After two years of on-again, off-again gym closures and a workout-from-home boom, we asked industry executives for their thoughts on the future of fitness.
In this Q&A, we spoke with obé fitness co-founders/co-CEOs Ashley Mills and Mark Mullett about capturing sweat-share, the rise of fitness stacking, and building a premium exercise experience that fits in your pocket.
Shuttered during the pandemic, gyms/studios are rebounding. How do they succeed going forward?
Ashley Mills and Mark Mullett: We recently commissioned a consumer study that revealed 80% of the polled population (all non-obé users) were still exercising primarily at home, even as we have transitioned back to a more “normal” cadence of life.
Ultimately, consumers who found digital fitness at the height of the pandemic discovered time, efficacy, and cost efficiencies provided by a premium experience that fits in their pockets, their schedules, and their budget.
Going forward, gyms will need to recognize how this crucial sector of sweat-share will play a role in their users’ ecosystems. A step further, in an effort to fully serve their clientele, those operators may consider partnering with digital platforms that have built real brand and user affinity over the past several years.
At obé, we continue to see more and more of our members who are “fitness stacking” — streaming our classes and specialized programs on their mobile devices at the local gym. They’re seeking programming to utilize more expansive studio space or guidance on certain types of equipment with our classes that embrace heavier weights.
Omnichannel or hybrid fitness is gaining traction. How does it play out?
AM & MM: We agree that, for behavior profiles, hybrid consumption is the new rule of the road.
2022 is the year of the Fitness Polyamorist: the consumer who has many workout loves throughout a given week and shares their affection equally. Digital, at the gym, a run or a walk with friends, on vacation, at the office — this consumer unabashedly loves it all, embracing a variety of movements and modalities depending on their mood and schedule.
In the same way we dine at different restaurants each week, amalgamate multiple entertainment subscription services, and traffic across sorted recreational hobbies, consumer price elasticity and passion for variety have allowed for a cadence of consumption that welcomes a buffet of ways to sweat throughout the week.
This behavior profile presents many opportunities to engage and satisfy new audiences across the growing fitness TAM.
Digital/connected fitness is facing headwinds. How will the category evolve?
AM & MM: Digital fitness companies need to stop thinking through the “at-home fitness” lens of 2020. Consumers want their fitness in all ways, all days, on their own time, and with an unwavering penchant for quality content, A+ talent, and variety of movement.
We are seeing consumers incorporate digital fitness into their routines across a spectrum of usage, with the largest active cohorts engaging anywhere from five to seven times per week.
Companies need to focus on an incredible breadth of content, talent that transcends the screen, personalization for all user types, and forging authentic connection amongst their respective communities.
From VR to web3, immersive exercise is trending. How will it impact fitness?
AM & MM: We have created a hyper-visual, immersive brand identity that is well-suited for a VR experience. While not on the immediate technical roadmap, it’s on our radar, and we are excited to explore when the time is right.
What key trends will shape the future of fitness?
AM & MM: Quality matters. Brand matters. Community matters.
Expect a continued focus on giving consumers a one-stop shop for personalized daily activity and the feature sets that encourage true engagement and accountability — while understanding that tastes, preferences, and routines change over time.
There is no silver-bullet modality, piece of equipment, or singular product feature that guarantees long-term stickiness or growing LTV.
Wrapping up, anything else we should keep in mind?
AM & MM: Our team is laser-focused on bringing the obé experience to more people, in deeper, more meaningful ways.
That means more content verticals and more product features to engage audiences on their journey while building community in the process. We are leaning into user data and feedback to prioritize and expand upon what works and what doesn’t in an effort to help our members live their best, most vibrant lives.