CEO Question of the Week: Is Online Fitness a Threat to Your Club or Studio? Yes! Unless.....
Ah, so this is the question of 2017 and 2018 and virtually everyone I speak with ponders this question. So what is the answer.....?
I sincerely believe that the answer is "yes" IF you don't choose to offer your own online service. If you do choose to augment your current offering with an online streaming presence there really is nothing but upside for you.
Let me explain.....
Evolution occurs in all industries and the fitness industry is not an exception as in recent years technology has become a very important part of moving the industry forward. A simple search of the Play Store or Apple App Store will show you hundreds of free or inexpensive online workout apps and fitness utilities. In addition, there are thousands of providers of free workout content on YouTube and similar services. BUT, this is not really where the threat lies. Where the threat lies is with specialized online fitness streaming service providers. There are many of them that offer direct to consumer offerings, including industry leading club programming providers Les Mills and Beachbody. Offering a direct to consumer service that competes with the very clubs and studios that they license their programming to seems to create a bit of a quagmire but that's a story that has yet to shake itself out. On a bigger scale yet, are services such as Peloton who have been praised by industry analysts as "the apple of fitness". Raising an additional $325 million dollars earlier in 2017 to enhance and grow their direct to consumer of fitness streaming they are poised to become a major threat to fitness clubs across the U.S. Peloton has announced they will expand from spinning to include online Yoga and group fitness.
The world has gone mobile, and across industries, mobile technologies are giving consumers CHOICE and FLEXIBILITY. Banking, grocery orders, shopping and many other services no longer require consumers to go into the store. This doesn't mean that they don't ever come to the store or that they spend any less money, it just means that they have a more convenient way to interact with your brand and spend their money. In many cases, online services mean increased revenue and growth because consumers don't have to physically make the trip. At the recent Club Industry Show in Chicago, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with one of the fitness industry's top retention experts. He had just sat and listened to me present a topic of "using fitness streaming to increase member retention". I asked him for his honest opinion afterwards and one thing that I took away was a very interesting anecdote and it was in response to the simplest question of whether or not people will stop coming to fitness clubs because of fitness streaming. His anecdote went like this " Brad, I remember when take-out food first was introduced at one of my favorite restaurants near my house. There have been a number of occasions where due to circumstances I have been unable to go to this restaurant to eat in which case I ordered take-out from there. Of course, I always prefer to eat in the restaurant and eating take-out will never replace the atmosphere, experience and pleasure of eating at the restaurant, but if it means having to select a different restaurant or simply ordering take-out, I will always choose the take-out option." This relates to fitness clubs greatly in that people are either going to be the type to go to the club or they are not. For those that are not, they will choose one of these online providers that give them the option to workout at home or wherever they wish. For those that enjoy going to the club, this will NOT CHANGE. There is a draw to the club that keeps them coming back and no online experience will deter them from this. HOWEVER, what will happen, is you will give that member the choice and flexibility of consuming the club experience more often and with more convenience. Instead of the 3-4 times per week for an hour or two, they can be interacting with the online club 24 x 7 x 365 as they wish to do so.
A fitness streaming service provides so many benefits for members and the clubs themselves, not to mention additional revenue and member insights which really are the key to success. From earning more revenue per square foot, to increasing the type of classes and content for members to solving the "membership breakage model" reliance as it pertains to retention.
Adding fitness streaming to a club's offering will become ESSENTIAL going into 2018 and beyond. Consumers will demand it as it becomes more mainstream in the early part of next year and those that embrace the changing tide and get ahead of the trend stand to earn significant gains in revenue and member growth. There will be a number of clubs that elect to attempt to build their own fitness streaming service and by all means it can be done. It's a couple of years work and hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to do it, but it can be done. The option is to explore our FitCloudConnect Cloud Service offering for fitness clubs. We have taken the time and expense to build the service and for a monthly licensing fee, you can be operational within days with today's latest and greatest technology. It's a big world out there and we can only build so many bricks and mortar clubs. Fitness streaming services have no geographic boundaries and enable clubs to reach potential members that they currently have no access to. Pair this will the ability to enhance the choice, flexibility and ultimately member satisfaction of existing members and it becomes very clear that fitness streaming makes sense and is here to stay.
It time to "Think Outside the Walls".
Stay tuned for a future article on "Fitness Streaming: Build It or Buy It".
For additional information on FitCloudConnect please visit us at www.fitcloudconnect.com