By Robert Louw
What are the strengths of virtual group fitness classes?
First and foremost, it’s the strength and depth of the class offering that’s available through virtual fitness.
Wexer Virtual offers access to over 800 different group exercise classes from a huge range of well-known fitness brands, including Beachbody, CYBEROBICS, Zumba, Move123 and many, many more. There really is something for everyone, whatever your interests, age or fitness level (view some of our classes here).
But it’s not just about the diverse choice on offer. It’s also about the quality, with great production values combined with the expertise and motivational power of the instructors, who are all leading fitness ambassadors from around the globe.
What are the weaknesses of virtual group fitness classes?
The only real weakness potentially comes in the execution: the uptake of virtual fitness among members will correlate directly with the quality of its execution in the club.
By this we mean quality of installation – impactful screen, lighting, sound system and so on – as well as team buy-in: it’s absolutely crucial that staff are briefed and inspired to be ambassadors for virtual fitness. Finally, it’s about good marketing and promotion: if you don’t tell members virtual is there, if you don’t sell it to them, they’re unlikely to use it – you can see an overview of our marketing materials here.
So, bad execution is a potential weakness – but if you get it right, there really aren’t any weaknesses to the system.
What are the opportunities of virtual group fitness classes?
Adding virtual group fitness to the offering at your club opens the door to a world of new opportunity.
Studios often lie empty during off-peak hours; yield is far from maximised at most clubs. Introducing virtual classes allows operators to cost-effectively deliver group exercise throughout the opening hours of the club. Even if only three or four members attend one of these classes, that’s three or four members who have been given a new reason to engage with the club. In this way, virtual fitness is able to boost member satisfaction – and with it member retention.
There’s also the opportunity to choose between on-demand or scheduled classes. The best recipe tends to be to have times of day when on-demand is available – when members can just turn up and self-select a virtual class – and times of day when virtual classes are on the timetable alongside instructor-led ones. Our Wexer Count system allows you to accurately track attendance at virtual classes, so you can fine-tune the balance between scheduled and on-demand, as well as the line-up of classes offered within the scheduled periods.
Other opportunities come from our ongoing product innovations. For example, Wexer Trainer, which brings the power of virtual to the gym floor; the Wexer Mobile app, which enables clubs to build a 24/7 relationship with members by selling digital memberships; and Wexer Broadcast, whereby clubs can live stream classes to all app users, as well as across a group of clubs.
What are the threats of virtual group fitness classes?
I don’t really see it as a threat – more of a challenge – but it’s important to ensure that staff and instructors understand that virtual isn’t there to replace live classes. That it isn’t there to replace them. There will always be a place for live, instructor-led classes. What virtual is able to do is help clubs fill in the downtime when it isn’t financially viable to run live classes.
Studies also show that regular virtual class attendance helps build newer members’ confidence to the point that they feel ready to walk into popular, busy, instructor-led classes: in Wexer’s Global Survey 2016, 32 per cent of virtual users said they had used a virtual class to prepare for the live version of that same class.
Finally, virtual can be used in the background of a live class, freeing up the instructor to move around the room more, helping individual members and focusing on motivation.
How do you see the future of virtual group fitness classes?
The quantity of great content will only grow, as well as the diversity in the number of channels available to share these classes with members. Meanwhile innovations such as Wexer Broadcast, and digital memberships through Wexer Mobile, will gain real traction as operators seek to stay relevant to their members in an increasingly digital world.
We’ll also see virtual fitness become increasingly prominent in health clubs, with dedicated virtual rooms designed to absorb and enthral the member. Fitness will enter a realm where it’s as entertaining as going to a movie theatre or night club.
But perhaps even more importantly, I believe we’ve reached a tipping point for virtual fitness. More and more operators are now adopting virtual. It’s getting to the point where, if you don’t have it, you risk getting left behind.