How Local Studios Can Compete with Peloton

Studio Production

In a previous blog we looked at the top 8 reasons why Peloton rocks!  To summarize:

  1. The overall experience is great and well integrated into a seamless solution.
  2. Peloton has developed a brand with loyalists and evangelists that other home fitness brands can only dream of.
  3. The bike itself is well designed and the huge screen makes workouts more immersive.
  4. The instructors have big personalities that carry riders through the pain of the rides.
  5. The video streaming is high quality and feels almost cinematic.
  6. Peloton is famous for its music, and does themed rides - both live and on-demand - where you can listen to your favorite artist or genre.
  7. The Peloton studio may look simple, but there’s high quality broadcast cameras and a full production team working their magic.
  8. Peloton has a strong community, though it is more focused around their Facebook presence - most riders have little direct interaction with others during rides.

How can local studios compete?

Well, it’s tough, but at Tribe we do believe that local studios have superpowers that can help them compete in the digital Efitness arena.

The first and most obvious thing to say is that you can’t out-Peloton Peloton.  They are huge, have vast resources and have really got Peloton-ing down to a fine art.  Even SoulCycle and Variis will struggle to catch Peloton now - the timing of Covid acted like a booster rocket for Peloton.

Why do people go to local boutique studios?  Typically not just for the equipment - Planet Fitness and others have far more equipment for members starting at just $5 per week for membership at the moment.  Some top reasons:

  1. Social:  Members develop meaningful friendships with other members, I remember a CEO I spoke to describing her daughter’s friends at SoulCycle as her ‘tribe’.
  2. Together:  Even if a member doesn’t have strong friendships at the studio, just being with other people working out is motivating versus being sat at home watching a video.
  3. Instructors:  Members also develop 2 way relationships with the local instructors, not 1 way like a TV news anchor.
  4. Programs:  Instructors put together personalized fitness programs and nutrition plans, which increases member engagement.
  5. Accountability:  Between friends and instructors, there’s a lot more accountability to keep a member engaged in a local studio versus just working out alone at home.

Here are some questions that studios (and other fitness creators) need to ask themselves when thinking about their plans for digital:

  1. Do you see digital as a temporary stopgap to keep members warm during the Covid pandemic, or do you see digital as part of your future for 2021 and onwards?
  2. Is your target audience solely your existing members where you already have relationships, or are you hoping to reach new audiences?
  3. Are you hoping to charge your existing members and/or new audiences for access to this digital content?
  4. What investments are you prepared to make for digital?  These might include studio refits, cameras, audio, music licensing, technology services, headcount, etc.

Between all the free content on YouTube and other sites, and the premium content from Peloton (and Mirror, Tonal, Tempo, Neou, …), there’s plenty of ways for consumers to do guided workout from home.  Realistically, recording Zoom workouts and putting them up on say Vimeo behind a paywall is unlikely to have great success give the options consumers already have.  Very few new contacts will pay for this, and you will likely see attrition of your core members over time.

One more gotcha, things that may work right now will not scale and may not work at all here shortly.  As an example, playing your Spotify playlists over Zoom - the music industry is going to come knocking on Zoom just as it did with YouTube and others (see here).  You don’t want to suddenly have to nuke half of your back catalog of workouts (as Peloton had to) because you get contacted directly by the rights owner, or Vimeo or Zoom get forced to put music rights management tracking on their platforms where your content is hosted.  You might think this is unlikely, but in a previous business I got a letter from Getty Images demanding $3000 because their copyright indexing engine had discovered a blurred photo of a smartphone from their library in one of our marketing PDFs created by a freelance graphic designer (who had found it from Google Image Search, apparently).

Now for the good news - those local studio superpowers, here’s some suggestions:

  1. Community:  This is the number one edge you have over digital pure-play fitness services.  Anything you can do to increase the sense of community - Facebook groups, Zoom happy hours, 2 way video during workouts, hanging out before / after class, it all builds a sense of belonging.
  2. Metrics:  Linked to community, Orange Theory Fitness, Peloton and pretty much every digital fitness service have found that metrics increase engagement.  Whether competing against others or their own personal bests, metrics can offer competition to those who want it and affirmation to everyone else.
  3. Active Curation:  You already do this in the studio, but the ability to create individualized (digital) programs based on conversations about personal fitness goals for each member, it’s a big deal.  Wield the power.
  4. Recognition:  Whether it's shoutouts based on streaks, milestone workouts, calories burned, great form during the workout, position in a leaderboard - recognition is super motivating (see all those 100th ride selfies for Peloton), and even more so when it’s in front of a group of people that the ‘recognize’ cares about.  That endorphin and dopamine cocktail can be intoxicating!  In a good way.

At Tribe, our mission and focus is empowering fitness creators like local studios to deliver the best possible digital experience to their users - both existing members and new contacts.  If you’re a fitness creator, let us help you amplify your superpowers …

Ranessa Santos

Head of Operations
Live. Laugh. Love. (And do yoga!)

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