Time for a new strategy for fitness? SIBEC Europe 2015

By 2016 every high street bank, most heritage brands, boring but essential service providers and probably your organisation will have established internal or external ‘disruption’ teams with the sole purpose of looking at how new technology can change the face of delivery while improving the consumer experience.

Innovation and differentiation is key to all businesses and fitness is no different.

Weight Watchers, (WW) is a good example of how quickly new technology can destroy the value of a company. In 2015 its stock dropped 92% from its all-time high, membership is down 38% and the number of meetings has fallen by 20%. The company is struggling to keep up as dieting tools have gone high tech. Dieters can now count calories with smartphone apps, calorie controlled food and snacks can get delivered every day and YouTube has free guidance and advice when you want to watch. So the weekly WW meeting and weigh-in has been replaced by on demand conversation and support.

Could the value of the fitness industry be affected by new technology so quickly?

Transport for London, (TfL) is one of many transport companies who have embraced new technology. TfL have over 5,000 developers registered on their open data platform with access to around 30 APIs, an abbreviation of application program interface. This is a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. From these APIs developers have crowdsourced money and created hundreds of transport applications which reach millions of people every week.

Is there one public fitness API for developers to use?

Around twenty new aggregators, high tech start-ups from UK, India, Israel and USA are working around the lack of APIs and are developing a business plan which bypasses the industry and its providers and goes direct to the consumer. These aggregators will have a conversation with the consumer, will provide a personalised service and will create an experience for them. ClassPass, now available in London, in 2015, completed Series B funding round of $40m for expansion. Bloggers like husband and wife team Daniel and Kelli on Fitness Blender have over 18 million followers and like Wikipedia rely on donations. Both have attracted criticism for undercutting the industry but like Uber and Airbnb the power lies with the consumer.

Meanwhile the fashion and toy industry have been caught off guard by the phenomenon of unboxing channels; Funtoys Collector, for example, had 517 million views last month while the most (previously) anonymous, richest and most powerful woman is on DisneyCollectorBR, with billions of views and consistently at the top of YouTube performance charts.

Will the fitness industry find some magic in unboxing too?

In June 2012 Barack Obama directed all Federal Agencies to have APIs to improve their delivery of services and the customer experience. In 2016 should the industry issue a similar directive? It means we will have to become more transparent but that’s no bad thing. To paraphrase Joe Biden, our competitors are not our enemies, they are our opposition and for the sake of the industry we have to work together.

After the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta where the Great Britain team finished 36th in the medal table behind North Korea, Algeria and Ethiopia something had to be done. Fast forward to 2012 and GB as the host nation finished 3rd in the medal table. UK Sport in twenty years achieved its mission to provide investment and deliver world class sporting success. In 2016 we need a new organisation fighting for and concentrating on the fitness industry. If we don’t, then aggregators, bloggers, unboxing channels, trackers, wearables and an app for everything will win over the consumer. Food for thought whilst in Spain?

Enjoy SIBEC, David Minton