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How can gyms adapt to post-covid consumer mindsets?

January and February usually sees a sharp spike in new gym memberships but this year the industry has reported a fall in sign-ups compared to the same period in 2020.
24 February, 2022
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Despite this, health and wellness is still a high priority for consumers - perhaps more than ever – but the experiences they are now seeking have changed. They now want added flexibility, a seamless phygital offer, access to a greater sense of community, and to associate themselves with fitness brands that offer more than just a space to work-out. While these are trends we’ve already seen emerging in exclusive and super-premium gym brands, we’re now seeing demand for these elements extend to all entry points in the market.

A greater sense of community

In the past, many gyms have sought to fit as much equipment as possible into their spaces. However, they are now seeing the value of including more social and hospitality-driven areas in order to attract people back into brick-and-mortar gyms. As online work-outs have become ever more popular, re-designing gyms to include a social hub where people can dwell before or after their work-outs is ever more important and will give them the experience that they can’t get online: a sense of belonging to a community.

A seamless phygital experience

Consumers have discovered the ease and convenience of at-home workouts. While many gym operators have picked up on this trend by offering online classes, they’re competing with digital-first fitness brands offering the slickest in-home experiences. Creating a truly seamless phygital offer, where members have a fluid and completely flexible experience between working out at home or in the gym will be essential for all gym brands if they want to attract and retain members. This will inevitably mean offering a mixture of both live-streamed and on-demand content.

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Branding beyond a fitness facility

Just like the challenges physical retail is facing from increased ecommerce, gyms need to develop their brands beyond being just a fitness facility to attract those consumers who've realised they can meet their fitness needs at home. Clean and safe environments to work out in; access to the best of both digital and in-person fitness services; a community-driven social hub to belong to; greater choice and flexibility to suit individual fitness needs are just some of the messages gyms need to consider adopting to evolve their brands beyond being just a fitness facility.

Added choice and flexibility

One of the most significant legacies of the pandemic on consumer behaviour is how the increase in the breadth and quality of digital services and experiences has led to greater convenience, choice and flexibility. Gyms now need to mirror these qualities in the experience that they offer consumers. This means giving more ownership of the experience back to consumers so they can have greater choice into how, where, and when they work out and feel empowered, encouraged and supported within this. For example, some gyms are looking at equipment-free spaces where members can bring their own equipment, while others are building out their digital offer to create a 360-degree experience that offers maximum choice and flexibility.

Whatever strategies gyms choose in response to post-Covid consumer mindsets, at the core will be the necessity of adding layers of both physical and digital experiences that elevate their offer beyond a purely utilitarian, transactional experience: a key trend we’ve been seeing right across all our work designing retail and hospitality environments.

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