LONDON, United Kingdom — Fiit, the UK’s number-one-rated digital fitness app, has undoubtedly been one of the sector’s big winners under COVID-enforced lockdown.
The London-based fit-tech company has expanded its reach into the corporate wellness sector to capitalise on employees working from home, welcomed swathes of regular gym-goers from the likes of Barry’s and Digme Fitness when those studios were forced to close and has reportedly grown its subscribers by over 1,663% since March.
Now Fiit has announced a new feature to tighten its grip on the digital fitness sector: on-demand group classes that will enable users to schedule private group workouts so they can exercise with a select group of friends.
The new feature is further evidence of how digital fitness brands are innovating to stay ahead of growing online competition and, according to Fiit co-founder Ian McCaig, cater for a specific type of “new digital fitness consumer” that has emerged since lockdown shook up the industry five months ago.
“During lockdown, we experienced an exponential rise in demand for live leaderboard HIIT classes as members looked to train together and feel part of a community,” McCaig explained. “So private group classes, where users can invite friends to train with them, felt like a natural next step.
“We were also aware that with people having less access to group classes at their local fitness studios, a feature like Group Classes on Fiit was critical to help people stay connected with friends and family.”
“Significant rise in signups under lockdown”
Competition in the digital fitness sector is also driving the development of new features, as gyms have shut and some consumers have been restricted to exercising within the four walls of their homes.
It has led to hockey-stick growth for several at-home workout platforms, including startup obé Fitness, and ballooned the value of others, including connected home fitness system Tempo.
At the end of July, San Francisco-based Tempo, which uses 3D sensors and A.I. to analyse motion and provide real-time rep counting, announced $60m in new funding – the largest Series B of any smart fitness company to date.
With competition hotting up in the at-home fitness sector, Fiit has also teamed up with wellness aggregators including Gympass, Hussle and MoveGB in recent months, which McCaig said has contributed to a significant rise in signups and activity.
“Throughout lockdown there was a significant rise in signups and overall activity on the Fiit app, subscriber growth is up by over 1,663% and the average Fiit user is now taking 3.5 classes per week,” McCaig told Welltodo.
“As lockdown restrictions begin to ease our numbers have remained consistently high, and we’ve also seen a shift in our customer base, which reflects the new digital fitness consumer.
“There has been a x3 increase in male users and x3 more intermediate to advanced users sign up to the app as lockdown introduced regular gym-goers to fitness apps, as they looked for new ways to stay fit and healthy without the availability of a gym.”
“Seismic shift in corporate wellness”
In launching on the corporate wellness platform Gympass, Fiit is also betting that companies will be looking for digital fitness solutions to cater for a workforce that has embraced working from home and is in no hurry to return to their city-centre offices.
“Corporate wellness is going to go through a seismic shift over the next few years as many companies reflect on the future workplace and how working from home and remote working will become a bigger part of their strategy,” says McCaig.
A recent YouGov and YuLife survey on attitudes to health and wellbeing in the workplace supports this. Of 2,080 adults in the UK surveyed, 87% of employees stated they are more likely to stay with an employer if they demonstrate a commitment to their wellbeing.
“Being able to offer remote fitness solutions that can be enjoyed from wherever you are, instead of a singular gym convenient to an office, is going to be key,” McCaig adds.
“Our group classes are a great feature for companies, as private group classes provide an excellent forum to safely connect with one another and drive employee engagement.”
The survey also found 28% of people have purchased or downloaded a wellness app in the last three months, rising to 39% among 25-34 year-olds, reflecting how Fiit and other digital fitness platforms are well-positioned to capitalise.
“The ‘new normal’ way of working out”
Like Fiit, Gympass has also welcomed a flood of new users and partners since lockdown began in the UK in March. “Prior to COVID, our core model gave our members access to 2,000+ gyms and studios, including DW Fitness First, Bannatyne and Frame,” explained Luke Bullen, Gympass CEO for UK and Ireland.
“That’s continued to grow with the recent addition of our digital wellness and fitness partners. We now partner with over 50 wellness apps, including 1-1 therapy, nutrition, financial wellbeing, meditation and mental wellbeing, hundreds of online fitness providers and a growing number of personal trainers, all of whom are new to Gympass since lockdown started.”
Now, even though restrictions are starting to be lifted, Bullen expects digital brands will continue to prosper as both employers and employees recognise the potential of online fitness and wellness solutions.
“There is no doubt the digital fitness brands have come into their own, becoming the ‘new normal’ way of working out,” Bullen says.
“Platforms like Gympass, which are already embedded into corporate wellness programmes, are introducing more people to these digital brands as all our members who can’t use a physical facility are actively seeking an online alternative.”
While the new digital fitness consumer appears to be spoilt for choice, Bullen warns this could also present risks and challenges that will need to be managed as online workouts become increasingly commonplace.
“The sheer volume and choice of apps coming onto the market could be overwhelming for consumers,” says Bullen. “Some of the lower quality programmes could lead to people getting injured or not having the expert guidance they may need. As operators and PTs jump on the online bandwagon, we need to ensure they are keeping standards as high as when delivering services in-person.
“We have chosen our on-line partners very carefully to safeguard our corporate customers and the industry needs to keep on top of standards, appropriate qualifications and insurance as those previously operating off-line cross over into digital services.”
Now that gyms are beginning to reopen in the UK, we can expect market-leading digital fitness companies such as Fiit will continue innovating to drive the sector forward and retain the new users they acquired from shuttered boutiques.