COVID-19 impacted businesses and people like we could never have imagined. With people not wanting to leave their houses or doing so with as little human contact as possible, companies were forced to pivot quickly. Of all businesses, gyms were hit particularly hard. Small, enclosed spaces full of people breathing heavily and dripping sweat quickly became the last thing people wanted to do, let alone being extremely unsafe. With things slowly starting to open up, most businesses are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel; however, gyms are still left with the biggest question mark of what their future looks like. Let’s dive into why this is and some of the strategies that gyms will have to implement to succeed in 2021 and beyond. There will also be tactics other businesses will need to make a note of and implement in their own brand strategy.
With a year of being on lockdown and gyms being inaccessible, many got used to the convenience of taking a few steps outside of their bedroom for a quick workout in their living room, which had them in and out in 30 minutes (no commute time necessary). After a few months of being on lockdown and no end in sight, many decided to invest in building their at-home gym with stationary bikes, treadmills, dumbbells, and more. The proof is in the quarterly sales reports at-home fitness brands reported. Peloton’s first-quarter sales more than tripled, exceeding beyond their wildest expectations. According to NPD retail data, health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubled to $2.3 billion from March to October. Sales of treadmills soared 135 percent while those of stationary bikes nearly tripled, depleting inventories. With 59 percent of Americans saying they don’t plan to return to a physical gym after the pandemic, this begs the question – how will gyms rally their revenue and bring back their members? Let’s take a closer look!
Over the past year, people have realized that they can get a quality workout in about half the time they had previously spent in the gym. We used to think we needed to exercise for an hour but have determined 30 minutes will suffice and give back time in our day to do more. Additionally, people have learned to love and appreciate the convenience of rolling out of bed and getting on their gym equipment or flipping on their TV in a mere few minutes. Thereby also saving them time and money. As a result, gyms will need to focus on programming that is quick and effective.
Implication for all businesses: Whether you are a gym or consumer packaged goods, convenience is vital. Consumers have gotten into the rhythm of no longer having to visit grocery or convenience stores. Instead, they want to make their purchases online and have their items delivered to their door in a timely manner. This means brands must continue to invest in their direct-to-consumer platforms with quick shipping and ease of use – an online presence is no longer optional for CPG companies. Additionally, with consumers switching to new brands during the pandemic, primarily because of their availability, it is vital to engage with retail partners to make sure products are well stocked and easy to purchase.
In addition to studio offerings, gyms will need to continue digital offerings that help elevate people’s workouts at home. Now that people have a sufficient amount of equipment at home, gyms must develop creative ways to provide programming and generate revenue with online programs through their brand.
Implication for all businesses: With a growing affinity for online shopping, CPG companies need to reinvent the in-store experience to ensure customers see value in coming back to stores. Digital engagement has accelerated tremendously, and leading companies have innovated quickly to replace traditional, in-store experience and will need to continue to do so until people feel safe returning to “normal” shopping experiences.
Gyms will need to find new and creative ways to build a community with their members. People will need an extra level of motivation or incentive to ditch their at-home workout set up and step into the gym. As such, people will want to view gyms as a place they can not only get in a workout but also socialize and see their fellow gym mates.
Implication for all businesses: While people continue to remain socially distant and will for quite some time, bringing offline experiences online will ensure they continue to connect with the brands they identify with. Even though digital marketing was a focus for CPG brands throughout this past year and something they had to ramp up during lockdown, they will need to continue to make this a top priority and leverage new communication channels to create deeper engagements with consumers. Brands must use personalized content marketing, communication, influencer marketing, and digital ad strategies to generate excitement around brands, announce new launches, and drive towards purchase. Technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), and “new” platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, etc., are new ways in which companies can launch new products and engage with customers without compromising their safety.
Monthly memberships will now have to include far more than just workouts, like one-on-one training, hosting challenges and events, nutrition coaching, and virtual check-ins with clients. Additionally, gyms will need to offer tiered membership options, understanding that people have varying comfort levels as it relates to coming back into gyms. Many also suffered from financial hardships due to the pandemic and may not afford the previous flatlined membership pricing structure.
Implication for all businesses: As we come out of lockdown, companies will need to think beyond their product and consider how their products will offer more value to the purchasers and beyond. Companies must have a purpose as customers are looking for brands to stand for something more significant than the products they sell. This could mean exploring ways to make packaging more sustainable, use cleaner ingredients, etc.
COVID-19 has been a wild ride for all of us, but as the future looks brighter each day, we now have an opportunity to take some of our key learnings from our own, or other, businesses and make 2021 one of our strongest years yet. We got this!
– Lauren Newhouse