FitTech Insider

What factors will shape the U.S. gym tech market, Eric Malzone?

Almost three quarters of gym operators plan to invest in technology in 2022. But do stationary gyms even have a chance in the online workout age? Eric Malzone about the US-GymTech Market 2022.

Eric Malzone has more than a decade of professional experience in the corporate sector. After years of successfully running several brick-and-mortar businesses, Eric decided to sell his companies to make a bigger impact in the fitness and health industry. He is host of two top-rated podcasts – “The Future of Fitness” and “Fitness Blitz Radio”, co-founder of “Certified Course Creation” and the Fitness Accelerator Networking Community, as well as a consultant and business coach to numerous brands and founders in the fitness, health, and wellness space. Since 2021 additionally Eric is advisor of the FitTech US team.

FitTech Club: Eric Malzone about United States of FitTech

At the recent exclusive member-only event, we were talking about the US fittech market - and what trends will dominate 2022. Our Club member Jon Brady (COO Midtown Athletic Clubs since 2013) and US advisors Eric Malzone, Emma Barry and Stefan Sillner discussed the future of subsegments in the fittech market, such as #gymtech or #mentalhealth.

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I read that about 75% of studio operators in North America, Europe and Asia plan to make technology investments in 2022. If I attend a gym at the end of December 2022, how will it be different from current gyms in terms of digitization?
It depends. There are a lot of different operators out there. I think those that are just bringing in technology for technology's sake are probably going to have a little trouble with how they integrate their core membership. And I think the wise ones will understand: We're putting in the right technology, the technology that fits our clientele and what they're doing. There's a lot of different things, like accelerometers for barbell speed or more advanced wearables for heart rate and lifestyle data. I think it's going to be the same essence of the gym you go to. But if operators are smart, they will look to new technologies that optimize the bottom line for the gym customer.

So what are the main digital features of a gym that we will see more often in the future in the USA?
My guess is it's going to be the wearable integrations. I've talked to people who are in the franchise business, people who are operators of large health clubs, and depending on the region and depending on how people are coming out of closures, it's extremely encouraging. There was a time when people thought gyms were dead. I think they're coming back extremely strong. Because people are used to going to the gym, they like the gym experience, they want to use that place outside of work. And at home and at work today, it's often the same thing. So they need a place to go. I think the simplest solution for most things is going to be some kind of wearable tech integration that becomes extremely fast and also extremely cheap. Xponential Fitness, for example, has a partnership with the Apple Watch and partnerships like that make an extreme amount of sense for integrating data into gym workouts and making it valuable for the consumer.

In your second job as a well-known podcaster, you talk to a lot of people. What do the experts you talk to say about the next question? How can technology help traditional gyms survive in this age of digitization?
People are going to focus on the personal experience more than anything else, with the concept and idea of how we stay connected to our community when they're not in the gym. And I can boil that down to one simple term: Accountability. We have more ways to promote accountability to our customers inside and outside the gym. There are a lot of different ways to motivate people to exercise. Because let's face it, good fitness and health don't just happen in the two to three hours you spend in the gym or at home on the treadmill. It happens in everything else, it happens in your lifestyle, it happens in your sleep and nutrition, your stress levels, all of those things. So once we get better insight into that and understand that we can use technology to better engage people in their goals, that would be a huge difference for gym operators and facility owners in the future.

I read that in a survey of the American College of Sports Medicine, the home gym is second only to wearable tech as the top fitness trend in 2022. How can technology help gyms remain attractive to customers? You've already mentioned wearables, but are there other attractions for gyms that you see on the horizon?
It will be something that creates an extraordinary event for gym-goers. Something they really like. Or it will be the relationship they have with their trainer. Or the lighting and the music and the warmth of the room. All of these different factors that can help create an amazing experience and make people want to go to the studio. So it comes down to the big issue of tactics: how many different technologies can we use? Maybe it's using trackers, maybe it's using different sensory overloads that you can put into an experience, or the music, or all the things that I've already said. So that's the goal: How can you create a better experience that really gets people to leave their homes and get back out among people. I think there's something about the community that people miss a lot. There are some people who have done a really good job of building digital communities, but it's not the same. It's just not the same, you have to be there in person. So those are the factors: create a better experience, build a stronger community through that experience, then the studio owners will be very successful this year, I think.

What is your conclusion? What factors will shape the U.S. gym tech market this year? To what level and why?
I've owned gyms for 10 years. And I understood the challenges that exist, at least at the boutique level, to attract people. Technology needs to focus on three things: Accountability, creating a better experience, and engaging with the community. What technologies are chosen is really up to the operators and the wealth of options we have in fitness technology. I don't think gym owners want to go too much into the fitness metaverse, because you're more focused on a personalized experience. I know I didn't mention a lot of specific technology companies or segments, but I think that's the general strategy that people are going to pay attention to. And I think those are going to be the winners.