“Marketers need to stop focusing on loyalty and start thinking about relevance,” declared a recent Harvard Business Review article.
We couldn’t agree more. It’s why our goal at Wexer has always been to help bricks and mortar health club operators remain relevant in an increasingly digital age.
By ‘relevant’, we mean ensuring club operators remain at the very heart of the fitness experience – the first port of call for all things fitness – even as digital competition grows and fitness consumption throws off all shackles of geography and time.
We mean staying in business.
You can read the full Harvard Business Review article here, but we wanted to take a look at precisely how the health club sector can achieve this shift towards relevance.
Be in the moment
As the article explained: “Everyone’s needs vary depending on time and context. And with today’s technologies, companies now have the ability to see and act on these fluctuations in the moment. Customers are increasingly expecting all companies to do just that.
“In this new era of digital-based competition and customer control, people are increasingly buying because of a brand’s relevance to their needs in the moment.”
Today’s fitness consumer expects a fitness provider to provide content that’s relevant wherever they are, no matter if that’s in a health club, at home, outdoors…
That’s world-class, able to compete with anything else they can find on the market.
And that caters to their every fitness need, whatever the exercise moment, environment or mood that takes them.
Variety and quality of content – all accessible 24/7 – is therefore key if clubs are to remain relevant to fitness consumers. Because people don’t only want to work out in the gym, during gym opening hours. You have to be there for them, with relevant content, in the moment when they want you. Fail to deliver and they’ll look elsewhere.
The problem is, many gym operators continue to see themselves as just that – gym operators. Which brings us to our next point…
Channels to market
“To succeed in this era of relevance, marketers and companies must be continuously willing to abandon the old. As new technologies shift customer journeys and expectations, they can (and should) also enhance companies’ abilities to engage with customers in the most relevant ways.”
Again, we’re quoting the Harvard Business Review, but these words could just as easily have come from our own blogs and posts over the years.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to the survival of health clubs is the blinkered view that they are just bricks and mortar clubs. After all, exercise is everywhere nowadays, whether it’s streamed videos or social media influencers, fitness apps or online weight loss programmes. No surprise, then, that the internet is now the first port of call for many of those looking for fitness programming.
The way for gyms to stay relevant in this digital world? Embrace the delivery channels your consumers choose to use. These channels might be physical or they might be technological, but you need to assess every single option and make the appropriate choices for your target market.
All of this requires a shift in mindset – a new way of looking at what health clubs’ product actually is.
The Harvard Business Review article explains how, to drive deeper relevance among consumers, some companies have shifted from a product-focused mindset to a platform approach. It names Under Armour as a good example – a company that sees itself not as a mere sports apparel manufacturer, but as the provider of a connected fitness ecosystem.
Why shouldn’t a health club do similar? Rather than simply being a physical location in which workouts can be done, why not become a platform through which fitness enthusiasts can access everything they need, from advice to products to workout content?
After all, do all those online fitness providers have the same level of expertise and know-how as the instructors and personal trainers at your gym? Quite possibly not.
All of which means there’s an opportunity for gym operators here: one that involves sharing knowledge and programming via new, digital channels. Create a fitness resource that people can trust – truly credible fitness content and guidance, all delivered by undisputed experts – and your gym will no longer be just a fitness facility. It will be a fitness platform.
To become what the Harvard Business Review calls “a living business” – one that achieves a profound degree of relevance – it recommends companies expand their thinking beyond the original four Ps of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion) to include five additional Ps: purpose, pride, partnership, protection, and personalisation.
It names SoulCycle as a shining example of a company that has achieved this, but acknowledges many companies will struggle to deliver all of the Ps at once. So let’s pick out just one P that we believe is fundamental to relevance and continued success: personalisation.
As the Harvard Business Review explains, consumers want businesses to convey “exactly the right message, experience or offer… in exactly the right context”. In fitness, that might currently mean bespoke fitness experiences and programmes that reflect the individual’s goals, preferences, interests, progress to date – but this is just the beginning. Indeed, we foresee a time when we can harness digital memberships, delivered through our Wexer Mobile app, to track and react to every fitness decision a member makes, offering them relevant content to keep them engaged and motivated at every step of their fitness journey.
Quite simply, technology is the primary way to personalise at scale: health club operators must embrace the power of digital to personalise the experience.