For gyms, studios and digital fitness platforms the job is simple — create incredible health & fitness experiences that get results. The task, therefore, is to shape your business and strategy around ensuring impactful experiences are delivered efficiently and consistently. And that is where most digital offerings fall short.

Commonly, member experience is made up of all the services the digital platform offers, making the customer experience the total sum of quality in member services. ‘We have HIIT, Yoga, Strength and Pilates classes. We have recipes that you can use. We have a community….’
But we see it differently — the total customer  experience is made up of the quality of their individual experiences, not the collective services on offer. What impact did each class have on every unique member? What does it mean for their development of health? How is it connecting them to their health journey long term?

With the rapid emergence of online fitness solutions, it has been easy to create a platform as the means to deliver a service. The fitness-as-a-service model serves members through a library of live and on-demand classes, programmes or other health services, with the aim of solving a health problem and get as many people to buy that process as possible. The potential scale is an attractive prospect, but the majority of platforms lack conviction because the experiences that make up this service don't provide the depth and quality required to support someone's health online.

This blanket service has limited impact in the health & fitness perspective and is a big reason for high churn, lack of member development and reduced CLV as a service has no guarantee of progression, connection or control of the members health and fitness development.

When considering the customer, we know their health is incredibly dynamic and working on their fitness is not as simple as logging on and starting an on-demand class or training session. Building a library of versatile classes may seem like a great solution for anyone looking to pursue their health journey, but for the majority (even with great content at their fingertips), it is not developing a relationship with their health. There is often a failure to drive the psychological factors that build upon each members commitment to their health. If you are going to acquire an hour out of someone's day, make it the best hour. The defining hour. The hour that influences every other component of their health from their nutritional choices to their mental health management. This will allow you to evolve into more than just an hour, as they prioritise your experiences as desired health development. This is the goal for online services, to create a much truer connection to each members health and thus develop the member's relationship with your platform and coaching. Turning a mere service into an experience, then scaling the process.

The idea of an experience can be linked to any moment of your life. Sitting at your desk is a work experience. The school run is an experience with your children. Dinner with friends a social experience. Living your life through experiences helps you define the purpose of each with more meaning. You are intentionally being present to create a deeper connection to that experience and taking more from living in that moment. But for a challenging workout or mindful meditation, this requires coaching and guidance to achieve its full potential. As the consumer seeks greater support across their dynamic health components there is an opportunity for gyms and active spaces to deliver experiences that their members desire across the different principles of health that goes beyond simply watching a video-on-demand.

In the fitness industry, there is a race towards volume and diversity of content without enough emphasis on quality and health context. Online sessions have largely levelled the playing field in fitness. In-person you had a huge range of factors that defined the experience, playing to emotion and connection. Online we lose a lot of that. We can’t replicate the pumping music, inspiring coaching and intangible energy of the room. This idea of replication has been the aim of most online offerings, but defining an incredible experience online relies on different attributes due to different consumer expectations.

The opportunity in enhancing experiences and developing member success sits alongside new revenue growth through diversification and scale…..

Zooming Out — A Broader Assessment For The Need Of Experiences

Within the fitness industry, we understand the power of a deep connection with our health journey. This is not just about a good training programme or eating a well-balanced diet. The passion, enjoyment, enthusiasm and fulfilment that we get from being active and living healthy lives is the reason why we’re in the industry. But for the majority of people they have lost that connection, or it remains far more elusive and inconsistent.

The idea of meeting the customer where they are is foundational in business, but it absolutely integral to delivering health & fitness. To add a layer of complexity, every person is at a different stage of their health journey and no two are the same. Our health journey, the connection we have with the consistent development of our complete health, is subjective. But within that subjectivity and need for personalisation lies common motivators to connect everyone with that journey. This is what the fitness industry has been missing. Forming a connection with every training session, every rep, every breath and every burpee. Creating an experience, not just a service.

The very best experience combine multiple principles of health development in the given time.

The element of choice isn’t a problem for anyone looking to be active online. I’ve seen more than enough sessions freely available on YouTube which are to a high enough standard to not require any paid services. This competition online for paid services has reinforced an industry problem of promising a lot and delivering very little. With aesthetics at the heart of consumer motives, the desire for the immediacy of outcomes is both demanded and despised in a twisted societal perception of fitness that is simultaneously a motivator and demotivator. We are disassociating fitness to the connection of our health and its complex nature.

Very few platforms are looking at the overall health journey of each member and developing experiences with the idea that true health & fitness is dynamic and interconnected. A class alone isn’t going to change someone's life, at any moment a huge number of external factors can dismantle their health journey and your services become redundant. We’re not asking the right questions to consider how we ensure that each and every class or session is part of a more complete health experience.

What is this class doing that impacts their health journey long term?
How does this session link to another session to further their development?
What influence does the session have on their day overall?
How can this programme be adopted by a member easily?
What is the member learning about their health in this session?
Can the member see clear outcomes beyond aesthetics?
What emotions are we triggering as we go through the session?

How many ‘toning’ programmes with the same restrictive meal plans do we need before we realise that we are far away from setting the right goals to make real progress in our health?

The best diet is one you can stick to. The best training programme is one you enjoy. The best conversations are the ones that constructively challenge your thinking. These are the connection points we must strive to through experiences. And in the dynamic nature of health, it is not always the fitness experience that is the priority for each members health journey.

Experiences Before Technology

Tech solutions, including AI and beyond, will certainly play a role in optimisation and personalised experience delivery, but the connection to each members health is made by real people creating real experiences. These will need to be foundational before tech integration becomes a meaningful and effective business tool.

A common idea in the fitness industry is that ‘most people just want to get in and get out making fitness as simple for them as possible’ — but this is largely because we are not connecting them with their health journey. Being active is only desirable to very few people and that often comes down to their perception of the space they go to be active. Any of us can feel excited, inspired or determined to go to the gym or open our fitness app ready for class — but the majority have the perception of burden and reluctance with working on their health.

What we are doing when building base services out into experiences is conveying to each member that their health journey is more important and we’ve designed our sessions and programmes to make that connection to your health journey easier and more regular. Not just filming the classes they would do in the gym anyway.

If we continue to head down the path of personalization that is not designed around the member's health journey outside of fitness then they will feel no more connected to their health than they do today and tech will have no greater application to health improvement or business growth.

Delivering health & fitness experiences at scale with the human touch required is certainly achievable.

I have an obvious example…

Pelotons Success Is Experience Driven

We all know the success of Peloton over the past few years has been down to its cult-like following. While Peloton does go after the already active market they are building towards their health journey with some key components formulated into every class. These are beginning to resonate beyond into the broader fitness market as they expand their digital health kingdom.

The fitness industry's formidable stance on the in-person experience being far and away better than anything you can do at home on your own is being eroded. Peloton executes by optimising the experience that each member has when they start up their device and log on to a class. The instructors are famed for their delivery making each member feel their very best both physically and mentally. The leaderboard stokes the competitive flames inside all of us and tools to connect with friends drives the social aspects. You feel empowered through a better connection between mind and body.

Peloton members may be drawn in by the status, but they are kept in because the Peloton coaches and community are an integral part of the health journey they are on every day. Beyond the challenging workouts lies a sense of connection the member forms with their health development.

It’s not the bikes or equipment that make the company so valuable, it’s the experience. Consider how each of your activities is defined by your brand values, character and ethos that runs through your coaches and into experiences. Your members will feel this and think of themselves as part of something bigger that is defining their health and the health of everyone in the community.

I hate that I love Peloton. They are not a far superior platform to thousands of other active spaces, but they get the idea of experience and connection to health better than anyone else in the market. They are more media company than fitness company and they’ve outplayed the fitness industry at their own game.

Optimising The Experience Every Time

A high production, well-coached and easily accessible workout or activity is not always enough. Whether it’s live or on-demand ensure you have these key components to create an experience that keeps each member excited and committed to their health journey.

If we are then to ask a more complex set of questions to define the fitness experience how does this translate to stronger planning and execution?

Don't think linearly with these considerations. Just because your experience is foundationally a HIIT class or strength-based it doesn't mean the focus is purely on fitness. How can you tie in developments for mental health or social health? How can you blend in other components of physical fitness? So before you sit down to plan your programmes or class schedule consider these components

Themes — ties to your values, character and ethos. Uniquely on-brand.

Context — how does the core idea impact other areas of health?

Emotion — what makes the experience enjoyable, exciting, empowering or trigger the emotions that make the response more meaningful and immersive?

Programme — think beyond the single experience to craft a programme of experiences that build towards the member health journey and maintain engagement.

Learning — what does each member take from the experience that evolves their connection to their health journey, enhancing long term commitment?

Outcomes — what is the key outcome and secondary benefits you need to ensure are facilitated.

Type — class, workshop, challenge, webinar, conversation, course. What is the best way to deliver the experience?

Platform — live, on-demand, digital, in-person (all of the above). How are getting the message out effectively?

Integrations — what tools can you utilise which will enhance the experience? Apps, software, wearable tech.

Volume — how many members or guests can you facilitate and what influence does this have on the delivery of the experience?

Social — how do you create social dynamics that make each experience increasingly unique and memorable?

Coaching — the role of the coach, wider team, involved specialists and the depth of the coaching they provide within the experience time frame and beyond.

Often the fitness experience isn’t the experience that is most important to their health that day. This is where Complete Health strategies allow you to find a more impactful experience to the member's health journey. Supporting mental health through ‘stress management’ seminars or nutritional health through ‘healthy eating on a budget’ workshops could be the most important experience for their health journey that day.

Being at the centre of your member's health journey and not simply a component makes your services absolutely unexpendable and of significant value.

A 5 Step Process

We devised a 5 step process that considers all the components and critical questions that go into creating new and exciting experiences with time and resources taken into consideration.

Discover, Development, Practical, Specialise, Commitment

But let's not make this piece any longer — To see how we create experiences click here

Business Growth

I’ve spoken a lot about how reimagining your experiences will benefit your members health, and these qualities have business growth implications that are invariably tied to member success. But a broader look at the role of developing incredible experiences works to your businesses advantage.

The ability to apply the concept of the experience to a versatile range of health principles opens active spaces out to deliver a more complete view of health which provides the very strongest business model and a blue ocean opportunity — check that out here

Business problem solving can be experience led as well. Looking at datasets and questioning why so many people are leaving within the first month, or only getting part of the way through a programme, or challenge. It’s all about seeing how you can reframe the experience so people remain on track.

Mindbody reported 40% of consumers on their platform have trialled an online studio they have never been to before. This shows that consumers are looking for new opportunities that tie into their true values and personality. This is where the experience becomes important. Every person who trials your class through one of the consolidation platforms is a potential long term customer. If you just give them a service — a good class, but limited — they will not create the attachment to your space and move on. But if you offer them an experience that they love and connect with your space deeper then they will continue their journey with you

Be More. Stand Out

I’ve seen hundreds of online fitness offerings and apps and 90% of the time I’m staring at the same services. The same workouts. The same coaching. The same product and services.

Online fitness offerings existed long before the pandemics forced adoption and it largely failed to have an impact on consumer behaviours around health. Being another fish in the sea won’t build your business, it will just waste time in creating digital services that don’t demonstrate the true potential of your business.

Start to analyse each of your services with a greater purpose towards each members health journey and shape every class and activity in a way that adds a unique building block to peoples health.

Build incredible experiences.

(Affinity Active Spaces does this…..)


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