Why we need more research and insight in the fitness industry: and how to get it.

Jeffrey Young is the Managing Director of Allegra Strategies, a strategic research consultancy, pioneering research in the health and wellness industry for over 15 years. He is also the CEO and Co-Founder of Balance Inc, the group who own Balance Festival, the fastest growing consumer wellness show in the UK, and the London Wellness Guide.

On 12th May 2017 Jeffrey will reveal the finding from Allegra Strategies’ latest research, Project Vivre, at the second annual Allegra Health + Wellness Summit with 200 industry delegates in attendance.

We spoke with Jeffrey about:
– The evolution of the modern fitness customer
– The major trends bringing about change, and the opportunities they present for the sector
– The future fitness and wellness landscape

 

Who is the modern fitness customer? What are they looking for from their fitness facility?

Technology has caused a profound shift in how businesses need to operate and connect with their customers. The modern fitness consumer wants flexibility and they want interaction with their fitness facility to be easy; from searching, to booking and paying, the customer journey should be hassle-free.

Customers are now looking for experiences which excite them. Operators must deliver more; whether that is more excitement, more for less money, being on-trend, or being aesthetically pleasing. It is no longer enough to deliver a tick-box offering. The modern consumer gravitates towards clarity and confused concepts suffer. ‘Brand’ is becoming increasingly important, as consumers make their own choices, zoning in on the things they want, at the right price, from a brand they like.

 

What are the major trends bringing about change in customer expectation?

Boutiques
Albeit predominantly in London, fitness boutiques are at the sharp edge of fitness and bigger brands are having to incorporate that sharp edge into their business model to avoid being left behind.

Back to basics

Our lives have become overrun by technology and there is a genuine desire for back-to-basics fitness experiences. The market has become polarised and while at one end of the spectrum we expect advanced technology, at the other end we crave back-to-basics workouts, such as bootcamps or calisthenics.

Knowledge

Information has never been so readily available. The modern fitness consumer has a thirst for knowledge and learning. They expect fitness professionals to have more knowledge than they themselves do, and for that transference of knowledge to exist within their fitness experiences.

Communities

Community and a sense of belonging has never been so important in fitness. People don’t leave clubs where they have great social relationships. Facilitating engagement between members is the next frontier.

Technology

Technology is the enabler of better customer communication. As tech improves and we learn more about our members it will provide for deeper human interaction, richer conversation and better engagement between staff member and customer.

 

What do you see as the biggest opportunities for the fitness sector right now?

Whilst it’s clear that the fitness industry is embracing tech it still presents a huge opportunity. We should all be using tech to develop customer relationships and a better understanding of all customers. That doesn’t just mean working with data orientated people who actively opt-in to data sharing, the real opportunity is in using tech to find a way to connect with all those who shy away from it.

The industry needs to invest even more in the results of its customers. We all know that members who don’t get results become disengaged so if we truly invest in their success it will benefit the whole industry.

Knowledge also presents a huge opportunity, those who invest in better trained, more knowledgeable staff will certainly prosper. If a PT doesn’t know more than a customer can find on Google, they are essentially redundant.

What insight do operators typically lack or where do they fall behind?

The fitness industry is definitely not pushing boundaries when it comes to research and insight. Many operators think they know their customers but how well do they really know them? The likelihood is they only know the customers they like and favour. These customers aren’t the ones who represent the bulk of their membership base. Typically, operators make a lot of assumptions based on conversations with regular customers. To assess this, consider how much one-on-one dialogue you are having with your members, at Allegra Strategies we have a dialogue with more than 50,000 consumers every year.

I would like the industry to get a stage where every club has a profile of its customer base because I don’t think we are doing enough to understand individuals. Data driven insight has the potential to make the industry more sophisticated and professional.

 

What’s the business case for conducting more research?

Research can help identify shortcomings and unmet customer needs, which if addressed, can increase profitability. Research and insight is crucial in fine tuning the business model. It helps to identify what amongst the current landscape is an opportunity and what may become a threat if you don’t react to that insight. These small adjustments, when based on market insight, can make a big difference to business success.

Always consider the reason for conducting research, such as helping to achieve a goal of more members or happier, healthier members. This will help you evaluate the ROI. Take a candid, honest look at the business, what are the opportunities / issues, how can you use research and insight to solve problems, roll out new products and maximise profit?

 

What will the future be?

– The wellness trend will continue which bodes well for the fitness industry.
– We’re seeing a rising tide and hyper-competitive landscape which will spur many on to provide a better offering, leaving behind those who do not move with the trends.
– More entrepreneurs are entering the wellness space which will mean more successes but also more failures.
– Boutiques with a multi offering will emerge as the most successful, and I expect to see the rise of more individual studios, both inside and outside of London.
– We’ll see more specialised classes in big box gyms in tune with the needs of the consumer, possibly franchised classes from well-known boutique clubs.
– Local authority facilities will continue to up their game, competing with clubs in the private sector.
– Cafes will become more important in order to tick the social box, and we’ll see the re-purposing of quiet areas outside of peak hours to maximise space and usage.
– Customers will get more confident with what they like and don’t like, demanding well defined experiences. Fitness brands will work towards closer connections with the industry.

If you are interested in attending the Allegra Health + Wellness Summit please email Gemma Spickernell at GSpickernell@allegra.co.uk.

Posted in Gyms & Clubs, The Fitness Network.
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