The saying, “In time all things change” may be one of a few absolute truths, but the gravitational pull back to communal fitness activities after the black days of COVID 19, may be more representative of a trickle rather than a deluge. The challenge to draw all the sweat and grunting back to the gyms may be more difficult and protracted than many believe. Future iterations of physical fitness centers will most likely be a hybrid of traditional brick-and-mortar locations that are virtually connected to members.
A survey conducted by RunRepeat.com of more than 10,000 gym members after the pandemic revealed that more than half did not plan on ever returning to the physical fitness center and more than a third had already discontinued memberships. During the global shut-in, many fitness purveyors invested in home fitness equipment and online fitness platforms to keep them in shape in the comfort of a home-based fitness salon. Some market experts predicted that those loyal fitness center goers who needed or wanted the socializing aspects of in-gym exercising would return in droves to local sweat shops once the pandemic passed into history. While more than 25 percent of gyms have closed for good, some notable and optimistic gym franchises are planning to open new locations in 2024. But the physical fitness business remains a crowded field with competitors eager to tap into the virtual and digital field of play. Marketing for many veteran players will be a completely new and challenging reality.
The new marketing environment favors an aggressive approach to creating digital and mobile campaigns based on consumers who are looking for the convenience of not being bound to physical time or a place for their fitness needs. Brands are expected to keep pace with consumers’ needs and wants, not the other way around. Digital apps and virtual exercise experiences have skyrocketed with downloads of health and fitness apps rising by 27 percent by a market niche estimated to be 86 million consumers. Whether virtual or in-person, consumers are looking for a personal and individually-tailored fitness experience.
Knowing who the targeted audience is and creating a persona for the best customer will be critical for achieving success going forward. Identify the customer’s specific needs, goals, likes, and dislikes to build an effective fitness marketing strategy that engages with the audience. Content remains the heaviest hitter in the marketing game. A content marketing strategy should be personal, authentic and align specifically with the brand’s identity and values. Blog posts, videos, social media conversations and podcasts are effective methods to promote a coordinated relative message designed to attract and maintain loyal consumers.
Focus on creating the right message and delivering it at the right time. Know where each specific targeted customer is consuming digital information and formulate compelling, attention-grabbing offers to encourage prospects to act. Build communities of like-minded participants and encourage consumer-generated content (UGC) to build brand awareness and value. Utilize qualified influencers and form collaborative events and partnerships to authenticate the brand’s expertise in the physical fitness arena.
Regardless of the wellness and physical fitness path, consumers remain interested in leading healthier and more fit lifestyles and have established goals and objectives to achieve better health. Technology and changing consumer behaviors continue to challenge today’s health and fitness industry. Gyms and fitness centers will need to be agile and focused on consumer demands and redefine the delivery model best suited for attracting loyal members.