Posted: Mon, 15 Feb 2016 22:59
The fitness sector has seen significant changes over the past years and it will continue to change like so many industries do - technology will be a key driver. The rapid advancement of smart technology is giving consumers more choice and convenience than ever before. The driving force behind this transformation is today's digital consumer. The modern fitness member expects and demands flexibility as well as solutions crafted and delivered at their fingertips anytime and anywhere.
Wearable devices, health and fitness apps, streaming exercise classes and virtual group fitness on demand are brilliant examples of this new consumer-centric and tech-driven way of delivery, which is already impacting the health and fitness industry. To put things in perspective, for the past 2 years technology-based services in the fitness sector have achieved a substantial growth. Mobile apps, online training services and programs have each grown by more than 150% since 2013.
Only a few years ago, conversations around virtual fitness were more of a theory and 'great idea' rather than a key delivery mechanism for group exercise. Nowadays, this is no longer the case, as the majority of the top health clubs globally have clued up to the importance of returning value on their studios.
Over the past few years "early adopter" operators have been implementing virtual group exercise and cycling classes; primarily to convert dead studio space into a competitive advantage by offering hundreds of classes weekly. Having now been adopted by the majority of the top 25 health club groups globally, virtual is becoming an essential part of group exercise programing for clubs that aim to implement technology in their offering and create a better, more convenient and diversified service for their members.
Once seen as a threat to live instructors, virtual group exercise is now becoming a permanent and indispensable part of health club's group exercise programing and their digital ecosystem. The ease of use and flexibility combined with an increasing amount of high quality content will continue to increase its value. At the same time, the price on hardware is decreasing which allows for better and better implementation of virtual and thereby an enhanced end user experience.
Research from our annual survey shows the main reasons members don't attend live classes is due to the difficulty of planning a live class around their schedules as well as club's live offering not matching their preferences. Interestingly, people also avoid live classes because they feel intimidated in a live class setting. In this regard, virtual has proven to help clubs retain those members, due to the on demand and non-intimidating nature of virtual and the wide variety of group classes that it provides. While it will never replace live instruction, virtual empowers clubs to engage with more of their membership base and provide them with alternative solutions for their needs.
In this perspective, virtual serves a higher purpose – making world class exercise accessible to more people around the world by introducing them with a convenient, flexible and non-intimidating way to exercise and stay healthy.
Paul Bowman is the CEO of Wexer Virtual, with offices in Copenhagen (Europe) and Philadelphia (US). Wexer Virtual works with the majority of the top 25 health clubs across 32 countries, making world class exercise available to more people through the use of technology