In 2015, consumers will continue to bring expectations shaped in the online world into their real-life encounters with health and fitness club operators. That means endless choice, flexible and personalised memberships, instant on-demand access and much more. And of course, these expectations come in addition to the changes that are already occurring in other sectors. One certainty? That brands willing to adapt and innovate will be the ones that stand out.
These six actionable consumer trends, presented in no particular order, represent some key emerging expectations that should be on your radar for 2015 – alongside the bigger macro trends such as the Quantified Self, healthy living and an ageing population that we’re sure you’re already tracking...
New digital social connectors (think matchmaking mobile app Tinder!) have irrevocably altered the way consumers interact with each other. In 2015, they will utilise the new instant, liquid connectivity enabled by a host of apps and wearables to connect with mentors who can help them achieve their goals.
This new mentor-to-protégé (M2P) economy offers instant encounters, making it easier than ever before for consumers to locate the perfect mentor for any self-improvement quest. This trend is less about data and more about direct, often face-to-face human guidance, and the increased accountability that facilitates.
Of course, the possibilities for health and fitness brands within this trend are almost limitless. For example, US-based app Rise connects users to a nutrition coach who provides a customised eating plan based on a shared photo diary. Similarly GOQii – a wearable fitness device that allows users direct access to personal trainers. Data collected by the wristband is shared with a qualified trainer, who analyses it to provide personalised workout plans.
Currencies of change
Consumers keen to improve their health or lifestyle – or who are at least aware of the need to – are often hindered by a combination of high costs (perceived or real), inertia and inconvenience. Fitness brands are particularly well placed to help these consumers help themselves with traditional incentives (think discounts and deals) that reward customers for meeting their goals. The ‘currencies of change’ trend has the potential to delight twice over – the joy of saving (or possibly even making) money and the thrill of getting one step closer to personal goals.
Some brands that are already incentivising better behaviour include Boston-based Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, whose EatRight Rewards programme encourages healthy eating by offering cash to customers purchasing fruit and vegetables at partner supermarkets. Meanwhile Fitmob is an online community where the price of fitness classes decreases the more members work out.
The pursuit of health and fitness is intrinsically linked to status: think training updates on Facebook and countless gamified fitness platforms full of consumers competing to outdo one another.
Another form of status-seeking that will rise to greater prominence in 2015 will be loud, sometimes even theatrical allegiance to a brand or lifestyle choice.
Not convinced? In August 2014, Reebok challenged Tough Viking fitness participants to get a permanent Reebok tattoo at an on-event tattoo parlour. Ten participants were inked and Camilla Nilsson, who committed to the largest motif, was rewarded with a year-long sponsorship package.
So think about how you could convert fans into fanatics with challenges or demands that require commitment and effort. This isn’t a trend for everyone, but the fanatics to whom it does appeal will welcome the opportunity to interact with their favourite brand with open arms.
Big data is the business buzzword that almost got away, but in 2015, health and fitness brands are well placed to actually use it for consumers’ benefit. How? Preoccupied with the now, many consumers feel disconnected from their future self, but research suggests that individuals presented with digitally aged photos of themselves are more likely to make decisions with long-term benefits (Stanford and Microsoft, 2013). Information and data provided by wearables and fitness trackers can be used to provide future-self projections, offering insight into the long-term effects of current ‘bad’ behaviour.
The Kickstarter-funded Tikker watch displays the wearer’s life expectancy based on a simple medical survey. The countdown is displayed alongside a regular digital clock. It doesn’t have to be so morbid though: Aros is a smart air conditioning system developed in the US. The unit syncs with a smartphone app, allowing user to track how often the device is used and the potential cost implications.
Clearly the ‘projected self’ trend has far reaching implications for customers who are trying to live healthier or eat better: consider using personal data to remind and motivate consumers, show them the potential impact of the changes they could make, or aid performance reviews and set personal targets.
As seasonal, time-limited and often gimmicky branded spaces (yes, we’re talking about pop-ups!) become ubiquitous, functioning as little more than local white noise, consumer expectations of brands’ participation and commitment to their local area grows. Increasingly, consumers are looking for brands to make a real commitment to their community, to provide meaningful and lasting enhancement.
For example, Australian health insurer Medibank opened a play space after a survey revealed that 60 per cent of local children played outside for just one hour a day or less. Meanwhile, in a favela in Brazil, Shell renovated a run-down community football pitch; the new centre includes special under-pitch tiles that capture players’ movement, converting the human energy into renewable electricity for floodlights.
How could health clubs and fitness brands tap into this trend in 2015? Understand the lives and concerns of those in your chosen area and serve their needs, or build a lasting space around the needs of a tribe that dominates in your locale.
Conventional wisdom has it that consumers love information and connection, and it’s unlikely that this desire will ever completely dissipate.
However, the more complex truth is that consumers are starting to fall out of love with their smartphones, and are instead seeking intuitive and efficient off-screen information delivery channels that provide greater context. In short: they want to share what they feel, not just what they know.
Nike was quick to capitalise on this desire. In February 2014, the brand added a ‘Cheer Me On’ feature to its running app, allowing runners to sync their run to social media channels and, every time a friend liked or commented, hear a stadium crowd cheering. Other human signals can be used to manage stress: Olive is a wearable bracelet that tracks metrics including heartbeat and skin temperature and, when it detects rising stress levels, uses haptic feedback to prompt breathing exercises.
The key takeaway? Think about how you can incorporate a human touch into the wearables, apps, trackers and smart devices that will inevitably crowd the fitness market in 2015.
Of course, this is just a snapshot of some of the trends that will play out across the consumer arena in 2015. They will grow and evolve as consumers continue to find new ways to meet ever-changing expectations, and that will impact everything from connection to self-improvement and status.
Amid all this change, the most important thing to remember? Without application, trends remain ‘nice to know’ ideas – and that’s not enough. So think about how you can adapt, absorb, generate and apply these trends – and your own. Your consumers will thank (and reward) you for it.