Takeaways from the Top—How 3 Fitness Brands are Leveraging Virtual
By Yancy Olson
It would be an understatement to say the past year has stretched fitness businesses in new and unexpected ways. Across the globe, studios and gyms were forced to turn on a dime—having to react and evolve quickly to protect the health of their clients.
The top fitness brands were no exception. And, in many ways, these industry leaders were faced with added layers of complexity. With large teams and locations spanning various regions, they’ve had to respond to ongoing mandate iterations, lay off large numbers of employees, and pivot their services online.
As with any hardship, however, there has been growth and many lessons learned. Recently, leaders from Physique 57, Regymen Fitness, and Rejuv Medical led an executive panel with Mindbody, sharing how they've shown ingenuity and resilience using virtual offerings. Here’s how your fitness business can too.
Embrace the opportunity for growth
Despite diving in head first without much foresight, all three brands agree the long-term potential for virtual is endless. Leah Seacrest, Vice President of Fitness for Regymen Fitness, explained it perfectly: “We're no longer confined to our studio’s four walls.” Instead of solely serving clients who visit its brick-and-mortar locations, Regymen can now connect with consumers from all over, even those who don’t have access to a studio location in their hometown.
Carl Helmle, Chief Operations Officer of Physique 57, sees continued opportunity as well—not only to expand its customer base but its franchise locations, too. He told us: "From a franchise standpoint, I think we'll have some new loyalists, some new followers that hopefully we can get out to and will be interested in wanting to put a Physique in their town based on the experience they've had.”
The lesson for any fitness business? Whether you have one location or hundreds, virtual—and the opportunity it presents—is here to stay. By embracing online offerings, you can help future proof and expand your business, even amid a pandemic.
Support your staff with collaboration and training
Another common theme across all three brands—the importance of supporting staff, specifically with the transition to virtual. Even brands like Physique 57, which had an on-demand library pre pandemic, were faced with a steep learning curve when it came to live streaming. And with a significantly reduced staff, the brand was forced to adopt an all-hands-on-deck approach. “It's made everyone on staff become a lot more tech savvy and learn how to figure out which wire you plug into where a lot faster,” Helmle joked. “Getting it set up, right, making sure clients are logged in, they know where to go—it definitely takes a village to get it done and get it up and running."
Similarly, Chief Integrations Officer of Rejuv Medical Garrett Ewers claims there’s been, “a lot of trial and error" with his team. The brand, however, plans to invest in ongoing training—especially for those who aren’t camera-ready just yet. “We’ll be there to help train them. We're never going to give up on them.”
The lesson for any fitness business? When staff members feel supported and aren’t afraid to fail, they’ll be quicker to innovate and iterate. This may require ongoing support on your part, but it will always lead to the best product—and team—possible.
Invest in the right virtual setup
Your A/V equipment and platform set the foundation for your virtual offerings. And according to Ewers, finding the right live stream and video-on-demand platform was a challenge at first. Today, he—and the rest of the Rejuv Medical team—is happy to have selected Mindbody’s integrated Virtual Wellness Platform.
Finding the right audio and visual equipment is important for a seamless customer experience as well. “Probably the number one piece of equipment is a mixer, a solid mixer, to bring in all the audio sources and put it back out there,” according to Helmle. “Don’t underestimate the power of a good audio mixer."
The lesson for any fitness business? Do your research and invest wisely. Thankfully, there are resources to help—just ask Leah from Regymen Fitness. “If you're someone out there struggling through, you know, finding out what equipment you need to be successful, Mindbody does have several articles and things that can help you out and kind of guide you in that way.” Check out Mindbody’s recommended audio and video equipment.
Measure your virtual efforts
Tracking performance is key with any new initiative—virtual included. According to all three brands, many of the metrics used for virtual offerings are similar to what’s measured inside the studio: attendance, sales, and profit, for example.
Physique 57 also tracks views, engagement, and churn to better inform new content, including class length and time. Rejuv Medical also looks for trends in the data and then surveys customers for additional context, Ewers explained. “Are the classes too long or too short? Are you sticking around because you like the community that you're talking to or the instructor you're talking to?”
The lesson for any fitness business? Test, measure, repeat. Determine a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) and use them to gauge your virtual success and to inform new offerings. Don’t be afraid to talk to your clients, too. Regular surveys will provide insight into what clients are loving and what they want to improve.
Know you’re not alone
More than any other recent time, COVID-19 has put businesses both large and small to the test. According to Seacrest, though, it helps to feel a sense of community among business owners. “There's so many of us in the industry that have gone through the same thing,” says Seacrest. “But it just gives you so much comfort to know that we're not in this alone.”
And when it comes to virtual services? “Be brave, be authentic, be you,” reminds Seacrest. “There are tools out there to help, a community out there to help. All you can do is try.”