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Virtual Hybridization: Breaking Down the Walls

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virtual hybridization

How to break down the walls for true virtual hybridization, inside and out, of your health club.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been talk after talk on the importance of needing a virtual presence in the brick and mortar space. Many have talked, including me, of a new model that hybridizes traditional brick and mortar business and virtual fitness. 

However, few talk about what virtual is and how to really make it successful. In my opinion, there are several types of virtual fitness options that fitness operators must consider.

The first is virtual group fitness live and as a video-on-demand product. This is similar to the experience you would have with Apple Fitness, Peloton and other similar products. There is also virtual personal training, virtual fitness challenges and other virtual concepts that can be brought into your business.

The problem most operators face when trying to introduce the virtual hybridization model is running them each as a separate business model rather than an extension of their current offerings.

Operators must first look at what their goals are and then ask:

  • Do you want to run this as a stand-alone profit center?
  • Do you want to use this as a retention tool?
  • Or use this as a way to increase your average income per member?

Most operators agree they want this as an extension of their current brand but don’t truly understand how to use it in a way that engages the current members and as a sales tool to bring in more. 

True hybridization of your products must break down the walls between the virtual offerings and the in club offerings. They need to be used synergistically with one another. How do you do this? Here are a few ideas: 

Virtual Group Fitness 

Video-on-demand and live-streamed classes are a great way to introduce members to group fitness who would otherwise be too timid to try the in-person classes. This in turn gets the client use to the instructors and the formats to increase customer confidence in themselves and the brand. 

These offerings can also be offered for free to current members to create a hyper-localized approach to virtual programming. This allows for those members who can’t make it to the club more than a couple of times a month to stay engaged with your offerings. It also allows your staff to both improve member retention and get members to use your products versus a paid competitor. Be sure to use similar classes and instructors that you use in your brick and mortar sites. 

Virtual Personal Training

This is not the standard online coach who sends you a workout to do on your own. This must be a mirror of the training experience that you offer in clubs. Be sure to pair up with a software company that allows you to both program the client’s workouts and live stream the workout sessions as well. 

Syncing with wearables is not a must but this is a plus. We want to ensure both the in club clients and virtual clients have similar experiences despite the different modalities. Why is this so important? It allows us to break down the walls.

For example, when a current client can’t make it into the gym due to a sick child at home, a trainer can offer services virtually instead. This aids in retention and allows to train clients more often. It also allows you to do so in a setting that may be more comfortable to them, and allows you, the operator, to charge the same for virtual and in-person sessions. 

Virtual Fitness Challenge 

There may not be a better way to break down the walls standing between your virtual and brick and mortar business than virtual challenges. Plus, can we say LEAD GENERATION!

Virtual challenges are a great way to get current members involved in both brick and mortar amenities in your business and the virtual aspect as well. When properly running a virtual challenge, you can also invite nonmembers to participate. This allows them to try the amenities of your choosing on a paid trial. After it’s over, it gives you a lead to follow up on.

The key to a challenge is to get participants to engage and try your products. This can be done by programming offerings and amenities into the challenge. For example, each week you can create a workout of the week that is only viewable in your video-on-demand. Some examples of offers include:

  • $1 off smoothies each Tuesday
  • Tips from trainers
  • Free access to the recovery room
  • Discounted personal and/or virtual training sessions

The point is virtual hybridization is here and it’s here to stay. Some clubs will fight it and others will embrace it. Some will take it to the extreme and others will not. Whatever your virtual offerings are, be sure you break down the walls between them and your brick and mortar business. If you do, you will get increased engagement, increased retention and increased revenue.

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Landon Burningham

Landon Burningham is the founder and CEO of Physiq Fitness with four locations in Oregon and the owner of Burningham Consulting. With more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry, he is eager to share his passion and experience with others.

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