Technologies and New Business Models Are Reinventing Our Industry Before Our Eyes

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.

About Bryan

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 . To learn more contact Bryan here today .

RetroFit - A New Business Model Represents The Coming Golden Age Of Wellness - The Future Is Here

Reading the Wall Street Journal today I noted an article on the upcoming Christmas holiday sales outlook, "Early Sales Pay Off, For Now, Retailer See Strong Weekend Traffic but Worry Spending Could Falter; Online Booms. Ahh the bricks and mortar retail business. Changing business models and the rise of online shopping have and will continue to recreate how people buy stuff. Its also changing consumer expectations about how they interact with brands using technology as I recently addressed in this post.

My theory is there are strong paralells between what retail has experienced and what's to come for health clubs. However, there is a difference between theory and reality . In sharing trends like my recent 2013 Health, Fitness and Wellness Trend Report (get your FREE copy here) examples of how technology is impacting the health club and fitness industry abound. In the recent report NEWISM, creative destruction is also cited as a key trend. One can only imagine how I feel when VC firms like Draper Fisher Jurvetson lead an $8 million Series A funding round for business models like Retrofit. Its as interesting and exciting as when I learned about WellnessFX . Seems the future is really here.

Retrofit crafts 12-month weight loss programs for customers based on data collected via wireless tracking devices such as a scale and pedometer. Clients consult with dietitians, behavior coaches and exercise physiologists via Skype. The company says its customers will lose at least 10 or 15 percent of their current weight, depending on the program they select, and keep it off for12 months.

Here is what a RetroFit client had to say about the product on the Retrofit web site:

"Retrofit is a game-changer for the weight loss industry," said Brad Feld, a Retrofit client and Managing Director of Foundry Group. "A private team of wellness experts helped me re-program some bad patterns so I could lose those 'last 20 pounds' I had been talking about for a decade. Retrofit provided a positive and powerful feedback loop for success. Not only does the program help you lose weight, but also it helps you establish the skills to keep the weight off for life."

New emerging business models like RetroFit represent the  "Golden Age" of fitness and increasingly wellness, as I call it . Technology, changing consumers and globalism are going to change the fitness and health club business greatly and RetroFit is a good example of how that will be done.

So what do you think ? Watch the video overview below and tell me , Bryan O'Rourke, does RetroFit represent an emerging golden future of wellness ? I'd appreciate hearing from you.

About the author:

Bryan O’Rourke is a health club industry expert, technologist, financier, and shareholder and executive in several fitness companies. He advises several successful global brands, serves as a member of the GGFA Think Tank and serves as CEO of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. To learn more contact Bryan here today .