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Technogym talks: how operators can make the most of the new consumer landscape

As part of Technogym Talks, the new series of webinars hosted by Technogym to deliver inspiring content from industry experts, we spoke to Ken Hughes. Ken is a world authority on consumer culture and human behaviour. He talked to us about the new “captive economy” which has emerged from lockdown, what you need to understand about consumer behaviour in a crisis, and how you can leverage this to be more successful than ever.

How to adjust your business to the captive economy consumer

The pandemy and resulting lockdown have given human behaviourists a fascinating insight into global consumer behaviour. You might not see it as fascinating. To you, it might feel frustrating, uncertain, and deeply worrying. Ken urged us to welcome the opportunities and prepare for success.

For fitness business owners, this is an exciting time in your career, he said. There’s been a lot of disruption and everything has changed quickly. If you stand still, you’ll be moving backwards. When everything stops, the winners move into the space. You need to get ready for the next 24 months.

Predict & prepare for post-isolation consumer demands

The captive economy – consumers in lockdown – is unique, he said. It is global and spans all ages, beliefs, languages and locations. In that sense, we can predict outcomes more easily. 

Data from YouGov shows only 30% of people would currently feel comfortable with the idea of going back to the gym. You need to appreciate consumers’ concerns and anxieties, said Ken. Understand what people want, need, and expect during lockdown and recovery, and you will thrive.

Get ready to respond to the new values of the captive economy

Ken talked us through the six unique values of this captive economy, and gave us practical action points.

#1 Freedom
Freedom is important to us – and it has suddenly been taken away. This overnight loss of freedom and choice has significant emotional and mental ramifications. Consumers are in a cycle of grief. You need to understand which phase your customers are in.

Customer experience will be more important than ever. Multiply your efforts by 10. Customers want their freedom back. Your brand, business, and staff need to be that point of human connection, giving them a solution that reinstates freedom and choice.

  • Action Pointgive customers freedom to book, choose, and access services in a way that puts them in control.
#2 Autonomy
Humans feel safe when we know what is going to happen. The pandemic has removed this sense of autonomy. Your customers can’t see what’s coming, and don’t know when it’s going to end. Two of their main environments – home and work – have collided, and they are locked in.

People desperately want to get a sense of control and autonomy back over key areas of life. One of these areas is fitness and health. This gives you a huge opportunity if you get the conversation right.

  • Action Point: make customers feel involved, allow them to feel in control, make your services flexible, so they can choose.
#3 Attachment
The current situation offers you a shortcut to building lifelong brand loyalty. When people are scared, sad, and lonely they naturally want to attach themselves to someone or something that offers stability and security. Make sure your business is the one they go to for help. That attachment will last far longer than the pandemic.

  • Action Point: think about how you can be there for them as a positive influence, give them ways to attach to your brand emotionally as a way to soothe their worries about fitness, health, nutrition, and wellness.
#4 Community
Community has always been a key value for health and fitness brands. It’s now time to leverage this to strengthen retention of existing customers. Humans need connection. Your customers are missing people during lockdown. Your gym gave them one of their tribes. You need to reinforce the relationship between your business and your customers, and capture those moments of community and connection. During this challenging time, don’t forget to build connections and emotional links. People need to feel that they are part of your community.

  • Action Pointwrite a list of things you’ve done to make your community feel special – you urgently need to contribute to community connection and keep this going.
#5 Digital Step-Jump
Digital has always been a business advantage, and now it will be pure survival. Don’t fear digital. Create a “phygital” business, where the physical and the digital combine to offer consumers what they need. Consumers are getting used to having digital experiences. You need to digitize your business to thrive in lockdown and beyond. The gym and your other physical assets are the core of your business. But have that as the hub, with digital strands. You need to be active in every part of what they need.

The gym is not your product. Customer wellness is. Delivering on their wellness is your solution.

Digital has destroyed some direct-to-consumer industries. Don’t let that happen to the physical activity sector. Make sure you are crucial, so consumers can not bypass you. Consider hiring equipment, or sourcing it for customers to buy. Sell nutrition and supplements. Create a community. Give value. Link everything back to your facility.

  • Action Point: reshape your business by adding digital assets. Use it to build a community, strong social media, virtual home workouts, personalized online assets and anything else your customers need.
#6 Health
Health has always been an important value, but the pandemic has skyrocketed it to the top of many people’s lists. Many people are now interfacing with fitness for first time, or returning to it because of this new drive for health. This creates a great opportunity for you to interact with 100% of the population. Give advice, present solutions, show them what they need to do.

When lockdown is lifted, people will want more opportunities for health and fitness. But some fears and anxieties will remain. People will want to be healthy to protect themselves from illness. Start thinking of your business as part of a health solution, offering ways to keep people well and prevent illness. Use this health-based messaging in your communications and social media. People will want to attach themselves to health-focused businesses.

  • Action Point: think about how to capitalized on positive health attitudes and a consumer need for health in fitness?

Take action now to grow your business

After lockdown, consumers will rethink what is important. Make sure you are one of the things they need, rather than one of the things they can go without. Devise a “now”, “then”, and “when” strategy and start investing in key stages: the next 6 weeks, 6 months, and 2 years. Understand the strong desire for human connection and you can grow the business more than you ever thought possible. 2021 could be a huge year for your business.

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