By Hugo Braam, Special AFS Contributor and co-founder and CEO of Virtuagym
The face of fitness has changed for good. You may have read the headlines and the stats, stating that only 24% of gym-goers feel completely comfortable coming back into gyms, clubs or studios right now. The reason? A combination of concern for catching the coronavirus and a newfound love of working out at home. This may come as a disappointment to many fitness professionals that have spent months preparing their facilities for reopening.
You may find yourself competing not just with your neighboring gyms or studios but with big, home workout brand names like Peloton, Sweat and Mirror. This, coupled with the uncertainty of the future, may leave you fearing for your regular revenue streams and wondering how to drive members back in, generate new leads and even create additional streams of revenue too.
The good news is that technology can be utilized to alleviate both of the member apprehensions I’ve mentioned above. Traditional fitness businesses that are charging for a digital service are guaranteed to come out the strongest. While digital online workout services are seeing a resurgence in popularity, they’re no match for you and your business. Why? Because you have the power to offer your members a combination of a blended offline and online experience.
Yes, members enjoy the ease of working out in their own living rooms. However, this alone is not enough to provide a complete, holistic fitness experience - something that will be essential for attracting fitness consumers as we move into the future.
Introduce a new digital revenue stream
It’s clear that fitness businesses must innovate if they want to stay relevant. A recent survey by Virtuagym showed that 76% of fitness professionals in the US want to innovate their businesses but aren’t sure exactly how to do it. At Virtuagym, we put our heads together to see how we could support businesses in our industry in making the transformation to digital. The result? Our new offering, Stronger Together. It’s a turnkey rich online membership experience for your members, directly available in your personalized branded club app.
This digital offering comprises a complete, holistic health and wellness experience. With 600+ on-demand streamed video workouts, a virtual trainer workout library, plus bi-weekly challenges run by Virtuagym, where members can win real prizes. But we didn’t stop there, Stronger Together also includes a more holistic experience with audio meditations to unwind in these stressful times. Additionally, it features in-app community groups, fully supplied with weekly content updates by the team at Virtuagym on topics such as training, nutrition, and wellness. As such, it is the ultimate digital member’s fitness and wellness experience, you can offer to your members with little extra work.
An offering like this is one sure-fire way to supercharge your revenue streams. It keeps your members loyal to your brand and training with you, even when they are working out at home. You can offer membership like this alongside a members’ current in-club membership, or as an additional membership that they can use until they start coming back into the facility. This is especially useful if members have frozen or canceled memberships, so you can keep recurring membership fees coming in.
Now is also the time to get creative with your classes. If you devise specialized workshops or classes, you can offer these to members at a higher price point. This is something you could also incorporate into your virtual offering - Stronger Together allows business owners to add their own specialized class offerings into the app too. This provides added value for members and makes them feel like a part of your club’s community.
It’s clear that fitness businesses must innovate if they want to stay relevant. A recent survey by Virtuagym showed that 76% of fitness professionals in the US want to innovate their businesses but aren’t sure exactly how to do it.
Focus on community building
As we move towards the future of fitness, your ability to build a strong community will be paramount to the success of your gym, club, or studio. Members with strong connections to their clubs and fellow members are far less likely to churn, and this is something that has been particularly prominent over the past few months. If you’d like to expand the community of your facility, you need to reach your members when they are at home. One of our clients, The Body Content, is a fitness training studio with a tight-knit community. They organize barbeques and summer hikes in order to bring the entire studio community together.
Of course, this isn’t always possible - especially if social distancing measures were to come back in, in the case of a virus resurgence. Annual activities are fun and exciting, but it’s important to bring members together all year round. This is where technology comes in. But utilizing social media for this purpose could quickly become a full-time job. In fact, it is a full-time job. Many companies hire social media experts to run their community channels.
To help make this easier and cheaper, we’ve incorporated a community management feature into the Stronger Together program too. Members can communicate with one another, track and share progress and follow groups for content - all of which is managed centrally by Virtuagym, so that you don’t have to do anything. It takes place in your app, so you get all the credit without any of the heavy lifting.
Alleviate health concerns
Of course, the health concerns of members are very real and may last a while yet. It stands to reason that the kinds of consumers who take good care of their health (your members) may be more likely to show a reluctance to risk their health by coming back to the gym too soon.
Making sure that you have strict measures in place to control the spread of the virus is one impactful way to limit those concerns. Surprise, surprise, technology is a key method for maintaining hygiene protocols too. QR code scanning and non-touch check-ins can limit contamination and business analytics can be used to see who is in your gym when. You can utilize class booking technology within your app to limit your gym capacity and ultimately, show members that you are in control. At Virtuagym we’ve even added a COVID-19 symptoms check to this booking process, so together we can minimize the risk of further infections within our industry.
Innovation is vital right now, as our industry is facing radical changes due to COVID-19. It’s as Charles Darwin famously said “It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Will you adapt and overcome?
Hugo Braam is co-founder and CEO of Virtuagym. Virtuagym provides innovative management, booking, and coaching software solutions for gyms, clubs, and studios. They have just launched Stronger Together, the world's first turnkey solution for fitness operators.