Using Emerging Technology to Power the Future of Marketing in the Fitness Industry

This morning I woke up with a thought: “how could VR be used for retail and services?” The thought was prompted by a video I recently watched of Gary Vaynerchuk speaking to an audience and he just casually mentioned that people should be paying attention to VR for retail. In the moment I was like huh? That seems gimicky to me.

But then the thought lingered in my mind.

So when I woke up this morning I decided to do some research. Turns out publications like Forbes have been writing about the use of AR and VR since 2018. This is not a new idea, but it is one that has taken time to gain any type of popularity. I would argue that it still isn’t anywhere near being a popular idea.

Who is Using VR?

I have a family connection to an architect who designs hospitals. I can remember a number of years ago that they were discussing the use of VR to help show hospital directors and CEOs what the hospital would look like. So instead of showing drawing and mock-up images, these individuals were now able to step inside the future hospital and get a feel for the space as if they were really walking around it.

This makes sense as an application for VR and I feel like the difference that makes for the architecture industry is significant. Contrast that to the retail example that Gary V was talking about, I thought that VR in shopping would be ridiculous.

This would require everyone to own a VR device. Now, most of our phones are actually already capable of this. In fact there are YouTube videos that you can watch using your phone and a set of VR goggles that immerse you in the video. So we are halfway there but the goggles range in price and quality so that can be tricky.

But let’s say everyone is ready with the goggles and the technology to take advantage of VR in the retail space. This could create a number of options for retailers. As a consumer I could enter store in VR and look around for a pair of pants, for example. If I find a pair I like I might be able to try them on in VR, given my phone stores data about my measurements. If you’ve ever bought a pair of jeans online in “your size” only to receive them and have them be too big or too small, then you can see how this would be a very cool application of VR.

But again, this all depends on consumers having the tools to access this type of shopping and the retailers have the manpower and technology to develop this. Which, if you read between the lines, will mean that this is reserved to the wealthy and the mega-retailers.

So after I had done some research and added and removed a number of different VR goggles from my Amazon shopping cart, I started thinking about how this could be applied to service-based businesses like a personal training facility.

VR at the Gym

The following examples are very specific to the gym setting that I work in, but I do believe that these ideas could be modified to fit your working environment as well.

When I think about VR and AR (augmented reality) at the gym I can imagine a few different applications.

We are currently working on creating video content to help answer clients questions and to help give new clients a better understanding of what the personal training experience is like at Free Form Fitness.

If we were to use VR we could actually take these clients to the specific gym they are looking at training at and take them on a virtual tour of the facilities answering the most frequently asked questions and maybe even including a virtual testimonial in this video. So now not only are we onboarding the client with a welcome package and video series, but we have given them a chance to imagine their lives within the space. That familiarity makes people more inclined to spend their money at that specific business.

We also have a Virtual training option, which brings 1-1 personal training sessions into the home via a zoom call. Many people feel like these sessions could never compare to what you get at the gym. But what if we took people through a workout using VR and showed them that even with goggles on they have enough space and equipment to get a great workout from home.

There are a lot of cool ways you could help introduce a client to the personal training experience using VR.

Now AR has a few applications as well. During the consultations we typically take the new client on a tour of the facility and explain that in 1 area people typically stretch, in another area we use specific equipment for specific exercises. But what if we gave the new client an iPad (which we already have at the gym) and let them point to different areas around the gym and see how each space is used.

I think about all of the young, nervous clients that I used to train. It would take them several sessions to understand the general flow of the space and how they could use each space while they were waiting for their session to begin, or after their session during their cool down. Having a visual representation of this would eliminate all of those nerves, making people feel even more comfortable with the service you are providing.

Outside of the personal training studio space, larger big-box style gyms could provide AR that would demonstrate to their members how to safely use different pieces of equipment. On certain machines they have images that show how to use it, but even those can be confusing. And what about free weights, suspension trainers, and squat racks? What if a member could point their camera at one of those and be shown a number of exercises ranging from beginner to advanced that are possible?

This Tech Can Take Gym Spaces to the Next Level

I have a number of other ideas that would massively improve the gym experience and even make life easier for the personal trainers and facility managers as well, but I’ll save those for another day.

The point I am trying to make it that although AR, VR and even AI may seem confusing or too futuristic, this is the time to start exploring their applications. Especially if you are in the marketing space like I am. My whole purpose is to assess the market and then figure out how the company can deliver exceptional service to our clients, therefore resulting in a greater piece of the market-pie.

As marketers this tech-tools should be at the front of our minds because their applications could improve and augment the experience of our clients. And if you can create new best practices using this tech, and create a whole new set of experiences for the clients – well, wouldn’t that be something?

Where do I go from this explosion of curiosity and ideas? I’ve added a tech board to my feedly app so I can stay on top of trends and continue to feed these curiosities and ideas. I’ll continue to explore and theorize all of the ways this emerging tech could be integrated into the industry and daydream about the way it could change the future of the industry forever.

Top Social Media and Marketing Article of the Week (Feb 8 – Feb 12)

I am going to start a new series of blog posts that highlights some of the best articles that I have come across. I use an app called Feedly to organize marketing and social media content and spend an hour every day reading through the latest articles.

From the articles in my feed I’ll select a handful of the most useful articles and share with you why they were worthy and how I could see client’s using the strategies outlined in the articles in their own online marketing efforts.

Without further a-do, here are the articles I’ll be covering this week:

  1. How Micromarketing can take you strategy to the next level” – Hubspot
  2. Social Media Customer Service: To Do it Right” – Hootsuite

“How Micromarketing can take you strategy to the next level” – Hubspot

I am a big fan of HubSpot and they do an excellent job of presenting new ideas that allow you to dive deeper into the world on marketing. What I liked about this article was that it was a quick read. When I am being introduced to a new topic, I like to get a summary-type of article so that I am not too bogged down with details. (Imagine a teacher explaining organic chemistry on your first day of science class, instead of teaching you about the periodic table.)

They provided some well-known examples of micromarketing as well, which I found to be very effective. Their use of the Coca-Cola “Share a Coke” campaign helped make the idea of micromarketing very clear.

So what is micromarketing? Based on what I understand from the article it is an even more detailed look at your customer-base and designing marketing campaigns or products/services that speak to the customer directly or a small subset of a larger target audience.

In the example of “Share a Coke”, Coca-Cola was able to provide a personalized experience by printing 150 of the most popular names on their bottles. When the campaign launched they were able to track the bottles that were purchased to get a better idea of who is buying their bottles. More importantly, as mentioned in the HubSpot article, they ended up selling 250 million bottle of coca-cola in a country of 23 million people.

By simply adding a personalized touch to the bottles, they inspired more people to buy more of their products. This is the key to micromarketing: go deeper with your segmentation and targeting. Learn more about your customers/audience, and deliver better products, services, and marketing based on their unique qualities.

Social Media Customer Service: To Do it Right” – Hootsuite

What really struck me about this article was that they opened it with a number of important facts relating to the customer experience online. I’ve included a screengrab of the facts here:

So there is a lot to take in there but I want to focus in on the fact that customer service interactions will increase by 40% this year, and that the time it takes a brand to respond on twitter drops by 30% when they don’t have a designated customer service account.

I don’t know about you, but I have taken to Twitter in the past to reach out to brands when I have a customer service issue. The quickness of those responses is a major factor in how I feel about the brand. I can remember when I tweeted about waiting patiently for my Monday newsletter from Greatist and within a few minutes I had received a DM from them and they were DMing me to say thank you and offer to send me a free t-shirt for being a fan of the blog.

I have never forgotten that experience and still think highly of Greatist because of that interaction.

I wanted to highlight this article because it ties in another relevant practice on social media, which is social listening and monitoring. This is the practice of setting up filters to monitor conversations online about your brand, your niche, and the news. This allows you (as a brand) to interact with people who are talking about your brand – and not necessarily tagging you or using a hashtag. It keeps social media social, which is something you’ll hear me say a lot.

Having a customer service account dedicated to responding to customer service requests is an important part of that online conversation. By dedicating accounts, and therefore a team, to this effort you can expect a higher satisfaction rate from your customers. The customer service representatives are also the ones who have been trained to handle customer service requests, so they are the best trained for these interactions – online or in-person.

Summary

I have to be honest, this was a very busy week, so I wasn’t able to read as much as I had hoped. With that said, I am noticing a trend towards both of the ideas mentioned in this article: more defined targetting/getting to know your customers on a deeper, more detailed leve and better online customer service.

The two ideas go hand-in-hand. If you understand your customer better, you’ll know how to answer their questions better. If you are responding to customer service requests in a timely manner, you’re learning about the issues your customers are having while also providing a great experience for them.

If you are to implement these ideas into your marketing and customer service efforts, I would bet that you’d see a more positive brand sentiment and greater overall satisfaction from your customers.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Tomorrowland: A Source of Inspiration

Recently I read something somewhere on the internet that nothing that we do is original. Most of our “innovations” are inspired by something or someone we’ve interacted with in the past.

Accepting that every marketing “idea” I have in the future will not be original but instead a product of inspiration and subconscious curation was a comforting lesson to learn. It also freed me to seek out inspiration, knowing that I can use this inspiration to develop marketing plans and goals for the future.

I read A LOT and most of what I read comes from the marketing book podcast and recommendations from Google Play Books. So many of my strategies and processes are influenced by that.

But in a practical sense, if I am looking for the epitome of marketing – at least, in the way I hope to market a business – is Tomorrowland. Yes, the music festival from Belgium, Tomorrowland.

Aren’t Music Festivals Just A Party & Place For Hippies?

There are a lot of music festivals out there that do not go the extra mile. The music festival industry is lucrative, and the crowds that are drawn to these events are willing to pay a lot of money on tickets, camping, and experiences on-site (drinking, merchandise, etc.).

But for years there have been leaders in this industry. Festivals like Ultra Music Festival, Creamfields, and EDC come to mind. But most notably is Tomorrowland.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to this festival 3 times. Most people wait years to make it through the virtual waiting room and buy their tickets to this festival. My very first year I was fortunate enough to gain access to a special link given to the first 20 registrants from each country.

Every year at the festival is amazing. But what I am always impressed by is the company’s dedication to the product and the client-base.

I may be only 2 years into my marketing career but I grew up observing businesses on a deeper level than most. As a kid, when the first iPod came out I saved up every penny of my allowance until I could buy myself one. I supported Apple up until the passing of Steve Jobs. In my opinion the soul of Apple died with Steve Jobs. He was dedicated to the product and his clients. He brought intuitive design to the mobile, music, and computing world and every element of his products reflected that passion.

When Under Armour bought MyFitnessPal, I saw a company going from sportswear to becoming a true lifestyle brand dedicated to helping it’s customers train and live like athletes.

As an individual, I always sought out jobs with Canadian companies because I am dedicated to the entrepreneurial efforts of my fellow Canadians and showing other Canadians what we are capable of.

All this to say I am happy to support any company that proves to me that they are passionate about their product/service and will go to any length to serve their customer-base.

Which brings me (back) to Tomorrowland.

We’ve all seen the videos of people with memory loss or conditions like dementia and when they listen to music they light up and begin dancing or smiling. There is something inherently magical about music.

Music festivals should understand that their events are so powerful because they center around music. Tomorrowland knows this and “uses” this to their advantage.

I put “uses” in quotes because I never see anything they do as a manipulation of their fans. They simply understand how powerful their event is. “Live Today. Love Tomorrow. Unite Forever” is their tag line and the road map that it lays out allows them to create a festival that does just that.

Tomorrowland Around the World: Marketing at it’s Finest

Okay enough fan-girling. The reason I am writing this post is because of their most recent event, Tomorrowland Around the World.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and festival after festival announced they were cancelling this year, many festival goers were looking ahead to a grim summer. We tuned in to live-stream sets but it never felt quite right.

Tomorrowland, being one of the main events of the summer, recognized this void in festival-goers summer plans. They saw the sadness, and the sense of loss their fans were experiencing and they decided to do something seemingly impossible.

They created a virtual event in 12 weeks. And not just any event – but a Tomorrowland-quality event in 12 weeks. DJ sets from the top DJ’s, an entire virtual-reality island to host the event, and event packages that allowed fans to throw their own parties.

As a marketer this is the pinnacle of marketing. They believe in their service so much that they’d find a way to recreate it in 12 weeks. Not only that but they recognized that their fans needed this – they needed the morale boost. And they delivered.

I am not currently in the event marketing space but I really do believe that this can act as inspiration. I can look at Tomorrowland and their handling of the 2020 festival season, and bring that energy and dedication to my own products.

  • How can I use my/my client’s products and services to boost morale?
  • What is the true power of my/my client’s product or service?
  • Why am I dedicated to the product/service?

These are all questions that now direct my marketing efforts. Gone are the days of interruption and guerilla marketing. We are now living in an age of nurturing and celebration. Nurture our clients needs. Celebrate the joy and life-changing potential of our products and services.

If you follow any of my projects you’ll hopefully see that I focus a lot on the story. I want to know why business-owners started their business, and then what it has meant to their customers. That is where the magic is. And I believe that Tomorrowland is one of the premiere examples of this type of marketing.

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