Multi-Channel, Omnichannel, Hybrid – What do they Mean?

Digital Fitness

“Digital”, “virtual”, “online”, “connected” – there are so many adjectives bouncing around “fitness” right now.  But when words mean different things to different people, everyone can end up talking past each other.  A great example of this would be “virtual” - many local studios use virtual for Zoom classes, but Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Supernatural (the virtual reality fitness game) would use the same word in a very different context.

“Omnichannel” in the context of fitness also means different things – it is often also used interchangeably with “hybrid”. Our CEO, Justin, was talking with Julian from Boutique Fitness Solutions recently in the run up to their annual Summit in NYC this April, and they talked a bit about these definitions.

Multi-Channel

Multi-channel equates to when people receive your services or products through multiple different channels, but the experience isn’t integrated. The term originated in commerce, in practical terms it  means that Kate walks into your retail store and buys a pair of shoes, however Claire buys them through your website.

In a fitness context, you would have a Pilates studio physically located in Austin. You also have a library of on-demand and scheduled live classes, in which you’ve made available to your virtual members. Your virtual offering is not related to your physical classes, your in-studio & virtual members could be the same person, but they don’t have to be.

Multi-channel makes sense for customers who aren’t close to your physical studio – those who are too far away to make it through your door.
Most fitness businesses jumped into Zoom when COVID-19 hit, and for a while they were regarded as a single channel.  Now that people are going back, there’s a very loose integration between the in-studio and at-home classes, and almost no integration for on-demand.

Omnichannel

In omnichannel, which again originated from commerce, the same person can buy your products through multiple channels, but this time  the experience is integrated.  For example, Kate buys shoes in the store and then decides after she gets home to buy a matching bag from your online store – both appear in her order history, plus she gets loyalty points for both purchases.

In a fitness context, this translates to members that enjoy a single experience across different channels. Say your studio holds a fitness challenge for the month, where you have an overall scoreboard to keep track of all your members’ activities. Now, your members have the option to attend in-person, on-demand, or live classes, all of which contributes to their overall score. Your coaches get to give your members encouragement for having attended x amount of on-demand classes the next time they visit an in-studio class. It’s about your members having that same community connection within your studio and the feeling that they are not missing out on anything across all channels.

Right now, most larger fitness businesses are trying to figure out what omnichannel means – how to provide a single member experience that is consistent across both in-studio and at-home.

Hybrid

When people think hybrid they probably think more about cars than shopping, but in a hybrid fitness class, we at Tribe use the term interchangeably between people in the studio and at home taking the same class at the same time.

You may not prefer this. For example, both Orangetheory and Barry’s have separate purely digital classes and in-person classes. It can also be technically challenging, if you have a dark spin studio for ambience - most cameras struggle to get a good picture (although there are cameras that are getting better at this).

The allure of hybrid is really twofold:

It can make it easier for members to take classes from home with their friends and the coach they know (versus separate purely digital coaches).
It doesn’t require you to have the operating costs of creating purely digital classes entirely – digital can be an add-on to your existing cost base from an OPEX perspective.

If you are still on the fence about what channel would work best for your fitness studio and what are the options out there to help you achieve your goal, check out this blog about hosting online workouts here.

Justin Marston

CEO
Thinker, writer, innovator, runner, Star Wars fan

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