FitTech Insider

Is the smart mirror the iPhone of homefitness, Valerie Bures-Bönström?

It's smarter than a Smart TV. It changes entire living room habits. And fitness training is just one added value it offers. Is the fitness mirror changing our world as radically as Apple's phone once did? The CEO of VAHA answers.

Smart mirrors "promise to bring the boutique gym experience direct to your living room", The Independent recently wrote. German-based fitness company VAHA is one of the providers of these human-sized iPads that streams fitness workouts interactively to our homes. Fitness mirrors have been gaining popularity: According to Allied Market Research, the global market value for smart mirrors will go from 1.44 billion Euros (2017) to 3.44 billion Euros by 2025 - with an annual growth rate of 11.5 percent.

Almost 3.5 billions Euros by 2025: Why are these figures realistic?
This is the normal development. One example: We've gone from the iPod to the smartphone to the iPad. In terms of consumer products, the VAHA is now the evolution of the iPad. We watch movies on it, listen to music on it and do sports through it. Experience shows that things which didn't work on tablets are really cool on the VAHA. Consumer devices are being equipped with more and more features. And fitness is an important driver for this, but only one part of everything there is to offer. The VAHA will get an increasing amount of functionalities and make our offerings available in an ideal way.

Valerie Bures-Bönström at FitTech Summit V: Tech or Die!

On November 8 and 9, 2021, FitTech Summit V: Tech or Die! will take place digitally. At Europe's most relevant conference on the future of fitness and health technology, Valerie Bures-Bönström will discuss the smart mirror phenomenon - and how it will change our habits.
Get your free ticket now!

What distinguishes your product from a smart TV?
Quite a lot! A smart TV is not as smart as its name might suggest. You can use apps on it, but only with a very poor usability. It does not work as a complete package, though, i.e. offering interaction with the camera, microphone and speaker. Additionally,a really smart TV should be smart in terms of software and hardware. With the VAHA, we already offer this combination as well as the picture and sound functionalities. But the real smartness is only just beginning. A lot will happen in the next five years. We haven't reinvented the world with the VAHA, but we still have a lot of ideas up our sleeves.

"A smart TV is not as smart as its name might suggest." – Valerie Bures-Bönström

With VAHA you are focusing on Europe and the UK. Why is the USA not an issue for you?
Of course we could launch in the USA, our mirror is strong and able to compete. But we lack the "first mover" effect in the USA and that is the most important one for us. And that's despite the fact that, for example, customer acquisition costs in the U.S. are lower than in a market that you have to work hard to build up a good position in. But in a new market, you have the pioneer effect. We weighed up these advantages and disadvantages and made the decision.

A question of space: "When we launched in the UK, we found that the available living space is much smaller than in Germany." (@vaha)

You offer your mirrors in two sizes. What is the strategic value of the small VAHA S model?
 When we launched in the UK, we found that the available living space is much smaller than in Germany. Many prospective UK customers told us that they feared the regular VAHA might be too big for the living room. With the smaller mirror we responded to customer demand and adapted the VAHA to UK conditions. And we see that the smaller model is a big success.

Was the mini version also developed to attack the competition? After all, Mirror has long offered a small and inexpensive model.
You might think that, because many believe that the customer is only price-driven. In fact, however, this is only true to a limited extent. We can clearly see that there are many people who want the large model with superior sound quality and a display. And they do pay the higher price. But there is also the other 50 percent who says, "I'd rather have the lower price."

That's interesting, especially because of the target group you want to address. Let's say I'm a successful woman in my 40s, i work as manager, my husband is a doctor, and we live in the country with the kids. We have around 10.000 Euros net per month. Am i part of the VAHA core target group?
Only to a certain extent, because we also have 40 percent male customers. I would rather say that our core target group wants to spend money on fitness. So the question is just how much money people are willing to spend on their fitness. The average German spends about 500 euros a year on fitness equipment. The VAHA fits easily into this budget. That's why I think the mirror is more of a product for the masses.

What do your buyers have in common?
Mainly, that they no longer need the gym as a community experience. It’s true, our customers are extremely active, motivate each other, and even know each other online - which I think is great! But they don't need to meet physically to do that. It's enough for them to do it all virtually and from home. Also some come to class in their pajamas.

What have you learned about your users since you started?
We found out through a study that our customers are mainly looking for balance. A balance for stress, for work, for family. Most people think that everyone just wants to get their body back in shape - but that would work with just any fitness solution. But when we look at the content mainly consumed, it's meditation, yoga and other balance-related topics. That surprised us and we didn't really want to focus on that at the beginning.

Looking for balance: "When we look at the content mainly consumed, it's meditation, yoga and other balance-related topics."

At the beginning of 2021, your customers used live courses, on-demand courses, and personal trainers in equal parts. Has the ratio changed?
No, it has remained the same. But what's new is that we offer live classes and on-demand classes on one app, so VAHA mirror customers can also do the classes on their phones at any time. That's exciting, because our target audience travels a lot or is away on business. And we're seeing that we have a high percentage of training done through the app now.

How many users will you have by the end of 2021? Will you reach your goal of 10,000 customers?
Yeah, I think we'll hit that on the dot. At the moment, it's going through the roof. Of course, we can't just acquire, we also have to provide good support. But our investors' goal, and mine, is to achieve strong growth.

Which technical detail do your users like the most?
The individual workouts with motion tracking. The statistics show that those are the least likely to be abandoned. That doesn't mean most customers are using it, but the numbers show that the feature is the received the best.  

Are there uses of the mirror that you didn't anticipate?
At the beginning, the topic of apps wasn't even thought of in this way; we had designed the VAHA purely as a fitness device. However, the behavior of our users has evolved. Customers want to use the mirror in a different way, they even ask for it directly. A friend uses the VAHA as a jukebox with his children. And the idea of using the mirror as a screensaver would never have occurred to us. But the crackling campfire is already very relaxing!

"The next feature is full integration with a smartwatch manufacturer." – Valerie Bures-Bönström

What is the next big feature of your mirror?
We have a few things in the pipeline. The next one is full integration with a smartwatch manufacturer. That's been a big topic our customers have been asking for as well. The data from the workout will be transferred from the smartwatch to the mirror, made visible and will also be included in our evaluation. The VAHA can, thus, become part of a large FitTech product family.  

What kind of partnerships are you currently looking for?
We are not actively looking at the moment. But there will be big news in November! That's when we announce partnerships with two world-renowned brands at the FitTech Summit, among other things.

When you look far into the future, where do you see fitness mirrors?
Mirrors are at home and in hotels. People are managing their whole household, their whole house through it. The mirror is an integral part of a smart home.