Using technology to differentiate in the fitness market

Phil Horton, is the Country Director UK at miha bodytec, the market leader for EMS training equipment and EMS studio concepts. Already huge in Germany and across Europe, the EMS market in the UK is growing rapidly, with studios and PTs expanding their offerings throughout the country.

We spoke to Phil about how operators can capitalise on innovative technologies and differentiate their offering to stand out in a crowded market. We focused on:

  • The UK’s approach to new technologies
  • The benefits of a unique offering and how to overcome any challenges associated with it
  • The beneficial role tech can play in the future of fitness

Is the UK gym market quick to embrace technology?

Culturally, Brits are skeptical. The UK mantra in business is ‘invest in what you know’. We would much rather put our money in a stable London flat, than in a company with any perceived risk. We see this happening in the fitness market. Despite the huge growth in fitness technology and the endless benefits, it can bring, the UK remains relatively cautious.

Take activity trackers for example. The UK is on board, but we are so far behind others like APAC who are really driving growth. They recognise the role trackers can play in decreasing chronic diseases and local players are constantly innovating to capitalise on the surge in interest. You don’t see such rapid development over here.

The fact is, technology is our future and the possibilities for getting more people active by embracing it are endless. Virtual reality can appeal to those who are not content with an ordinary workout and require more motivation. On-demand content provides individuals with a means to keep active at all times of the day no matter their location. Electro muscle stimulation (EMS) training offers time-poor individuals a results-driven solution to improve their fitness in only 20-minute workouts. The faster we recognise the great value technology brings, the easier it will be to drive higher activity levels.

What are the benefits of offering something unique?

We know that only 1 in 7 UK citizens a member of a gym. Clearly, there is a disconnect between what is on offer and what appeals to people’s motivation to keep active. This is where facilities can maximise on a unique offering, providing an alternative solution to a traditional gym environment and stand out from the crowd. EMS studios up and down the country are seeing the amazing results of offering a unique service.

The likes of Bodystreet are continuing to expand, with 8 locations now open across the UK. Fast Track EMS is building its reputation as a life-changing solution especially for those with physical disabilities. Tribal has helped countless endurance athletes focus on building strength, without needing to reduce their other forms of training. By honing in on that unique selling point, operators gain access to a much greater range of clients.

What can you do to overcome any challenges associated with being different?

People love to jump on a bandwagon and do what their friends are doing to keep fit. The difficulty with a totally distinct offering is building that hype in the first instance and giving people a reason to break free from the norm and come to you.

In the case of EMS training, the results speak for themselves, so we encourage our partners to utilise that as much as possible. Share case studies of client’s successes via social media, provide leaflets with amazing ‘Did you know?’ facts about the training and offer a ‘free trial session’ or ‘bring a friend for free’. A lot of the time, the hardest part is getting someone in the door, but once you take away that barrier and they try the technology, we’ve found EMS retention rates to be at 90%.

Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth either. When you’ve got clients who truly believe in your product, encourage them to tell their friends and they will be the best possible spokesperson for your brand.

How important is accessibility with new technology?

It’s extremely important. If it’s too intimidating, hard to understand or just for the fitness elite, then it won’t catch on. That’s exactly why the fitness and sleep tracking market has taken off. It used to be solely limited to the elite, but brands have worked hard to create more accessible versions, providing everyday individuals with simplistic and informative data that they can use to identify goals, successes, and room for improvement, without the need for a coach. The result is a huge increase in sales and interest.

That’s also what makes EMS technology so impressive, as it can work for a huge variety of people and demographics.

EMS is a totally low-impact workout which means it is really effective for the unconditioned, sedentary and aging population, helping to improve strength without risk of injury. Equally, providers can appeal to the recreational or elite athletes looking to gain an edge in their performance, as the workouts enhance fast-twitch muscle fiber activation. One 20-minute session once per week is all that’s required for people to see results. That makes it a great option for busy professionals who can’t make time for the gym.

Do you think it is important that the UK fitness market embraces new tech?

Absolutely! The market is going to witness rapid growth in the coming years, driven by consumer preference for sophisticated gadgets, increasing the popularity of wearable fitness and medical devices, increasing awareness about fitness and rise in disposable incomes. Consumers are now actively seeking new technological solutions and operators must capitalise on this opportunity to engage.

As a result, we know the time for EMS is now. The most forward-thinking UK based trainers and studios are recognising the power of EMS for developing their business and attracting clients with a workout technique they’ve never experienced before. It’s a great solution to appeal to more than just those who already enjoy being active and target individuals who might otherwise avoid a gym environment.

We’ve also just confirmed FDA approval in the US and are looking forward to growing and expanding the EMS market over there. With 3/4 of the American population estimated to be overweight by 2020, it is the perfect solution to help combat the obesity epidemic, requiring minimal time and space for an effective workout. If the technology is there and capable of making such an influential difference, it would be mad not to use it!

Posted in Fit-tech, Gyms & Clubs, Most Popular Interviews, The Fitness Network.