The headlines tell a story that many leaders in the health club and fitness industry should be watching, closely. Weight Watchers just purchased Wello, a purely digital fitness delivery platform that offers one-on-one and group fitness training online. During a recent quarterly conference call, Weight Watcher’s CEO Jim Chambers had this to say:
“The competitive frame of the weight loss market continues to evolve as free apps and activity monitors generate significant consumer interest.” He went on to comment, “We have an ambitious technology vision. We will become a 21st-century technology organization, engineered for the digital era, whose innovative technology fundamentally improves the way people manage their weight, health and wellness. We will be agile service-oriented, data-driven, cloud-enabled and efficient. We will be a model for digital technology in the markets in which we compete and we will be a magnet for talented innovators both, inside and outside the company.”
Clearly Weight Watchers is addressing the huge market it serves with as many as 70% of US adults being over weight. They are also attempting to service those customers in the most convenient ways possible given the rise of technologies that enable this. This is the new era. Its not just Weight Watchers taking bold innovative moves in wellness through acquisition, so is Wallgreens with their new theranos testing labs and wellness tour, Fitocracy with their 2 million online participants, and RetroFit with their online coaching solution that includes Wi-Fi scales. There are many other examples of these new era business models and the 2013 $330 million wearable market in combination with over 80% of households having smartphones and a 100 Billion apps downloaded so far means there will be even more innovation. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to understand what's here and what’s coming; a wave of new competition set to serve and explosion of customers.
During my recent interview with Dr. Michael Mantell on Health & Fitness Technology (click to listen) we explored how the industry has entered a new era. I compared the impact of the MP3 format on the music industry to what is happening today in the wellness business. While record companies cried over the disruption of their business models, the fact is that the amount of music purchased and the number of live music events attended from 2000-2010 tripled around the world following the advent of digital music. This happened because technology released the constraints of bricks and mortar distribution, enabling a much larger audience to be served in many new ways. The same thing is happening in fitness and wellness today as the brands I’ve shared along with many others are enabling new markets to be reached more effectively and less expensively.
Some health club industry leaders will claim that nothing can replace human interactions, so clubs and trainers can’t be threatened by these new business models. I’d have to disagree. It is true that there is no replacement for human beings, but technology is enabling business models to do things in ways that humans on their own can not at scale. Many of the most successful brands will blend human interaction with technology tools to create even higher levels of service whereby trainers can support hundreds of clients with a combination of digital and physical delivery. Therefore, very forward thinking bricks and mortar club brands are closlely evaluating the customer experience and considering how things like networked fitness, mobile technology and other digital tools can be integrated into their business models while other new purely digital startups and brands will jump into the space because the barriers to entry in the digital world are some much lower. Just like Weight Watchers, the path to innovation must be kept in mind as the industry enters the 21st century and as we have entered a new era of fitness and wellness.
So what do you think ? Have we entered the new era ? Are new business models going to revolutionize fitness and wellness, growing the market and delivering services in new innovative ways ? Let me know and thanks for reading.
Bryan O’Rourke is considered by many to be a thought leader on technology, health club and wellness trends. He has been quoted in global periodicals like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Inc. Magazine, and has been published in journals around the world on his views of how technology will create the dawn of a new era of opportunity for the health club and fitness industries. In addition to being an industry expert, Bryan is a technologist, financier, shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He has spoken on a range of business and trend topics on four continents. As a contract executive and advisor, Bryan wears many hats, including working for Fitmarc, which delivers Les Mills programs to over 700 facilities in the US. He advises successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank, on ACE's Industry Advisory Panel and is CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. To join FIT-C visit www.fit-c.org . To learn more contact Bryan here today .