When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., health clubs and gyms were forced to switch to virtual fitness offerings on a dime. Now some facilities are investing in technology to take their virtual and on-demand platforms to the next level.
Merritt Clubs, with nine locations in the greater Baltimore area, has built its online platform from scratch using technology powered by MotionVibe.
Donyel Cerceo, the marketing director for Merritt Clubs, explained the team wanted to keep all content inside of their Merritt Clubs app for branding purposes. MotionVibe also powers their group fitness registration platform, so they wanted to have an on-demand platform their members were familiar with using.
“This technology has improved the member experience in so many ways,” said Cerceo. “It allows members who are not ready to come back into the club the opportunity to stay connected with their favorite instructors and enjoy classes they have been missing by not coming into the clubs. Additionally, it allows members who are coming into the facilities access to classes they may not be able to get into because we are still limiting the size of the classes for spacing.”
While having online options is great for keeping your current members engaged and attracting new ones, it is important to make sure you are delivering the same experience members would expect from inside your four walls.
“On-demand is an extension of your brand, so make sure the quality of your online classes is five-star like your in-club offerings,” said Cerceo. “Audio and video should be clear, and you should have a dedicated space to video these classes. There are so many brands that just offer virtual classes and their videos are phenomenal. Make sure you are delivering a product today’s consumer now expects.”
Landon Burningham, the founder, president and CEO of Physiq Fitness with four locations in Oregon, agreed delivering the same experience both in-person and online is key.
Before Physiq Fitness decided to add virtual experiences into their offerings, Burningham and his team made the decision that whatever it was, it had to be easy to use and mimic — as closely as possible — the same experience the member would get at the club. “This way, even after the pandemic, we could continue to offer virtual products as an extension of our brand and regardless of where the member was in the world, it still felt hyper-local to our locations and team members,” explained Burningham.
Overall, Burningham said if you are going to invest in offering on-demand classes you need to make it simple to use, keep branding consistent, use the same instructors as you would in your brick-and-mortar classes, and lastly, make it look professionally done.
Physiq has let its foot off the gas regarding livestreaming group class-style workouts. The club now only offers them via Instagram and Zoom a few times a month. However, Burningham said they offer live team training and heart rate-based classes via MZRemote by Myzone and do live virtual personal training utilizing the LIFT session platform. Most of their efforts now are toward video on-demand through their site, which is powered by SWETI Marketing.
“We found for the most part, people’s schedules are still different than normal, especially during summer months. So, rather than offer live classes and hope people could get on, we would pre-record them and let them take them on their own time,” explained Burningham. “With that said, with live virtual training we also recognized schedule restrictions meant people would rather have a workout with a trainer at their home over video than completely miss a session in the gym. It enables us to travel with the clients and when they are not able to make it into the gym due to traveling or whatever else it may be, they can still meet with their trainer for a quick guided workout.”
It’s no secret having virtual and on-demand options is appealing to members as they regain their comfort levels in the new normal. However, as an operator you may be hesitant to invest in technology to continue the offering after the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite members flooding back to gyms after reopening, Burningham said virtual and on-demand options aren’t going anywhere.
“I think it’s important to remember even though most of the country is open and fitness centers are coming back to normal, that it doesn’t mean virtual offerings are no longer needed,” said Burningham. “Gyms serve less than 25% of the population and if we are to grow our businesses, we have to look outside our own four walls. Virtual provides an option for people who may not consider coming into a gym a way to still participate in a local offering, which could then lead to them being more comfortable and maybe becoming a future client somewhere down the road.”