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Claire Evans is a specialist in brand and marketing, with a career that has spanned a variety of industries, working both agency and client-side. In her current role at SweatWorks – a digital wellness agency that works with brands to deliver experiences to drive engagement and inspire brand loyalty – Claire has managed to combine her passion for health and fitness with marketing. 

Here, Claire shares her insightful and constructive thoughts on the marketing challenges in the fitness industry today.

“As we continue to recover post-COVID, the main real-time marketing challenge for operators over the next 12-months is going to be managing member expectations; this will be critical. The consumer has evolved. They’ve experienced a period in which everything from their food to their job became digitalised and adopted new behaviours and habits, which we know are here to stay. We need to meet these adapted consumer needs.

Members expect information, feedback and continuous communication that is timely and relevant, so operators need to become aware of the digital systems available to them and how best to integrate them.

Assess what the current digital landscape looks like – have you been utilising free available platforms, which are now inflexible and restrictive? Look at your digital infrastructure and understand what technology you have access to. How can you adapt it for your members’ needs?

Despite the industry’s digital overhaul, I believe ‘bricks and mortar’ gyms are more relevant than ever. They provide so much more than a place to exercise; creating communities and safe places for those less experienced to feel supported in their fitness journey. Is their relevance under threat from new consumer trends? I don’t think so.

Gyms will only be threatened if they focus too much on emulating what online players are doing. Your focus should be the member.

The ability to engage face-to-face, to explain a move, provide support and feel the energy of fellow members is a thrill that digital platforms struggle to create.

Facilities must, however, focus on how they engage members outside of their environment to create a seamless, branded omnichannel experience, leveraging digital partners to fully engage with their consumer, wherever they may be.

The evolution of marketing from print to digital has happened exceptionally quickly and been hugely profitable for many companies – the ability to access customer information, target them for their specific needs, provide the perfect marketing message and then track clicks, shares, engagement and ultimately ROI is a marketeer’s dream. But it has created a backdrop of data overload where we don’t see the person behind the number.

In the rush to progress the digital journey, the human element has often been left behind. I have been fortunate enough to work as a personal trainer and carried out many health assessments. These were, at times, intense but deeply fulfilling for the understanding they gave me – what it means to the individual who I am communicating a marketing message to. Never forget the member is a person not a stat.

The last 18 months have been a huge accelerator for much-needed innovation in the fitness sector. The industry is now at a critical point whereby it can leverage this movement to engage the people on the ground.

We must take the overload of information, the statistics and the scaremongering, and use them to create a place that’s about so much more than exercise, making it relevant to their personal journey.

Flexibility will be key; being agile to the needs of the individual. Flexibility with payments and contracts, and with each member’s own journey; it’s what consumers now expect. I’m contacted almost every other day by my coach from my local gym, I get a weekly newsletter with updates, challenges and dates for social get togethers. This is now the expectation.

Lastly, never forget data is king! In every way. How you collect it, how you store it and how you use it. This is only going to become more important as we move towards the Internet of Things (IOT); the storage and use of data by brands and notably those who have access to health and medical information is vital. Reviewing how you plan to use your data, not now but over the next 10 years, should inform how you deliver your marketing strategy.

I count myself extremely lucky to have been involved with some of the fastest-growing brands in our sector, both as a supplier and operator. My role has always centred on Customer Experience (CX), strategy and innovation. One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic should have inspired in us all is a thirst for innovation and a desire to identify better solutions for growing our businesses.”

Claire Evans, SweatWorks