Also fitness goes digital in the 2020’s
A story by Bryan O’Rourke
In 2019, according to statista.com, there were 1.173 billion users of fitness tracking devices and fitness apps globally. This number stands in comparison to the current number of global customers utilizing commercial fitness facilities, estimated by IHRSA to be 183 million today and forecasted to reach 230 million members by 2030.
Fitness continues to undergo significant transformation as digital has become a more relevant aspect of not just health and fitness but all industries; and it is only getting started.
The digital trend in fitness has largely been driven by shifting consumer expectations for more omnichannel, convenient, personalized, and differentiated experiences.
Behind these expectations has been the broad adoption of Internet connectivity with mobility over the past decade and the related creation of new consumer solutions and experiences in industries like banking, transportation, food, lodging, education, and health care. What a consumer experiences and loves about their shopping is what they will come to demand from their fitness and health providers.
In the decade to come, fitness brands will need to evolve their business models to differentiate their offerings and stay relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace. This will require a focus on experience-driven commerce where fitness brands can create memorable interactions and valuable moments for consumers across multiple touchpoints, both physical and digital.
Existing fitness brands will have to closely evaluate their customer journey, content strategies, personalization tactics, physical experiences, marketing campaigns and uses of emerging technologies, like voice and mixed reality, to create superior and entirely new experiences to remain relevant.
This shift will need to be accomplished by existing fitness competitors as the industry moves to an arena of wellness and wellbeing. Competitive entry for these experiences will emerge from outside the traditional fitness sector space combining other products and services in new ways. As with retail shopping, banking, and travel, in the decade to come a lot of competition is going to come from outside the realm of current competitors. Afterall in their respective “industries” Airbnb, Amazon, and Sofi Wealth were not part of the discussion or landscape a decade ago. GymShark, LuLu Lemon, Google, Peloton, Apple, Mirror, Amazon, and others have already established this new reality in fitness launching pure digital solutions and hybrid business models which combine digital, physical, services and products, like apparel, nutrition, and at home convenience, with fitness and health as part of a broader arena of wellbeing. This trend is only starting.
More than these dynamics, new experiences will emerge as a result of evolving human interfaces tied to technologies like AI, voice interfaces, and mixed reality. Twenty-four seven monitoring of personal health data with intelligent voice enabled AI’s will deliver behavioral modification and health and fitness coaching the likes of which only the most wealthy individuals can afford today. In many cases the abilities of these solutions, which will emerge in the next decade, will supersede anything ever available before as the result of big data sets and anticipating health problems before they are even noticeable. In other cases these solutions will do more than just prevent disease, they will support optimizing human health and wellbeing.
To substantiate this view of the future, Google is working on its own health and fitness coach. The wellness assistant is termed “Google Coach” and would use what Google knows about your day-to-day life in order to push you to eat healthier or be more active. On the fitness side, it might recommend specific workouts, suggest replacement activities if you miss a workout, and monitor your progress. With respect to nutrition, it could make healthy order recommendations when it notices you’re at a restaurant or deliver a meal plan and associated shopping list to your Gmail inbox each week.
Google is not alone, Apple has also taken steps toward turning its Apple Watch into a health guidance tool, with a dedicated A.I. coach as well. The Apple watch today offers periodic reminders to stand, exercise, and move with a gamified approach urging users to “close their rings” but more development is underway to deliver a more intelligent and helpful solution. There are reportedly over 70 million users of the Apple Watch around the world today.
There can be no doubt that digital will continue to significantly impact the fitness industry and the wellness arena in the coming decade. Current trends and new technologies on the horizon along with increasing customer expectations and competition will make understanding the implications of digital, virtual, anytime, anywhere, and on demand health and fitness experiences essential. Technology, as with all industries, has changed and will continue to change fitness for good.
This is a story of the Futurist Club
Written by: Bryan O’Rourke
Bryan O’Rourke serves as chairman and CEO of Vedere Ventures, a private equity firm with investments in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. He is considered a thought leader in technology, health, and consumer trends and has been quoted and interviewed in periodicals like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and others. He has contributed with colleagues to seven published books and has been a keynote at nearly 100 events on four continents in the past decade. Bryan serves as an advisor to a number of well respected global fitness and technology brands and sits on a number of boards of directors including the International Health Racquet and Sports Clubs Association, and The Fitness Industry Technology Council, among others. You can follow Bryan on most social networks @Bryankorourke.