Understanding the New Marketplace
How consumer trends have changed since COVID, what to know about the new marketplace, and how clubs can use these trends to their advantage.
Many clubs are eager to implement new revenue streams and are looking for rebounding strategies to help offset losses the COVID-19 pandemic brought. However, it is vital to understand the new marketplace and consumer trends.
For example, a major consumer trend that has been seen across all industries is the implementation of digital offerings.
“If you look at the world today, the digital transformation is explosive,” said Mark Miller, the COO of Merritt Clubs in Maryland. “In a matter of weeks of the pandemic, people pivoted. There are more online meetings, online schooling and online workouts than ever before. People shop online, buy groceries online and do medical appointments online. I think this isn’t a trend, but the new hybridization of the world as we know it.”
Jonathan Komp, a senior research analyst covering the active lifestyles: apparel, footwear and fitness at financial service company Baird, agreed digital consumption will be the biggest shift in consumer trends moving forward, especially in the health and fitness industry.
“The big shift that will impact all consumer categories going forward is the rapid acceleration and demand for digitally delivered fitness instruction,” said Komp. “If I look at fitness overall, digital offerings have really been underpenetrated, historically, compared to other consumer categories. I think going forward it will be just as important, if not more important, given the habits that consumers have acquired during the pandemic for digitally enabled fitness.”
While the use of digital offerings has increased, Komp said the demand for strictly at-home fitness will be temporary and the craving of social interaction will drive members back to the gyms. While this may be the case, he also stressed you can’t dismiss the convenience, quality instruction and engagement some of the newer digital and connected fitness offerings have provided. “An omnichannel approach for using both physical and digital fitness instruction will really be here to stay,” he said.
Another trend that has entered the new marketplace since the pandemic is the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
For Miller, the pandemic has, in his opinion, highlighted the importance of health more so than ever, yet people are more inactive. “This is mainly due to the consumer shift: we are in front of computers, not socializing, isolated and reaching for food to pass time versus getting up and walking, moving and being active,” he explained. “With a cancel in recreation sports, we are seeing a decline in youth activity as well. So, with all this we see a decline in overall activity levels and an increase in weight gain, leading to more health issues as well as mental health issues.”
While the pandemic decreased physical activity for some, it also increased for others. Komp is optimistic that in the long run this could create new potential in the industry.
“I don’t think the appetite for healthy lifestyles has changed at all,” said Komp. “I think a big potential is to actually see that increase in times of economic pressure as well as given the health dynamics of the pandemic. There’s a lot of reason to believe that living a healthy style will actually become more important.”
While consumer trends and the new marketplace have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is a lot of momentum going into 2021 that can result in the health and fitness industry making a bigger impact than ever before.
“I think 2021 will be a year where our industry must continue to evolve and expand,” said Miller. “We will need to rebuild trust in our community. We need to understand social distancing, cleaning and sanitation are here to stay and will be parts of clubs forever, as probably some impact of masks will be. Health and wellness will be more important than ever, and the clubs will become critical parts of the healthcare system.”