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Designing a New “Fitness Journey” in the Digital Experience Economy

August 24, 2023

The health and fitness industry, like so many, is being revolutionized by technology. Exercise is no longer confined to the gym. It’s being gamified, virtualized, mobilized and increasingly, fitness is now attainable through in-home, connected devices. The U.S.’ home fitness industry is already worth $4.8 billion, and the digital fitness industry is expected to reach $24.8 billion by 2027. Combined, this presents a huge emerging market that will see greater competition as technology companies tap into the virtual fitness trend. That means more customer support options will be needed to aid growing communities of health and fitness subscribers, especially during the post-holiday surge of fitness sales. 

Selling the Home Fitness Experience 

We are now entering the true era of digital fitness and health, driven by the experience economy, where the intrinsic value of a product or service is no longer the only consideration for consumers. It’s the experience itself that companies are selling, and services are often simply the stage for those memorable experiences, while products are the props.  

Take for example Peloton bikes. In essence, they are much the same as regular stationary bikes found in gyms, but when you combine that with a wi-fi connected touchscreen that people can use for in-home virtual fitness classes or training, it becomes an experience.  It’s this clever business model, coupled with the closure of gyms during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, that led Peloton to make over $4 billion in 2021.  

Today, Peloton has netted over 3 million subscribers, a 9.7% increase year-over-year, and though the company has had a rough year as hardware sales have declined, the company is now focusing on its subscription fitness service and app, which are still holding strong, making up two-thirds of the company’s revenue.  

What this proves is the sticking power of a trend that many thought would dissipate once the pandemic was over – in-home fitness. During the pandemic, 59% of Americans preferred working out at home, which led to a 170% increase in sales for home fitness equipment. Today, the number of people with in-home gyms has remained consistent, with 61% still working out at home versus only 31% who hold a commercial gym membership. Even more intriguing, most say they would be willing to spend more on in-home equipment than gym memberships, as they considered it more of a lifetime investment. 

Enter “Exergaming” and Virtual Fitness, the Natural Evolution of the Home Gym 

There are reasons why many consumers still choose a commercial gym. Social interaction is one of them. Though in-home gyms can offer the same quality and intensity of workout, many people prefer the socializing, hands-on training, and sense of community that comes with a brick-and-mortar facility.  

That may explain why Peloton expanded into virtual group sessions and an all-encompassing app that allows people to stream their live or on-demand classes from any device without necessarily owning a Peloton bike. In 2020, Apple also came out with its own similar “Fitness +” subscription service and “Group Workouts”, where you can work out live with up to 32 members at a time through FaceTime or Apple TV.  

This also plays into another reason people say they often choose the gym over working out at home. Fitness enthusiasts like competition. Studies have shown that people are often more motivated to work out when they have someone with which they can compare. This is why Peloton introduced “Sessions”, where members can compete against each other using virtual leaderboards. It’s also why “exergaming” and the general gamification of fitness, is the latest trend that has the potential to invigorate the in-home fitness market.  

Largely pioneered by startups, exergaming is the newest format to merge gaming and entertainment with health and wellness. Often, it involves assigning a scoring or points system to workout maneuvers, with a goal-oriented outcome that helps drive the motivation to be physically active. Peloton’s “Lanebreak” game is just one example. Riders go along a six-lane virtual track where they will encounter “Moments”, or strategically placed challenges based on their workout goals. As they complete each level, they can gain stars, with the ability to compete against others on the virtual leaderboard.  

The ExerCube, from Zurich-based Sphery, could offer us a glimpse into the home workout of the future. A collaboration between game designers and sports scientists, it offers its users an interactive workout via a three-walled full-height screen where players race along a track and earn points every time they perform a desired exercise such as a duck, jump, kick, or squat.  

Either way, it represents an intriguing emerging market, with the gamification industry set to rise from $9 billion to $25 billion by 2025 and the interactive fitness market alone expected to grow by $5.4 billion by 2024.  

The Needs and Challenges of the Digital Home Fitness Market 

This brings us to the inherent challenges and opportunities of offering a distinct customer service experience tailored to the needs of the at-home and interactive fitness user.  

Since most everything is conducted virtually, from equipment purchase to class enrollment, this kind of fitness service often requires intensive support. If there are any issues, the only point of contact for most customers is through traditional and digital support channels. Though comprehensive FAQ and Help pages are useful, new users are often resource intensive. They often require more help with set up or technical troubleshooting, especially when they are not yet familiar with the equipment or subscription service.  

A whole host of support personnel are required to meet the needs of this growing fitness community, from front-end customer care to back-end services such as accounts receivables, and this could become a logistical nightmare for companies’ in-house teams. This is especially true around the holidays and into January, when fitness equipment sales and online membership purchases often skyrocket.  

Users expect fast, convenient support and issue resolution, so they can get back to working out. They don’t want to be kept on hold or told to repeat their issues every time they switch agents or channels. With virtual or interactive fitness, it is the experience you’re selling and that workout experience will be affected by the quality of support customers receive, especially when they have an issue. Something to consider as competition increases, and customer service naturally becomes the main differentiator for many fitness brands.

Those brands that offer a superior customer experience will inevitably become industry leaders. And given the often-hefty price tag of immersive fitness technologies, customers will expect nothing short of excellence.

Itel’s CX Solutions for the Health & Fitness Industry 

Fortunately, you don’t need to be worried about being overwhelmed by support requests, especially around the post-holiday surge.  

At itel, we have comprehensive multichannel solutions that can be tailored to your business needs. We can give users around the clock access to support agents via the channel of their choice, whether that’s email, in-app chat, social media, or voice. This could then be supported through automation, IVRs and AI chatbots co-developed between you and our Data Science & Innovation team, which can serve to streamline workflows, reduce costs, simplify processes, and help to manage sudden volume influxes.  

With our flexible services, you can scale up, as needed, during peak seasons, and you will never run short of agents. Our geo-diverse CX delivery allows you access to borderless, multilingual talent and those with technical support backgrounds, and our reliable, enterprise grade IT infrastructure is compliant with all major industry standards. So, when it comes to data protection and cybersecurity, you never have to worry about the safety of you or your customers’ data.  

We are also big fans of gamification and understand its benefits and uses. In fact, we use it to train and coach our own agents towards excellence. We also use data-backed insights and technologies, such as sentiment analysis, to help uncover common customer pain points and find opportunities for new product development, enhancing customer experience, or increasing efficiency or productivity.  

At itel, it’s all about taking the best of technology to enhance the benefits of human interaction, creating a hybrid approach to CX that combines efficiency and speed, with the people who make each interaction unique, meaningful, and memorable for your customers.  

Find out how we can support the healthcare & fitness industry with flexible, customized CX solutions. Contact us today! 

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