Today, we working out more than ever and the $30Bn fitness business is booming with no signs of slowing.
One segment, boutique fitness, has been largely responsible for the growth. High-energy studios for programs like HIIT (high intensity interval training), CrossFit, indoor cycling and boxing have captured consumer hearts and heart rates. For many, the experience goes beyond the workout itself. With a unique “vibe that attracts their tribe”, these communities have become havens of openness, camaraderie & body positivity.
With this explosion of boutique fitness reshaping the industry, why are more and more consumers opting out of the gym and dedicated to a new breed of in-home fitness?
Exciting new entrants have seamlessly converged technology, content & data to replicate boutique workouts at home, deliver a hooky, habit-forming experience and in the process, create passionate, almost fervent, brand evangelists.
This seismic shift highlights some key lessons applicable for any modern, restless marketer, regardless of your brand’s category.
Acquisition is obviously important for growth, but building and maintaining long term loyalty is paramount for success. These next-gen brands are mastering the alchemy of emotional elements – surprise, generosity, personalization, feedback, sense of belonging – that not only keep users coming back, but also proudly advocating.
Don’t underestimate the complexities of behavior change and habit formation. More than the widely publicized twenty one days required to build a habit, there is a pattern and carefully designed components of the best products that encourage sticky behaviors.
In our attention starved, thumb scrolling culture overwhelmed with choices, don’t forget to make your brand entertaining. As consumers ravenously consume tons of content, the entertainment value of your brand experiences is a competitive advantage.
Let’s explore the buzz worthy players and the underlying consumer drivers and behaviors at the heart of this shift.
Peloton, a 6 yr old interactive cycling platform, has impressively built a following of over 1MM fans and generated $400MM through proprietary bikes ($1,995), subscriptions ($39) and ancillaries like apps, shoes and apparel. Celebs like Hugh Jackman, Michelle Obama and Michael Phelps have been found in a Peloton saddle. Now, after raising almost $1Bn, Peloton has a $4Bn valuation, introducing new products and appears to be poised for an IPO.
The company’s rapid customer acquisition became a real signal of change when it was recently reported that Peloton had 4% more U.S. customers than SoulCycle, according to data from Second Measure. Peloton had more than doubled its active memberships year-over-year, while SoulCycle lost 10% of its customers.
Playing the dual role of gym and personal trainer, Tonal touts itself as The World’s Most Intelligent Fitness System. With impeccably designed equipment, Tonal combines “digital weight” resistance, expert-led videos and personalized guidance into full body workouts. The secret to the smarter workout is in Tonal’s advanced intelligence system that assesses strength, monitors, adjusts and systematically reports on your progress.
For someone looking for cardio, strength or boxing classes at home plus equipment that seamlessly blends into their decor, Mirror might be the answer. Mirror, looks like a standard full length mirror, but has an LCD screen streaming live and on-demand workout classes. Retailing for $1,495, classes are $39 per month and customers can connect to the Mirror using a Bluetooth heart rate monitor or Apple Watch. Investors have taken notice as Mirror recently announced $25MM in funding.
The brainchild of former US national rowing coach Bruce Smith, Hydrow has taken connected fitness out on the water with its Outdoor RealityTM rower. Retailing for $2,399, Hydrow elevates home rowing with 20 min, +400 calorie burning classes broadcasted live from the rivers of New York and Miami. Rowers can choose to the listen to the quiet sounds of birds, running water and the smooth rhythm of your strokes.
One of our personal favorites at Mechanica is Zwift, an interactive cycling platform that turns indoor cycling into massive, multi-participant races, social rides and immersive explorations. At just $10/month, Zwift lets you ride your own bike, connected to a trainer. Zwift’s over 1MM users range from fitness cyclists to amateur enthusiasts to the heroes of professional cycling. Zwift recently raised a whopping $120MM, enough to buy Team Sky three times, to fuel its growth.
What Does This All Tell Us About Today’s Fitness Consumers?
Availability & Accessibility
When Peloton founder and triathlete, John Foley was a new father, he found it prohibitively challenging to schedule his workouts. Spin classes were either booked in advance or just nowhere near him. By moving the class in-home, these platforms have positively democratized the experience. No matter what time of day, shape, size, location, attire you are sporting or level of fitness you have, all you need is a strong Wifi connection for access to a great and judgement-free workout.
“Now” Time is My Time
One of the biggest hurdles for a workout regime is the perception, real or not, that you just don’t have the time, and we know today’s consumers expect things whenever and wherever they are. So, put yourself in the cycling shoes of a single mom working full time, juggling tons of responsibilities. On-demand fitness now means we can squeeze in a quick and highly efficient workout, whenever opportunity strikes.
Data Provides the Hook
While you are spinning, lifting, and sweating, these next gen platforms are gathering and synthesizing impressive volumes of data in real time. This data provides an invaluable personalized feedback loop between you, the device and the expert instructors. Mirror studies your personal data to build customized weekly workouts. Tonal will automatically adjusting the resistance in its system if you’re struggling. Peloton instructors give shout-outs during live classes to screen names they see performing well. As part of the “game”, many describe the socially competitive stats of the leaderboard as the source of their healthy addiction.
Talent and The Show
Who doesn’t want to be a little entertained while they are working out. Peloton is more than transparent about the entertainment and production value of its “talent” aka its instructors and the “shows” aka the classes. They take great pride in recruiting, training and cultivating this new wave of micro-celebs. Beautiful, fun, charismatic and sexy the talent feel like an ass-kicking friend and shout motivational things like “When we’re uncomfortable, we change!!”
By tapping into the joy of being part of a class, these devices create a powerful sense of community and togetherness. With Peloton, you aren’t slogging through a solo workout, you’re joining an amped up and well-attended party led by Cody or Jenn. DJ’s are spinning tunes and personal birthday wishes are being shouted out.
“The first time I got on the bike, I felt instant camaraderie,” says rider Brooke Bower. “You feel like you have a relationship with the instructor and the other people in the class and then feel some accountability to try harder.”
Outside of the class, individuals are regularly connecting and creating friendships through other social platforms. namely Facebook or Instagram.
Peloton has managed to tap into a powerful connection of the relationship between brands and their fans…its become an extension of themselves. “There’s something special about Peloton versus a traditional consumer brand because of the endorphins, and the community just makes people feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves.” said Brad Olson, SVP of member experience
Trends, particularly those with the most voracious fans, have typically unpredictable life cycles. But we’ve seen these profound consumer driven trends of on-demand convenience, personalization, community connection and affect nearly every consumer sector – fashion, beauty, food, tech – and fitness is no exception. We see nowhere but upward and onward for this new industry rattling category.