Is ‘Hybrid Fitness’ the Future of the Leisure Industry?

There is a lot of talk currently about the future of fitness and leisure, understandably, but particularly on the impact of the move towards digital fitness and online content. 

Much of the discussion has centred around “are leisure/fitness facilities going to become obsolete” or “is digital the future of fitness?” 

For me I think we may have failed to miss the point! 

Every now and then there is a real “disrupter” that hits industries, these events cause them to adapt or be left behind, but the idea that leisure facilities will become the Blockbuster of our industry will only be the case if people don’t value what the facilities offer. 

Going into a store to pick out a video compared to going online to download or stream, it is a very different proposition to going to a facility to engage with people, be part of a community and enjoy the experience. Cinemas are still something people enjoy and still thrive, but they have had to adapt to remain relevant. I think we are more the cinema than the Blockbuster store!

There is also a lot of conversation about “digital products”, should we be looking towards them as our offering? should we charge? is this how we will offer fitness and activity into the future? 

Again, I think the point is being missed. For me, Digital is a channel, a platform for delivery rather than an isolated product. The concept of a hybrid fitness model implies we are creating 2 separate businesses and trying to run them in parallel. Should we not be thinking of this as evolving how we provide our service to our consumers? 

It has been common practice for some time to manage our member acquisition using digital tools and processespaperless sign-ups, online joining and lead management systems. We didn’t talk about sales becoming a hybrid model, it is just a more efficient and evolved way of improving our process and maximising sales. 

The move towards digital to provide our services seems to have been viewed as a COVID19 response however this is not a new phenomenon.  Other businesses have been operating this way for years, some leisure operators had already effectively embraced technology to enhance their experience. The last year has just accelerated it for everyone. 

The TA6 philosophy is about meeting people where they are. This means understanding their experience, their motivation driving their need to be active and their emotional readiness to do it, as well as their preference for when, how and where they are active. Maximising digital channels is an obvious, and essential, way to do this. 

That does not mean we scrap the experience of our facilities; it means we just enhance it. 

The last 12 months or so have obviously been extremely challenging for our industry, our teams and our members and communities but it has also forced us to look at our business and evolve how we deliver our service. What has come out of this is the time to implement things that we perhaps should have been embracing before. 

Navigating the new world might be daunting so here are some considerations for getting there. 

  • Understand your product

    Your product is what you offer to your customers, understanding exactly what this is will determine if, how and when you utilise digital channels. For example, if your product is strength training and weightlifting, online classes probably aren’t your go to. You can however use digital channels, social media and online content to share training advice, sell supplements and generate a strong community of like-minded people with similar training goals. If your product is health and physical and mental wellbeing to your community then online workouts, livestreaming and events will help you deliver on that. 

  • Understand your customer

    Where are they on their journey and how do they want to be active and engage with us. Target your digital offering in the right way.

  • Be clear on why you are using digital and how

    Lockdown forced operators to move to a digital offering, but this should not be a tick box exercise.  It must be the right offering and platform with relevant content to support your brand vision and customer needs. For example, third party content is great quality but how does it create engagement with your brand? Zoom classes are great for engaging with existing members but are they right for lead generation?

  • Streamline your ecosystems

    Often adding in new technology, systems or processes creates confusion and friction in the experience. Either through lack of clarity on how they work together or support the customer journey, through having to work around rather than with our systems or by creating extra steps in the process for customers and our teams.

  • Use the data

    Simply offering digital services isn’t enough, we need to track, analyse and use the data to better understand our consumer preferences, success of our service and how to develop and improve.

Technology will become increasingly integral to our industry and our customers, so it is important we understand it, embed it effectively and relevantly into our offering and maximise the business intelligence it provides. 

If you need support with embracing digital to maximise your bounce-back game plan, on-going revenue and customer experience, get in touch with us to see how TA6 can help.