Pioneering clubs are using the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to transform their offerings. Through smart use of technology and an agile mindset, operators are future-proofing their offline business by building new online revenue streams and growing their audience. Below is a breakdown of how clubs are strengthening their businesses.
Has fitness changed forever? It’s been a common question in our minds since COVID-19 hit. Some suggest we’ll see a booming resurgence in social exercise as members seek out the human connection they’ve been missing. Others cite lingering concerns around social distancing — combined with the comfort and convenience of working out at home — as a sign that digital workout solutions will continue to surge.
Whatever the future holds, now is time for clubs to cover all options. Leading clubs around the world are recognizing this as an opportunity to ramp up their digital presence, ensuring they’re well-placed to win in consumers’ minds either way.
Here are five tips from clubs around the world:
- Level up your online offering.
The online to offline (O2O) business model — where businesses build an audience through a slick digital presence and then channel them toward physical sites — is a prime example of channel integration to future-proof your club. Lefit, based in China, recreated the gym experience online amid COVID-19. Within weeks, Lefit’s live-streamed classes attracted an average of 20,000 viewers and online workouts have had a total of 2 billion views since launch. Buoyed by this initial success, the team started an online platform, offering live workouts, training programs and coaching upsells. The chain will leverage these initiatives to significantly reduce its reliance on offline income.
- Define your virtual value proposition.
Styles Studios Fitness in Illinois has sought to create an online value proposition that complements the live experience members can get in-club, adopting the philosophy, “If you can’t be at the gym, we’ll bring the gym to you.” The club streams workouts through a private Facebook group and offers virtual personal training sessions, as well as online sessions about nutrition, general health and well-being to support members and foster a sense of community. The result was a big expansion of the club’s online presence and unprecedented retention, with only two people cancelling their memberships during lockdown.
- Supercharge your social channels.
World Class in Russia dialed up its online experience to reach new fans through social media, with instructors leading a full livestream schedule of classes each day, refined regularly based on user feedback and data. The club has seen a huge uplift in subscribers and engagement on its various social media channels, seeing 150% growth on Instragram and 1,200% on YouTube.
- Create new digital products.
While cutting overhead costs is essential during hard times, developing new products that provide ancillary revenue streams can be just as helpful, and add long-term value to your business. Chinese operator Shape launched a 12-day online fat-loss training camp, where instructors hosted video training and coaching sessions with participants. More than 1,000 people signed up, with many purchasing additional packages. The instant revenue helped the business stay buoyant and brought another outlet for its instructors.
- Tap into your team.
The underlying principle behind Lefit and Shape’s online strategies is to harness their instructors to grow an online audience well beyond their existing member base, and win new fans by becoming “clubs that never close.” In addition, the chain chose live broadcast platforms where viewers can donate money in the form of “gifts,” which helped make instructor employment opportunities possible.
It’s too early to say how offline gym membership numbers will be impacted when the world comes out of lockdown, but the key differentiator will be the club’s mindset. Some will opt to ride out lockdown, wait for their club to reopen and slowly scale back to normal. The more agile clubs will double down on digital content, adopting the mindset that their club is now always open and every person on the internet is a potential member. Which path will you choose?