23 May 2019 Leisure Handbook

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Leisure Handbook - Ahead of the curve


Ahead of the curve

What are the key consumer trends for health club operators to latch onto in 2014?

QR codes link to videos that show members how to use functional zones
New York-based Manicube offers in-office, 15-minute manicures for US$15 Photo: © PZAXE/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
New York-based Manicube offers in-office, 15-minute manicures for US$15
British Airways aims to tailor the in-flight experience to each individual customer Photo: © EDHAR/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Nike+ Kinect tracks users’ movements via sensors as they follow a virtual fitness coach

Forget information overload: consumers can’t get enough timely, useful information. They’re taking advantage of smartphone-associated technologies such as QR codes and augmented reality to access real-time information about their surroundings. And with 56 per cent of UK consumers owning a smartphone, exploiting this trend will be a must for many businesses in 2014.

The potential applications of ‘point and know’ in the fitness industry are (almost) endless. Take just one example: San Diego County Parks and Recreation in the US has opened a new ‘QR Code Fit Trail’ system at its 4S Ranch Sports Park. Consumers simply scan a QR code on the Fit Trail and get free videos with guided exercises from a certified fitness instructor.

Rising numbers of consumers are turning to games to unlock new mindsets and drive new behaviours, as well as overcome obstacles and challenges.

Fierce competitiveness will not appeal to all, or even most, consumers – for some, it’s only about playing against themselves to get healthier, happier, more ethical or more fulfilled. However, fitness and the ‘gameprovement’ trend are natural partners. Fitocracy (www.fitocracy.com) is a good example of this – an online network that turns fitness into a game. Users can connect with others by joining workout groups with pre-defined goals – weight loss, for example – and compete against friends to earn points and reach goals. In addition, the site will set users quests to complete, and award badges for milestones reached.

Expect ‘gameprovement’ to spread and evolve throughout 2013.

With so many experiences on offer, consumers have never been more saturated by choice when it comes to finding ways to spend their time. For many in 2013, the response will be variety, speed and intensity, as single experiences are replaced by multiple, mix-and-matched experiences that provide sensory, information or indulgence overload.

Expect to see more brands and businesses applying this trend in the year ahead. Take Manicube, for example (http://manicube.com). Launched in New York in 2012, Manicube is a company that offers 15-minute in-office manicures. For US$15, customers can enjoy a prep, polish and dry, with Manicube offering iPads to entertain clients while they wait.

It shouldn’t be too hard to think of a few ways to offer ‘maximised moments’ in your organisation too.

Self-measurement and analysis of personal metrics has fundamentally changed the way early adopters relate to their physical and mental selves, with ongoing implications for the fitness industry.

In 2014, mainstream consumers will also take notice, as the ‘quantification’ trend pushes further away from its hard-science roots and towards a culture of wellness and lifestyle control. Expect, also, an increased focus on elegant and useful visualisations of personal health data.

Notch (http://notch.me), for example, is a website that takes a user’s data from the personal tracking devices Fitbit and Runkeeper and turns it into personalised infographics. Membership of the site is free: users just have to connect their Fitbit or Runkeeper accounts when they join. Notch then generates images and fun facts for users, such as ‘Last month you walked the length of the Panama Canal!’ Users can share infographics via social media.

Any consumer-facing organisation knows that consumers are more demanding, time-starved, informed and choice-saturated than ever before. No wonder brand loyalty is low. In fact, in a survey of consumers across 32 countries, just 28 per cent rated brand as a purchasing driver (Ernst & Young, March 2012).

That’s why brands are increasingly having to go beyond great customer service, turning themselves into lifestyle servants focused on catering to the needs, desires and whims of customers, wherever they are and whenever they demand it.

There are many ways to turn ‘servile’, from letting consumers try everything before they buy to saving them time, money and stress across all aspects of life, not just during their interactions with you.

One example: last year, IKEA put up 2,000 ‘posters’, which were actually flat-packed cardboard moving boxes, around Montreal on 1 July – the day many property leases expire. The boxes were printed with slogans that encouraged people to take them home and included discounts on new furniture, moving tips and dinner offers for those without a kitchen, they could even be turned into chairs. The campaign increased IKEA’s traffic by 14 per cent and sales by 24.5 per cent – the same effect as opening an entire new IKEA store in that market.

Data means power: the power to delight consumers with meaningfully tailored, or even entirely bespoke, products and services that truly reflect who an individual consumer is, and what they want.

British Airways’ Know Me programme involves BA staff using data – whether the customer has flown BA before, whether they have experienced problems and even Google searches – to tailor the in-flight service to the individual customer.

When it launched, reception to the idea was mixed, with some seeing it as more creepy than cool. But 2014 is sure to see more examples of this kind of ‘datashaping’, as brands frantically try to respond to consumers’ ever-increasing demands for bespoke service.

This trend is all about technologies that enable consumers to interact with their environment in more natural and intuitive ways. That means an end to the need to ‘learn’ to use a device; instead, intuitive devices understand speech and gestures, making them instantly accessible.

In June 2012, for example, Nike and Microsoft introduced Nike+ Kinect Training, an at-home exercise game for the Xbox 360. No need for users to change the way they exercise, or for awkward controllers: instead, players’ movements are tracked via sensors as they follow a virtual fitness coach and participate in challenges, which include running on the spot, lunging, dodging on-screen projectiles and squats.

As technology weaves itself around health and fitness behaviours, this trend becomes an increasingly important one for the fitness sector to track.

In 2014, more consumers will turn their smartphones into lifestyle maximisers. One way they’ll do this will be by getting real-time, location-relevant lifestyle alerts that help them get the most from every day.

This ‘alerting’ trend can point to powerful ways to reach out to consumers, and help them achieve the goals they set themselves. Take HeroButton as an example. First released in Canada, this is a free mobile app that functions as a digital assistant. Users create a specific alert and are notified when certain criteria are fulfilled – this could be when a product they’re looking to purchase becomes cheaper, when a group-buying site has a deal that could interest them, or when a favourite musician releases an album.

That’s just a snapshot of a few of the key trends at work in 2013/4. These trends will evolve and spread as consumers ºfind new ways to serve unchanging desires for connection, self-improvement and status.

So share them with your team and see what innovations you can come up with to stay ahead of the curve.

David Mattin is lead strategist at trendwatching.com. As one of the world’s leading trend firms, trendwatching.com sends out its free, monthly Trend Briefings in nine languages to more than
160,000 subscribers.

From Health Club Management Handbook 2013, p60

Originally published in Leisure Handbook 2014 edition

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