Consumer culture
Unique challenge

Ken Hughes, expert in consumer culture and human behaviour spoke as part of the Technogym Talks series of webinars about how operators can navigate the new consumer landscape


The coronavirus pandemic, lockdown and aftermath have given human behaviourists new insights into global consumer behaviour,” said Ken Hughes.

“For fitness business owners, this is an important time in your working life because there’s been a lot of disruption and everything has changed quickly.

“If you stand still, you’ll be moving backwards. When everything stops, the winners move into the space. You need to get ready for the next 24 months.”

Predict and prepare
“The captive economy, with consumers in lockdown, is unique,” he said. “It’s global and spans all ages, beliefs, languages and locations.

“You need to appreciate consumers’ concerns and anxieties. Data from YouGov shows only a proportion of people will feel comfortable with the idea of going back to the gym.

“Understand what they want, need, and expect during recovery, and you will thrive,” he said.

Action now
“Consumers are rethinking what is important,” said Hughes – “make sure you’re one of the things they need, rather than one they can do without.
“Devise a strategy and start investing in key stages: the next six weeks, the next six months, and the next two years.

“Understand the strong desire for human connection and you can grow the business more than you ever thought possible. 2021 could be a significant year for your business.”

#1 Attachment

• The current situation offers you a shortcut to building lifelong brand loyalty. When people are scared, sad, and lonely they naturally want to attach themselves to someone or something that offers stability and security.

• Make sure your business is the one they go to for help. That attachment will last far longer than the pandemic.

ACTION POINT: Think about how you can be there for them as a positive influence, give them ways to attach to your brand emotionally as a way to soothe their worries about fitness, health, nutrition and wellness.
#2 Freedom

• Freedom is important to us and has suddenly been taken away for the foreseeable future.

• This overnight loss of freedom and choice has significant emotional and mental ramifications, leaving consumers in a cycle of grief. You need to understand which phase your customers are in.

• Customer experience will be more important than ever, so multiply your efforts by 10. Customers want their freedom back and your brand, business and team need to be that point of human connection, giving them solutions that reinstate freedom and choice.

ACTION POINT: Give customers freedom to book, choose and access services in a way that puts them in control.
#3 Autonomy

• People feel safe when they know what’s going to happen. The pandemic has removed this sense of autonomy. Your customers can’t see what’s coming, and don’t know when it’s going to end.

• Two of their main environments – home and work – have collided, and many are locked in.

• People desperately want to get a sense of control and autonomy back over key areas of life. One of these areas is fitness and health. This gives you a huge opportunity if you get the conversation right.

ACTION POINT: Make customers feel involved, allow them to feel in control, make your services flexible so they can choose.
#4 Community

• Community has always been a key value for health and fitness brands. It’s now time to leverage this to strengthen the retention of existing customers.

• Humans need connection. Your customers are missing people during shutdown. Your gym gave them one of their tribes to belong to.

• You need to reinforce the relationship between your business and your customers, and capture those moments of community and connection.

• During this challenging time, don’t forget to build connections and emotional links.

• People need to feel that they are part of your community.

ACTION POINT: Write a list of things you’ve done to make your community feel special – you urgently need to contribute to community connection and keep this going.
#5 Digital

• Digital has always been a business advantage, and now it will be pure survival. Don’t fear digital. Create a ‘phygital’ business, where the physical and the digital combine to offer consumers what they need.

• Consumers are getting used to having digital experiences. You need to digitise your business to thrive during the pandemic and beyond. The gym and your other physical assets are the core of your business. But have that as the hub, with digital strands.

• The gym is not your product. Customer wellness is and delivering on their wellness is your solution. You need to be active in every part of what they need.

• Digital has destroyed some direct-to-consumer industries. Don’t let that happen to the physical activity sector. Make sure you’re crucial, so consumers can’t bypass you. Consider hiring equipment or sourcing it for customers to buy. Sell nutrition and supplements. Create a community. Give value. Link everything back to your facility.

ACTION POINT: Reshape your business by adding digital assets. Use it to build a community, strong social media, virtual home workouts, personalised online assets and anything else your customers need.
#6 Health

• Health has always been an important value, but the pandemic has skyrocketed it to the top of many people’s lists.

• Many are now interfacing with fitness for the first time, or returning to it because of this new drive. This creates a great opportunity for you to interact with 100 per cent of the population.

• Give advice, present solutions, show them what they need to do.

• When this is over, people will want more opportunities for health and fitness, but some fears and anxieties will remain. People will want to be healthy to protect themselves from illness.

• Start thinking of your business as part of a health solution, offering ways to keep people well and prevent illness. Use this health-based messaging in your communications and social media. People will want to attach themselves to health-focused businesses.

ACTION POINT: Think about how to amplify positive health attitudes and consumers’ need for health in fitness.

Watch the Technogym webinar from futurist Ken Hughes here:
HCMmag.com/KenHughes

The gym is not your product. Delivering on your customers’ wellness is your ‘product’ Credit: Shutterstock/George Rudy
Give your customers freedom to book, choose and access services in a way that puts them in control Credit: Shutterstock/GaudiLab
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2020 issue 5

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Unique challenge

Consumer culture

Unique challenge


Ken Hughes, expert in consumer culture and human behaviour spoke as part of the Technogym Talks series of webinars about how operators can navigate the new consumer landscape

Radical disruption means you need to make a plan to refocus your business now and in the longer term
The gym is not your product. Delivering on your customers’ wellness is your ‘product’ Shutterstock/George Rudy
Give your customers freedom to book, choose and access services in a way that puts them in control Shutterstock/GaudiLab

The coronavirus pandemic, lockdown and aftermath have given human behaviourists new insights into global consumer behaviour,” said Ken Hughes.

“For fitness business owners, this is an important time in your working life because there’s been a lot of disruption and everything has changed quickly.

“If you stand still, you’ll be moving backwards. When everything stops, the winners move into the space. You need to get ready for the next 24 months.”

Predict and prepare
“The captive economy, with consumers in lockdown, is unique,” he said. “It’s global and spans all ages, beliefs, languages and locations.

“You need to appreciate consumers’ concerns and anxieties. Data from YouGov shows only a proportion of people will feel comfortable with the idea of going back to the gym.

“Understand what they want, need, and expect during recovery, and you will thrive,” he said.

Action now
“Consumers are rethinking what is important,” said Hughes – “make sure you’re one of the things they need, rather than one they can do without.
“Devise a strategy and start investing in key stages: the next six weeks, the next six months, and the next two years.

“Understand the strong desire for human connection and you can grow the business more than you ever thought possible. 2021 could be a significant year for your business.”

#1 Attachment

• The current situation offers you a shortcut to building lifelong brand loyalty. When people are scared, sad, and lonely they naturally want to attach themselves to someone or something that offers stability and security.

• Make sure your business is the one they go to for help. That attachment will last far longer than the pandemic.

ACTION POINT: Think about how you can be there for them as a positive influence, give them ways to attach to your brand emotionally as a way to soothe their worries about fitness, health, nutrition and wellness.
#2 Freedom

• Freedom is important to us and has suddenly been taken away for the foreseeable future.

• This overnight loss of freedom and choice has significant emotional and mental ramifications, leaving consumers in a cycle of grief. You need to understand which phase your customers are in.

• Customer experience will be more important than ever, so multiply your efforts by 10. Customers want their freedom back and your brand, business and team need to be that point of human connection, giving them solutions that reinstate freedom and choice.

ACTION POINT: Give customers freedom to book, choose and access services in a way that puts them in control.
#3 Autonomy

• People feel safe when they know what’s going to happen. The pandemic has removed this sense of autonomy. Your customers can’t see what’s coming, and don’t know when it’s going to end.

• Two of their main environments – home and work – have collided, and many are locked in.

• People desperately want to get a sense of control and autonomy back over key areas of life. One of these areas is fitness and health. This gives you a huge opportunity if you get the conversation right.

ACTION POINT: Make customers feel involved, allow them to feel in control, make your services flexible so they can choose.
#4 Community

• Community has always been a key value for health and fitness brands. It’s now time to leverage this to strengthen the retention of existing customers.

• Humans need connection. Your customers are missing people during shutdown. Your gym gave them one of their tribes to belong to.

• You need to reinforce the relationship between your business and your customers, and capture those moments of community and connection.

• During this challenging time, don’t forget to build connections and emotional links.

• People need to feel that they are part of your community.

ACTION POINT: Write a list of things you’ve done to make your community feel special – you urgently need to contribute to community connection and keep this going.
#5 Digital

• Digital has always been a business advantage, and now it will be pure survival. Don’t fear digital. Create a ‘phygital’ business, where the physical and the digital combine to offer consumers what they need.

• Consumers are getting used to having digital experiences. You need to digitise your business to thrive during the pandemic and beyond. The gym and your other physical assets are the core of your business. But have that as the hub, with digital strands.

• The gym is not your product. Customer wellness is and delivering on their wellness is your solution. You need to be active in every part of what they need.

• Digital has destroyed some direct-to-consumer industries. Don’t let that happen to the physical activity sector. Make sure you’re crucial, so consumers can’t bypass you. Consider hiring equipment or sourcing it for customers to buy. Sell nutrition and supplements. Create a community. Give value. Link everything back to your facility.

ACTION POINT: Reshape your business by adding digital assets. Use it to build a community, strong social media, virtual home workouts, personalised online assets and anything else your customers need.
#6 Health

• Health has always been an important value, but the pandemic has skyrocketed it to the top of many people’s lists.

• Many are now interfacing with fitness for the first time, or returning to it because of this new drive. This creates a great opportunity for you to interact with 100 per cent of the population.

• Give advice, present solutions, show them what they need to do.

• When this is over, people will want more opportunities for health and fitness, but some fears and anxieties will remain. People will want to be healthy to protect themselves from illness.

• Start thinking of your business as part of a health solution, offering ways to keep people well and prevent illness. Use this health-based messaging in your communications and social media. People will want to attach themselves to health-focused businesses.

ACTION POINT: Think about how to amplify positive health attitudes and consumers’ need for health in fitness.

Watch the Technogym webinar from futurist Ken Hughes here:
HCMmag.com/KenHughes


Originally published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 5

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