FitTech Insider

The future of gyms, scenario III: The (tech) return of the gym, Kerstin?

Gym owners, sport brands and experts seem to know where the future of the fitness market is heading. In this series, we spoke to those that ultimately decide where gyms are heading: consumers like Kerstin. Episode 3: The gym is back – thanks to tech!

So far so good. We learned a lot from previuos episodes of this series. Yes, the customers expectations have changed. But how can the gym adapt to new needs?

About this series "The gym is dead, long live the gym"
“Gym is dead!” claim those that make good money from virtual fitness. “Long live the gym!”, indeed is what gym owners want to hear. Fittech Insider spoke to those that ultimately decide where gyms are heading: The consumers.

The future of gyms, scenario I: Long live the gym!
The future of gyms, scenario II: The gym is dead!
The future of gyms, scenario III: The return of the gym.

How may gyms survive?

#1: Focus on Tech
Technological disruptors will transform how the fitness industry operates over the next decade. According to the 2019 Clubintel International Fitness Industry Trend Study 7% of European fitness operators indicated they have incorporated AI into their business strategy, second only to the U.S. where 14% of operators report incorporating AI. Kerstin reportedly doesn’t plan to renew her gym membership. “If there would be some interesting digital offers however, I would be very keen to try”, she says. “I am looking for experiences out-of-the-ordinary, something that I cannot recreate at home”.

#2: Catch up on Digitalization
According to ClubIntel’s 2019 International Fitness Industry Trend Report 19% of European operators reported offering FOD in the club for their members in 2019, up a few percentage points from 2018. In respect to offering streaming FOD to members when they are not in the club, the same study shows that 14% of European operators have adopted the practice. Armin, who also does not plan to return to his gym, indeed states that he is interested in EMS training. “I would not book another subscription though”, he specifies, “I’d prefer to pay per session and be more flexible”. Kerstin thinks that it is high time for gyms to catch up in the digitalization race. “At the gym I used to work out I could not even charge my phone”, she reports.

What’s going to be the new way of managing gyms, Francesco Arlotti?

Francesco Arlotti is Technogym's Global Head of Digital Solutions Sales (@Technogym)

The new normal in fitness and the new way of managing gyms will be strongly connected to new ways of consumers to live fitness, wellness, and sport.

Technogym launched in 2012 the “Wellness on the go” strategy, meaning the possibility for people to access their wellness experience anytime and anywhere: at the gym, at home, at hotels, at work, or outdoor. After the pandemic, this strategy is more than ever relevant and innovative.

In markets like Australia and Asia, but also the UK, that has reopened already, we see that once gyms have reopened after the pandemic, classes are fully booked. There is an incredible willingness to come back — people miss socializing with other people.

So the new way of managing fitness clubs will definitely need to take into consideration these changes and adapt to the new people needs:
On-demand experiences

"There is an incredible willingness to come back": Read whole interview with Francesco Arlotti about the Future of gyms on FitTech Insider.

#3: Offer outstanding service
Also, Kerstin expects outstanding service. She thinks: “Fitness is more than a workout, it became an experience”. Compounded by community, membership to boutique studios grew by 121% between 2013 and 2017. Prior to March of 2020, while the industry’s growth was tied to physical locations, the value was shifting from place to personality. More than a workout or brand name, the instructor was the main attraction. “I did miss guidance and customized corrections”, said Kerstin. She has never heard of apps like Mirror that use AI but would be interested to try.

#4: Personalization
Besides AI, tech offers vast possibilities for gyms to offer customized training. Philipp Roesch-Schlanderer is CEO/Co-Founder at eGym GmbH, a German fitness technology provider that offers a comprehensive suite of connected gym equipment and digital products that integrate seamlessly with 3rd-party hard- and software. The result is a fully connected training experience that drives measurable business and health outcomes. Philipp imagines “a gym where every piece of equipment knows you, knows your training goal, and your current state of training”, as he said in a “Future of Fitness” podcast. Tech makes you understand the progress you have made while training”, he says.

#5 Include virtual components, diversify your offer
However, one thing seems to be clear: Gyms have to include virtual components in their offer. While 75% of consumers surveyed by Mindbody said they will eventually return to pre-pandemic routines and the actual gym, many indicated they will retain a virtual component—a phenomenon with broad implications for the sector. Fitness club-owners grappling with declining memberships have quickly caught on, with 72% now offering on-demand and livestream group workouts, up from 25% in 2019, according to fitness research firm ClubIntel.

#6 Hygiene
Lastly, gyms have to bear in mind that many do not feel comfortable working out in larger crowds. Digital tools might provide a remedy in these cases. “I would like to have the option to save a spot in a specific class beforehand”, Ellen says. “One thing I certainly did not miss during Corona is queing up in the hope that I showed up early enough”.

The bottom line: Consumers expect more - of everything. More service, more digital, more creativity, more offer, more flexibility.

If people like Armin, Johannes, Simon, Kerstin and Ellen are to be believed, though times lay ahead for the gyms of tomorrow. “They do not offer enough”, concludes Kerstin her line of argument why she is currently not planning to return to the gym she used to frequent prior to the pandemic. “It is high time for gyms to make serious efforts to win back the work-from-home-crowds”.

For this issue, Fittech Insider spoke to:

Armin, 61 years old, works as a business consultant. He seeks for options to stay fit and healthy without long-term commitment to one specific establishment. Flexibility is key, he says. He cancelled his gym subscription already prior to the pandemic. Sports helps him to keep up a good mood - and in shape.

Johannes (upper row), 25 years old, student, works out with friends in his home gym. Getting new equipment once Corona started was hard, he said. He works out five to six days a week and does not plan to return to the gym. He describes himself as ambitious: Getting better day by day is what keeps him going.

For Simon, 27 years old, currently pursuing his PhD, regeneration is an alien word. He focuses specifically on outdoor endurance sports and works out using a virtual app of the gym he used to go to before Corona hit. And he prefers Strava over Instagram.

Kerstin (left), 36 years old, is currently pursuing her MBA in Digital Business at EU Business School Geneva. She describes herself as health-conscious and highlights the importance of sport to balance her currently tight working schedule - not only for the body but also for the mind.

Ellen (right), 28 years old, works in marketing and loves to do different kinds of sports to get away from everyday life and to gain new energy. She likes to work out alone, but also with friends or in groups, especially in HIT-trainings. At the gym she enjoyed going to the sauna and pool after working out.

Photo credits: Private