As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create ongoing challenges for businesses across every sector, the fitness industry has had to adapt even more so than others. Now, nearly two years into the pandemic, the way the world exercises has officially changed, and as a result, so has the way fitness franchises grow.
Modern fitness brands are increasingly looking to expand through a hybrid approach – building both a large virtual following, as well as physical gyms for clients to visit in person.
Here are some of the benefits of investing in that type of hybrid fitness business model and why franchisors are increasingly looking to innovate in order to keep up with the changing landscape of the industry.
An increased demand
The hybrid model combination of both an on-demand platform and an in-person, high-end studio experience can give clients the chance to build powerful minds and bodies and meet them where they are (in-home or in-studio) in their fitness journey.
Following COVID-19, people want to work out in a way that’s convenient to them – they don’t always have time to commute, nor do they want to. Members may have 30 minutes in their day to fit exercise in, and they want it to be a meaningful and fulfilling workout.
Industry-wide trends have mirrored this progression. Even though revenue in the fitness sub-sector declined during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, revenue from fitness technology increased 29 per cent to $49.5bn for the year, according to a new research report, “The Global Wellness Economy: Looking Beyond Covid,” from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).
The report shows that digital apps, streaming and on-demand workout platforms grew 40 per cent overall. Now, with consumer demand returning to a healthy mix for both online and in-person experiences, the segment is increasingly adopting a hybrid brick-and-mortar/digital approach. GWI predicts the hybrid fitness market will nearly double – from $738bn in 2020 to $1.2tr in 2025.
With a hybrid fitness model, franchisors and franchisees can tap into both facets of this post-pandemic demand and ensure clients are able to achieve their personal health goals regardless of where they want to work out.
In addition to simply allowing brands to reach more people, a hybrid approach also creates more “stickiness” among members, leading to increased brand loyalty, retention and revenue for franchisees.
For example, since members tend to “stick” with hybrid fitness models more than they do with other programs, franchisors can take a strategic approach and demographic analysis that centers around finding a small but- loyal following in new markets.
Instead of having to fill studios with 2,000 members, the target for each studio only has to be around 350-400 members. If a territory has 50-60,000 individuals, franchisees should be able to come up with 400 individuals that ‘stick’ the method once they start working with it. These individuals also tend to transcend any one age demographic, opening up a larger pool of potential members for each studio.
Data-driven franchise growth
Hybrid fitness concepts have a rare opportunity to leverage their virtual data to promote sustainable bricks-and-mortar growth. When analyzing virtual demand across the globe, franchisors can determine which markets are primed for growth based on areas that show heavy virtual traffic or are leaders when it comes to shipments and products.
In addition, franchisors can gather valuable insight into the behaviors of their members based on location and leverage that information as well. For example, by analyzing data, fitness brands may find that members in Europe tend to value overall wellness, emphasize daily movement as a method for weight loss and generally prefer holistic, natural approaches for pain management.
In a lot of European countries, the healthcare industry is also considered part of the public sector, which creates an opportunity to reach more in-person clients. These types of demographic insights can be a major resource for emerging franchisors expanding their physical footprints.
A robust support platform for franchisees
As opposed to strictly bricks-and mortar concepts, hybrid fitness brands are often able to tap into a built-in, cross-market infrastructure to create a well-thought-out game-plan for how to support brick-and-mortar franchises.
As a hybrid concept, a U.S.-based company, for example, may have access to connections all over the world, not just in areas where there are physical gyms. In this way, hybrid franchisors can leverage its international virtual presence to help franchisees find optimal sites in new markets.
A well-positioned business model
Not only is demand growing among consumers, but entrepreneurs are increasingly looking to invest in hybrid brands that are revolutionizing the way people approach fitness and wellness. This could be because of a personal health journey they had with a hybrid brand, or because they recognize the well-positioned nature of the concept following the pandemic.
As interest in franchising grows in general due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hybrid fitness segment is primed for substantial growth.
Connectivity and community
Last, but certainly not least, a hybrid fitness model can also encourage both members and teams to connect with a global community. Community is incredibly important when building a fitness brand following, and a hybrid model offers members an opportunity to connect with like-minded people all over the world.
Additionally, hybrid concepts nurture long-lasting relationships between trainers and members, both in-person and virtually, and team members also have the opportunity to better connect with their community and build heightened brand loyalty.
Overall, these indicators suggest hybrid fitness brands will likely come to shape the future of the industry as they offer a streamlined and reliable way to expand into new markets and provide more and more members with the fitness experiences they want.
Julie Cartwright is the president of P.volve, a science-backed, holistic fitness solution for women that is disrupting the industry