Connected fitness has been a major upgrade to at-home fitness over the past decade, moving from DVDs and video streaming with zero interactivity to video streaming with leaderboards and some coach shoutouts.
From a business unit economics perspective (making money), there’s a lot to like about preserving the mass audience model (like DVDs) and augmenting it with gamification at a software platform level (not requiring coach intervention). Peloton can have 20,000 people take a class, spreading the studio and coach costs over a vast audience. Members get the flexibility of on-demand - taking the class whenever they want. But is it “sticky” enough?
The heart of boutique fitness has always been community and accountability, outsourcing motivation to the coach and your friends around you in the class. In contrast, the first wave of at-home connected fitness was really a single player mode. Participants have almost or precisely zero interaction with coaches, as well as very limited interaction with other participants in the class - not really the “spirit of boutique” at home.
But this impersonal single player experience for at-home fitness has begun to change:
- Mirror launched one-on-one personal training via the mirror (video chat) in October 2019, starting at $40 per session. Around November 2020, Mirror also announced its “Face Off” feature, in which two live class participants could go head to head in a direct competition for a segment of the class, and the feature went live in Q1,21. Regular Mirror live classes also tend to have more coach feedback to members than Peloton spin classes, as Mirror does use the on-device camera to allow coaches to see members.
- Hydrow had personal training (again, video chat) in rowing as early as June 2021, and in March 2022 they added a personal training session as a complimentary benefit during onboarding for all new members.
- Tempo added one-on-one personal training last month in July 2022, making it part of their standard on-boarding and increasing the monthly membership price from $39 to $59 per month to cover it. This is kind of a massive change for them.
- Forme also added one-on-one person training last month (July 2022), starting at $449 per month for four 60 minute sessions - Forme is really focused on the premium market segment. Forme has been direct hiring personal trainers to conduct these sessions on their platform.
- In a widely cited interview in February 2022, the new CEO at Peloton Barry McCarthy commented that: “Today, [Peloton] it’s a closed platform — but it could be an open platform and part of the creator economy. What other apps would you put on it? Could it be running an app store?” If Peloton does open its hardware to the creator economy, that has to hint at smaller class sizes and potentially even personal training to match other connected fitness platforms. This month Barry went on record in a Bloomberg interview to add that they also want to decouple their content experience from Peloton’s hardware in an attempt to grow the subscriber base.
There are also startups that focused on virtual personal training services from the get go, like Future, which has coupled data from Apple Watches with personal trainers and seen significant growth.
This human-intensive personalized interaction has to lead lower gross profit per customer, as the delivery cost of a PT session per customer has to be way higher than just streaming a video. So why the change? Well, it turns out that many people do struggle with motivation in fitness without community and accountability - getting stronger, slimmer, fitter … it’s work. This is just as true in at-home workouts as it is in the gym.
If you’re a local studio, gym or coach, why should this be reassuring for you?
For most people, single player workouts from home are not long-term sustainable or as rewarding as working out together. In a survey last year, Les Mills found that two thirds of gym members prefer working out together versus working out alone, and the coach relationship was the single most important factor in choosing a class.
Relationships matter, and the strongest relationships are built face to face. Whether in a virtual small group class or a one on one session, your members who know you face to face will have more engaged at-home workouts with you than they will with anyone else.
This is why at Tribe, we’re betting big on making local fitness successful online. With the right platform and tools, you as a local boutique or coach can deliver the most engaging online classes to your members.