Tech it to the limit


Wearable tech has been hailed as a major disruptor to the fitness industry in recent years.

Forbes reports that worldwide wearables sales will grow an average of 20% every year, for the next five years, reaching a market size of $29 billion. This is driven by smart watches, with the increase in popularity of fitness trackers also being a key contributor. Devices such as Fitbit, Samsung Gear and Apple Watch allow users to track their progress on a real-time basis.

Huami and Fitbit are the two key players, accounting for 80% of this market, the former leading mainly because of its home country advantage in China.

So how are gyms embracing this opportunity and engaging their customers?

Increased gamification
In a recent study by Mintel, 44% of consumers who currently use or would consider using fitness clubs are interested in virtual reality exercise classes. Devising tasks and games can both entertain gym goers and provide a distraction for those who have a lower propensity to participate in fitness activities. This presents an opportunity to capture spend from both established and under-represented groups within the fitness industry.

Social engagement
In an increasingly social media focused industry, the opportunity to share workouts and engage with both friends and other members of their fitness groups can foster both community orientation and competition. Devices can be used to drive participants to achieve their goals.

Studio enhancement
The introduction of wearable technology into gyms was initially hailed as a USP of premium brands such as Virgin Active. More recently, gyms at both a high and low price point have increased their investment in this sector. Premium gym brand David Lloyd have introduced 'Blaze' studios while low-cost gym group énergie have adopted the same technology, under the guise of 'thé YARD'. Participants wear a heart rate monitor, enabling members to see their relative effort levels on a screen, competing against themselves and others.

The combination of these two industries is a compelling proposition, considering that the UK gym market has grown at a CAGR of greater than 5% in recent years. Those who make the move to boost their use of wearables will not only be rewarded with an opportunity to take a larger share of the market but will also have access to a vast amount of user data, enabling a more tailored experience for their customers.

Tish Hewitt