The fitness industry has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, causing leaders of fitness organizations to take extreme and creative measures to weather the storm. Utilizing a combination of new technology, marketing strategies, and operational changes will help fitness organizations provide great member experiences and differentiate themselves. Here are a few insights and strategies to help find success in this “new normal.”
A healthy immune system is one of the best defenses against COVID-19 and fitness should be promoted as an important part of improving immune health. In addition, keep members informed on the specific processes in place to keep clubs sanitized (i.e., the frequency of deep cleaning and detailed procedures in place to ensure a safe environment).
Digital access to workouts, nutrition tips, and other content are ways of the new normal and demand for both digital and in-club offerings will continue when the pandemic is over. The current surge we see in this market will eventually die down but not without leaving a permanent mark in current and future club members’ minds. People have become accustomed to the convenience of working out at home and will continue seeking fitness experiences that they can enjoy anywhere, anytime. Organizations that can provide convenience, structure and a sense of community will be well-positioned for the future.
Fitness organizations may find it beneficial to incorporate digital fitness options into membership packages to give members more flexibility in pursuing their fitness goals. Consider offering a combination of live-streamed and on-demand options and be creative in how these offerings are packaged. People will be cost-conscious as businesses re-open and stimulus benefits cease. Take this into consideration as you assess pricing. These can be included in regular membership packages, stand-alone packages or add-ons, or any other combination you choose. The great thing about offering digital fitness options is the ability to access a much larger online market and potentially create additional revenue streams. Finding the right balance between digital and in-club offerings will vary from club to club, but consideration should be given to both to help maximize success.
We have also seen fitness organizations adopt virtual personal training (VPT) during the pandemic. Personal training provides accountability and structure which is critical for achieving fitness goals. Providing VPT options for members (and even non-members) is another potential revenue stream.
The current landscape has boosted demand for the implementation of contactless technology. Clubs that focus on innovation and process improvement that create a safer environment for members will benefit greatly. Historically, there have been many physical “touch-points” within health clubs and many folks will prefer to be in an environment that does not require as much physical touch (i.e., automatic doors, contactless check-in, contactless sign-up process, contactless payments, to name a few).
Retail businesses have taken a hit due to government-mandated shutdowns of non-essential businesses across the country. As a result, e-commerce businesses have been able to further penetrate the retail sector as individuals conveniently and safely shop from the comfort of their own homes. Many retail businesses will not recover and may be forced to close. A surge in available retail space may happen over the next couple of years paired with a decline in rent per square foot. Fitness franchisees with development agreements could have a prime opportunity to ink agreements for these locations. Franchisees that lack the available capital to expand quickly may pursue consolidation with other franchisee groups or private equity investment to help strike while the iron is hot.
In closing, mindsets have changed and organizations need to take the time to understand the demand of its members. Use this info to be anticipatory about the future. Be creative. Stay engaged with members. We still have a long way to go before this pandemic is over, but the fitness industry has shown great resiliency amidst the chaos. Organizations that put their team members first and continue adapting their business model to meet its members’ wants and needs will flourish when this storm subsides.
Want to learn more about navigating the path forward? Contact our HORNE Franchise team to start the conversation.