The Digital Fitness Platforms Cultivating Community & Connection Amid COVID

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  • NYC startup FitGrid has launched a new social fitness platform it hopes will help bolster the fitness industry in the wake of COVID-19 
  • FitGrid helped studios retain more than half of their members, on average, in the wake of the virus, the company has reported 
  • Digital wellness companies that were in pole position to capitalise from the shift to digital, such as Peloton, Echelon, Freeletics and Fiit, have thrived since the virus struck
  • Freeletics report doubling its paying users in 2020, while closing a $25 million Series B funding round last month 

NEW YORK CITY, United States — FitGrid, the NYC startup that has enabled millions of virtual studio visits during lockdown, has announced a new social fitness platform, the FitGrid Class App that it hopes will help bolster the fitness industry in the wake of COVID-19. 

The new platform has been designed to deepen the connection between studio members, instructors and owners, and act as an exercise class marketplace for studios such as F45, The Daily Method, D1, Spenga and Kaia FIT to engage with existing clients and reach new members. 

The app launch follows the success FitGrid witnessed when rolling out new initiatives, including FitGrid LIVE, to support its studios partners when the pandemic first hit at the start of the year. 

“FitGrid helped studios retain more than half of their members, on average, in the wake of COVID-19,” the company said, adding that since implementing FitGrid LIVE, The Daily Method has seen its class sizes triple and its retention rate reach 70%. 

A release from FitGrid detailing the launch said: “FitGrid’s Class App curates the best live-stream and in-person classes from real fitness studios around the world. 

“Plus it provides the human-to-human connection between classmates and instructors that is so often lacking these days. By recreating a studios’ authentic communities online, FitGrid brings the world of fitness together.” 

FitGrid, which reportedly supports thousands of studios across six continents, aims to restore the personal connection between members and instructors that it says is often missing in virtual fitness and that has been exacerbated by lockdowns due to the virus.

With FitGrid, users can connect and message classmates, discover their friends’ favourite workouts, and also alert instructors of pains or injuries, share photos and set goals so instructors can tailor classes to their individual needs. 

Survival of the fittest
In this era of uncertainty, recreating a sense of community and connectivity between members and coaches online has been essential for the survival of many fitness brands around the world. 

Digital wellness companies that were in pole position to capitalise from the shift to digital, such as Peloton, Echelon, Freeletics and Fiit, have thrived. 

Now they are setting the example which traditional bricks and mortar facilities are trying to emulate by using software-as-a-service platforms such as FitGrid. 

Read More: Lou Lentine, CEO of Echelon Fitness On: The Connected Fitness Revolution 

“Community has always been the holy grail of fitness,” Nt Etuk, Founder and CEO of FitGrid, told Welltodo. 

“Now it is more important than ever before. Pre-COVID first-time clients were returning at a 40% rate. During COVID, first-time clients returned at a 50% rate. That’s a 25% jump in retention, according to our studio data. 

“That’s a huge jump in loyalty that we attribute to their members’ desire to be more deeply connected with their ‘fit fam’. FitGrid is connecting everyone – the studios, the staff, the instructors and classmates – in one space. 

“By bringing these sticky, authentic communities together digitally, we’ve created a virtual experience unlike anything in the marketplace today.” 

Etuk believes nurturing this connection will only become more crucial for member loyalty, retention and acquisition as we emerge from this pandemic.

He explained: “Consumers today seek a connection, a memory, and an opportunity for meaningful interactions, in addition to an awesome workout. A studio’s success is no longer determined just by the workouts it offers, but also by its atmosphere, its camaraderie, and its customer service. 

“Even as restrictions from COVID are beginning to lift in some areas, we know that a lot of people don’t plan to go back to their studios or gyms for a long time. FitGrid helped studios retain more than half of their members, on average, in the wake of COVID-19, and with the launch of Class App, we expect that number to rise.” 

Create brand evangelists
Fostering community between members in the digital space, in the real world and on social media channels has been a key part of the success of Germany-based workout app Freeletics. 

“We have the engaged community we have today because it was a focus for us from day one,” Sandra Fenyo, Head of Brand & Creative at Freeletics told Welltodo, describing how the Freeletics concept was tested in the parks of Munich with locals, who quickly became part of its community. 

The German company scaled this interest through local Facebook groups which began to spread through Europe. 

“To help engage and scale a global community, we introduced our ambassador program in 2015,” Fenyo explained. Today, the program boasts 62 ambassadors in 22 countries. 

“We hand-pick users who share and live our vision and mission and are the perfect people to represent us to their local communities. 

“They became our brand evangelists. Their work also bridges the online and offline, as they engage the community on their own digital platforms while encouraging users to come together for offline group workouts they lead all over the world.” 

And, this sense of community has only strengthened since the pandemic hit. 

“We really focused on creating more informative and valuable content to support both existing users and newcomers, including challenges and new exercise tutorials in the app, but also live workouts on social media with real people, accessible to anyone who wanted to join,” commented Fenyo. 

The Digital Fitness Platforms Cultivating Community & Connection Amid COVID

Image: FitGrid

Community driving Freeletics to “fantastic milestone”
Since January, Freeletics’ user base has grown by 11 million to over 51 million and daily active users has tripled compared with 2019, revealed Fenyo. 

The most important thing you can do as a brand trying to cultivate togetherness among users, Fenyo said, is to create a platform where your community can interact and share freely in a place where they feel welcomed and safe.

But she wouldn’t advise trying to guide the conversation.

“Make sure you are available for support and information if needed but let your community talk about what’s important to them. Give your users the freedom to interact organically. Let your community be itself, have fun and feel safe and it will thrive.” 

Freeletics has also reported doubling its paying users in 2020 while closing a $25 million Series B funding round last month – “a fantastic milestone for the company,” said Fenyo. 

Powered by this funding, Freeletics plans to release new workout experiences later this year, including an AI coach algorithm that can create up to 2 million personalised workouts per user. 

“We’ll also be exploring and building new business verticals over the next months and years and further expanding our global footprint in new markets,” added Fenyo. “It’s going to be a busy but very exciting time.” 

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