Fitness Trends for 2021: Part 2 – Digital Developments and Technology Trends

2020, the year everything went online and digital exploded for the fitness industry.

In part two of our fitness trends for 2021 series, we’re looking at future digital developments and technology trends. Here’s what four experts think we can expect to see.

Trend: Augmented reality fitness

Zoe Bertali, co-founder of the Refine with ALFI app:

“We strongly believe that the future of virtual fitness lies in Augmented Reality. That’s why we’ve created a fitness offering unlike anything else on the market. ALFI is our ‘Avatar Led Fitness Instructor’ which makes for the most visually appealing, and movement-focused PT ever experienced in this space.   We wanted to build a future-proof online studio that would bring our The Refinery E9 bricks-and-mortar operation to a wider audience in an accessible manner.

We set out to re-imagine how a yoga and fitness app could work in the virtual space, and so we created the Refine with ALFI app using motion capture and augmented-reality technology via the Unity gaming engine; which overlays digital content in the form of a fitness instructor onto the physical world — as if they’re actually there with you, in your own space. The technology ALFI uses puts personalisation at the heart of the user experience – we can create bespoke user-led classes in seconds, compared to scrolling through hundreds of videos.  It also enables the user to move around the room and the avatar in 360 degrees. In addition, we have tokenisation to encourage participation and engagement.  Every time users complete a class, they earn tokens that can be redeemed against accessories and outfits for ALFI, gift classes to friends or even given to charity. We support the MIND charity, as we believe in the principle of ‘it’s what is inside that counts’ which further incentivises users to stay on track during their fitness journey.”

Trend: Working Smarter with Data

Ian Mullane, founder and CEO of Keepme:

“2020 was a year of defensive if not survival actions. From pandemic closures to the accelerated arrival of digital competitors, operators were challenged continuously. 2021 will see the pandemic ease, but its effects will be felt throughout, as focus moves to re-building membership bases and re-establishing engagement with customers. Operators will want to build increased resilience in their business, and this will come from working smarter with data to provide forward-looking visibility in areas such as retention and cash flow.

A continued pursuit of digital product delivery will be inevitable. In the majority, these efforts will be a distraction at a time when the consumer is looking to re-engage with a brick and mortar relationship. Resources would be better spent developing more robust and automated member engagement efforts and refining sales activities to increase conversion. At some stage, it may seem the sector is returning to what it was pre-COVID, but that would be a mistake. 2020 accelerated the inevitable digital onslaught that while its pace may slow in 2021, it is no more than pause for breath”

Trend: Digital Fitness and learning

James Clack, Head of Digital Learning for Active IQ:

“COVID-19 shut pretty much everything and we were thrust into a virtual world faster than we probably anticipated. This obviously raised the profile of not just the digital or streamed workout but also the consumption of education for fitness professionals. We’re just scratching the surface of this growing virtual world but this trend is going to escalate rapidly from here on in. Pre-COVID, there were an estimated 72.4 million mobile devices with 50.1% of all mobile web traffic coming from Apple iOS devices. At that point, only 28% of 16-64-year-olds reportedly used mobile devices for health and fitness. However, COVID and the launch of Apple Fitness+ will see a huge increase in this number. Rightly, a large number of online workout providers are nervous or maybe threatened by the launch but I think this will create a greater level of research, development and investment from other similar services to create a really competitive market place and ultimately a choice for consumers.

COVID has raised the profile of outdoor fitness and the importance of communities for like-minded people – we’re a tribal species after all. Therefore, the integration of outdoor fitness and technology and apps to create communities has huge potential. With an increased uptake of virtual and streamed workouts that integrate with wearables,  I still think blockchain technology that enables end-users to take ownership of their data and make it work for them and reward them for their efforts is largely untapped.”

Trends: Connectivity

Richard Sheen, Commercial Sales Director for Pulse Fitness:

“If 2020 has taught anything it’s that we are wanting to be more connected than ever before. The area of Fitness Connectivity has been developing at a rate of knots over the last five years and COVID-19 has shown us how important it is that operators, suppliers and member products communicate with each other to provide the best service, functionality and operational data.

Heading into 2021, we are going to see further growth within this area and the digital space. Which is why we are delighted to be launching our new app TRAKK to market. The app has been designed to support further engagement between members and the operators by connecting wearables/mobile devices with all aspects of access control, payments, interaction with equipment, bookings and much more to aid retention and increase secondary spend angles. Operators now more than ever before want to know what members are doing at all times.”

In case you missed part 1 of our Fitness Trends for 2021 series, read it here

Posted in Expert Opinion.