Coronavirus - alternatively known as the global pilot scheme for virtual workouts that no business was prepared for! Well, next to no one!
If you’re included in the 59% of fitness providers who found themselves scrambling to launch live and on demand virtual solutions, are you happy that the content you’ve been able to deliver? Does it meet your brand standards and clearly demonstrate your values?
With such a tight turnaround my guess is that your answer sits somewhere between ‘probably not’ and ‘no’. But all is definitely not lost, in fact the situation is quite the opposite because you’ve been able to put a product out there to test with a captive and forgiving audience and no doubt you'll have a tonne of learnings for the future. So what’s next and how can you elevate your offering?
Fitness Consumer Habits Have Changed
Consumer habits have changed and for some those changes will be permanent, a recent Mindbody survey showed that 43% of consumers want to return to their old fitness routine, but incorporate home workouts as well. Fitness providers must now respond to this demand by existing in the place that their clients want to meet them, and the essence of the experience must be consistent whether at home or in the studio. Failing to deliver will see clients being lost to competitors who do invest in digital.
But to bring some clarity to the situation, a response does not mean that you need to be competing with big digital publishing platforms like Les Mills on Demand or fiit. In the same way you would consider the difference between Starbucks and an artisanal coffee shop, we’re looking at a completely different proposition here; the digital version of a local studio.
Using Technology to Enhance your Fitness Business
For many providers, technology is an area of discomfort and that’s understandable when you’ve spent years building up a brick and mortar experience. But it’s important to also understand that technology isn’t a threat to any ‘in person’ business. Done correctly, it won’t dampen or devalue a product, instead technology is actually an enabler that can enhance a customer’s experience and bring deeper engagement with your brand.
Let’s play out just one example of this; say you have a customer who regularly attends one of your instructor’s classes. The use of a digital platform can engage that client further by enabling them to access your instructor’s class playlists, purchase the products they wear, take a few extra on demand classes, and even book private 121 sessions with them. And the beauty is that this engagement is mostly automated, it’s happening in the background, so your client is becoming more connected to your brand, all while you’re continuing to run your business.
This is just one example of how technology can work wonders for client loyalty and retention, but it’s beneficial at every stage of the customer lifecycle and adopting it can really enhance your business in many ways.
Translating your Brand Experience Online
This is the hard part, but of course with all hard things it’s where the real magic happens. In order to make this magic though you must understand your USPs and point of differentiation as a business. The things which are distinctly unique to you which because they are born out of your brand vision and values, cannot be replicated by a competitor.
Often people mistake the physical elements of a business as their point of differentiation, for example that might be your fancy free toiletries in the changing room, or the immersive cinematic screen in your studio. Sure these are important factors in the overall experience, but they’re not the reason why your customers are emotionally connecting with you.
Bringing clarity to the things that make you different is absolutely crucial before you begin to develop your digital product. The nature of virtual fitness means that you won't have control over your customer’s physical surroundings and so once the physicality of the studio is removed, your vision and values will need to shine through in the delivery and content of your product more than ever.
How to Create a Brand Experience Online
Creating an online brand experience requires a different skill set to those which designed your bricks and mortar version. The elements of a digital product which enable a brand experience to be delivered are as follows:
The way you look and the words you say:
Your website is the equivalent of your studio window and of course it needs to reflect your brand visual, but perhaps more importantly it’s the words which you say that matter the most. Without your front desk team the words on your page act not only as signposts navigating your customer around the product, but they also replace every member of your customer service team, so don’t waste them.
The user experience:
This means the customer journeys themselves i.e. how many pages and clicks does it take to access the product your client wants, as well as the supporting communications which sit alongside the journey, (think welcome emails, pop up chats and confirmation of purchase). Unlike the in person experience where a client will receive most of the info they need on arrival, think about how you can use all of these communication opportunities to engage and entertain people.
And of course la piece de resistance, the quality, variety and frequency of content you provide.
Your brand must behave consistently across every touchpoint and you can identify key moments throughout the journey to elevate the customer experience, this is where your brand really shines through.
In the same way that you would approach opening a new studio, creating a great digital product takes time to strategise, plan and execute. It’s an investment in the future of your business that will not only help you retain existing clients, but attract new groups. And although there are many other parts to consider such as software selection, staffing and pricing, your brand is the one element that sets you apart from your competition, so don’t short cut it.