In the first part of this series, I focused on the broader trends in the digitization of the fitness industry in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. This time, I’d like to drill down a bit more and look at the changes happening on the consumer-facing side of things. With the increase in the accessibility of fitness on digital platforms, the barrier to adoption is now significantly lower. We’re now seeing an increase in both tech innovation and consumer reach that’s really exciting.
Tech Advances In Wearables
Even before gyms started shutting down and everyone was relegated to their homes, devices like the Apple Watch and Fitbit were incredibly popular. Now, following the sharp increase in home fitness, wearable tech is experiencing a serious boom.
Thanks to wearables, competition has been able to go virtual. For example, WODProof’s device allows users to record their workout and embeds a timer over the top of the workout video that cannot be tampered with, allowing results to be validated. This has been of great use to CrossFit athletes for the past few years, but it’s now seeing use in other types of fitness.
In addition to the technological advancement in the wearables market, adoption is increasing at a rapid rate. Apple Watch reportedly experienced a 20% surge in sales over its 2019 numbers. Through the first two quarters of the year, its sales accounted for more than 51% of the global smartwatch market revenue.
Another company, Whoop, recently secured $100 million in Series E financing at a $1.2 billion valuation. The tracker provides personalized feedback to the wearer and measures unique factors to determine recovery needs and steps to maximize gains, and it is being leveraged in the professional training realm.
Increased access to these types of smart wearables benefits brands in the fitness space by keeping fitness top of mind for many. These devices serve as a constant reminder and provide encouragement. Not only can they motivate those who wear them to engage in fitness, but they’re able to provide people with details on the progress they’re making.
As Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” If you regularly measure all these fitness variables, you’ll be more aware of the results you achieve. For many, this can improve overall satisfaction with the fitness experience.
For professionals in the fitness space, wearables allow you to have more data about your athletes and customers, which can enable a number of things for businesses. Devices that help facilitate virtual competitions or log activities can be tapped into to increase engagement with clients, identify at-risk clients and generally provide more touch points between the business and the athlete.
To build your program, you could consider partnering with or tapping into some of these bigger companies by participating in an affiliate or referral program for a product you trust.
The Broadening Of The Fitness Market
With so many people stuck at home with more downtime right now, there has been an obvious uptick in the adoption of at-home fitness and, therefore, an increase in the total addressable market. Advances in technology are broadening that reach even further.
Exercise helps us feel good. Given the market conditions for fitness — bigger players entering to make access easier, tech catching up, etc. — people are in an even better position to engage in fitness and experience more success.
The sheer volume and variety of fitness programming we have now has never been more user-friendly or more readily accessible. Even before the pandemic, boutique group training programs (think CrossFit, spin, yoga, boot camps, etc.) were popular. Now that many of those facilities’ in-person offerings are limited, we’re seeing them offer classes outdoors or online.
Fitness businesses should focus on creative opportunities to keep clients engaged. Even once facilities are allowed to open again, many customers may prefer the virtual options they’ve become accustomed to during the pandemic. Fitness professionals will have to reestablish what their definition of “coaching” is. It used to be all about running a good class and having people show up, but now it’s about motivating without seeing. It’s about helping with habits instead of helping with technique. It’s about virtual video review instead of in-person spotting.
Covid-19 accelerated the pace of digital fitness adoption, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Fitness industry professionals would be wise to take notice of this and make sure they’re offering accessible and tech-savvy options to cater to this new and rapidly growing consumer base.
This article first appeared on forbes.com on December 23, 2020