When the Covid-19 pandemic hit full force in mid-March, I doubt that any of us would have believed that we would be in a continually worsening situation relative to infections some four months later. Without a clear indication as to when we will be able to reopen our doors (and keep them open) even those who might have been reluctant initially to building an online service offering are now being forced to reevaluate their strategy in order to stay in business.
All of us have heard the story of how Blockbuster met its demise, or how the typewriter became obsolete. Could it be this is our “Blockbuster moment” where we have to permanently shift to a new model in order to ensure our businesses will survive? Only time will tell, but given the unparalleled pace of change necessitated by unforeseen (and unrelenting) external forces, I was curious to hear how my industry colleagues were leveraging digital solutions to navigate the current challenges. In order to get a better understanding I posted a survey on social media last week. 100 of our colleagues responded. Here's what they had to say…
Who answered: Of the 100 respondents:
29 said they were “self-employed” as fitness professionals
22 said they were corporate employees (still employed)
17 said they were facility owners
16 said they were corporate employees (either furloughed or inactive),
with the remainder identifying in some other way (e.g. fitness educator, fitness writer, etc.).
What they said:
Q: Are you currently delivering fitness services online/remotely?
90 of the 100 respondents saying that they were currently delivering fitness services digitally in some way.
Q: SINCE THE PANDEMIC CRISIS STARTED (March 2020), which of the following types of online/digital training business models HAVE YOU USED? Please check as many as apply.
84 of 100 respondents indicated that they have been offering fee-based services
16 said that they offered donation-based for charity
15 said they offered donation-based to support their business
8 said they offered donation-based to support impacted staff.
Q: Which of the following types of online/digital training business models are you CURRENTLY using? Please check as many as apply.
82 of 100 said they are currently offering fee-based services
8 said they are offering donation-based to support their business
7 said they are offering donation-based for charity
4 said they are offering donation-based to go to impacted staff.
Q: What types of (digital) services have you offered SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC? Please select as many as apply.
75 of 100 said they had offered 1:1 personal training,
48 said they offered live group exercise classes
45 said they designed customized “do it yourself” programs
33 said they posted on-demand videos
17 said they did a hybrid model where clients can join in with a live group class remotely.
9 said they did time-based “challenges” for free.
4 said they did time-based “challenges” for a fee.
Q: What types of (digital) services are you OFFERING CURRENTLY? Please select as many as apply.
76 of 100 said they were currently offering 1:1 personal training
46 said they are offering live group exercise classes,
41 said they are designing customized “do it yourself” programs
29 said they are posting on-demand videos
19 said they are doing a hybrid model where clients can join a live group class remotely
7 said they are doing time-based “challenges” for free
3 said they are doing time-based “challenges” for a fee.
Q: What type of feedback have you gotten from your clients/members about using your digital services? Please select all that apply.
77 of 100 said that their clients are “enjoying it” overall
64 said some of their clients “prefer live, but are willing to accept it as a temporary solution”
59 said some of their clients prefer it due to health and safety concerns
44 said some of their clients preferred it due to convenience
17 said some of their clients do not like it and will wait until they can return to the live experience
15 said some of their clients do not like it, but will use it as a temporary solution.
Q: What are your biggest BUSINESS challenges with remote/digital service delivery? Please select as many as apply.
“Growing my business” was the challenge sited most often by 58 out of 100,
45 listed “promoting their business” as a main concern
44 indicated “keeping a steady income stream” was a struggle
20 said finding a “time that works” was challenging
19 said pricing their services was a concern.
Q: What are your biggest TECHNICAL challenges with remote/digital service delivery? Please select as many as apply.
57 out of 100 said dealing with clients who aren't tech savvy
57 said bad internet connections
26 said audio issues
24 said login issues
20 said video issues.
Q: What are your biggest PROGRAM DESIGN challenges with remote/digital service delivery? Please select as many as apply.
61 of 100 said it was challenging designing programs with limited equipment
30 said it was challenging to choose exercises/movements that could be done with good form/no tactile cueing.
Several respondents mentioned difficulties with solving for available equipment, particularly in group coaching sessions.
Q: What are your COACHING challenges with remote/digital service delivery? Please select as many as apply.
44 said it was difficult to see their clients form due to camera angles
35 indicated it was difficult to correct form remotely
35 said it was difficult to keep clients engaged/energized
23 said they had concerns about not having music or the music being too low due to licensing concerns.
Q: What type of support/information do you think would help you to deliver fitness services digitally?
Better technology offerings (platforms, lights, mics, software), help with marketing, strategies for growing their business, help with digital session best practices were the top areas where respondents wanted support.
The good news is that despite the learning curve and difficulties, many respondents said that delivering fitness services was working out better than they had hoped offering improvements in work/life balance and providing ancillary revenue streams, “I think it puts us in a better position financially when this is past. We now have another revenue stream for ‘down sells' and people who go on freeze or move away”,
But regardless of how each of us feel about the change, most respondents seem resolved that this new reality is here to stay for the foreseeable future and needs to be embraced. Charles Darwin said famously, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent...it is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
One colleague summed it up this way, “Our industry has probably been as impacted as any and will likely never be as it was before. It's evolutionary -- adapt or perish”.