate (as closely as possible) the experience of a trainer-guided workout. In April 2020, Planet Fitness announced a partnership with live streaming company iFit to provide streaming home workouts integrated with the Planet Fitness app. Soon Planet Fitness was reporting that adoption of the mobile app was at an all-time high in the second quarter of 2020 (with nearly 60 percent of new joiners downloading the app in the quarter). 

Crucially, Orangetheory and Planet Fitness did not simply leave it up to members to exercise in isolation; trainers remain part of the experience as they are in the physical gym. Many other gyms have adopted this simple but elegant approach. Anyone who works out can cite a local yoga class or gym that relies on live streaming tools as basic as Zoom to conduct classes. But Orangetheory and Planet Fitness have a leg up through their use of their own apps. This allows them to capture and store vital personal health information and manage functions such as scheduling workouts and a reliable cloud-hosting platform in the case of Orangetheory.

Personal Fitness Companies Create Experience Ecosystems

A number of personal fitness companies, including Peloton and Lululemon, rely on their already established product ecosystems to offer technology-rich experiences.

Peloton and Lululemon enjoy built-in advantages through their integrated software and hardware (such as Peloton riding bikes and treadmills and Lululemon’s interactive mirror). But they’ve both always offered more than gear and software. At their core, they are lifestyle coaches.

Lululemon relies on a network of brand ambassadors to court and coach potential customers under the rallying cry, “Community Is Everything” – like saying, “come join us – we’re just like you!” Peloton treats its instructors like rock stars. They aren’t so much brand ambassadors trying to get you to buy a Peloton product – they’re like fitness gurus waiting for you to meet them and unlock their wisdom and motivational skills to make your life better.

And their space is getting crowded. During CES 2021, our Global Chief Strategy Officer Dave Meeker discussed some emerging experiences, such as Samsung’s Smart Trainer,  which will offer workouts from celebrity trainers such as Jillian Michaels, delivered through Samsung TVs. Meanwhile, Ultrahuman, a fitness video platform debuted at CES, is a fitness app that helps people meditate, work out efficiently, and optimize their sleep. Ultrahuman will also connect people with fitness celebrities, delivering the experience through Apple and Android devices.

Many fitness companies are  reading the market and responding with experiences that build on the instructor/student dynamic. Peloton is doing an especially good job at this, for instance:

  • They’ve been developing partnerships with music companies to have original music created for Peloton classes. Beyoncé just signed a multi-year deal with Peloton to create a series of themed workout classes.
  • They’re also blurring the lines between fitness and personal dating, as author and marketing professor Scott Galloway pointed out on Twitter recently. How about a Tuesday night workout and speed date? It’s likely that Peloton is responding to its members: a Peloton Singles Group on Facebook counts about 4,400 members.  

But as Orangetheory and Planet Fitness demonstrate, integrated hardware and software products at the Peloton/Lululemon level are not formidable barriers to enter digital home fitness. The real battleground for all at-home fitness companies? Creating engaging customer experiences. Music. Dating. Building community. Having fun from afar. This is where the personal fitness experience is heading.

To learn more about how to create a memorable customer experience, contact Asher Wren.

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