Let the data do the lifting: using social data in the fitness industry

The fitness industry in the UK is estimated to have a market value exceeding £5 billion, making it an extremely lucrative, and therefore extremely competitive space. The market has a penetration of 14.9%, meaning that one in every seven people in the UK is a member of a gym.

But, as with most industries these days, the market is blurring. Although gyms remain the dominant player, the rise of boutique gyms, exercise spaces and tailored classes or clubs, pose a serious threat to traditional gym owners. Even mobile apps and websites, such as ClassPass and Esquared, where you purchase bundles of points which can be used for different types of classes, play a role in up-ending the traditional industry.

A new set of competitors

At one time, as a gym owner, you competed against other gyms, almost identical to your own. Now, you compete against professional fitness classes in a park; against boutique gyms that offer a variety of classes; against health clubs which offer not just gyms, but a swimming pool or a sauna; against fitness apps which vie for consumer spend; and, of course, against all the other traditional gyms.

Working out is so ingrained in modern consumer culture that the market will continue to grow. However, at the same time, many people are tightening their belts, meaning that chances are they can only afford membership for one of these options. So, how do you make sure that it is yours?

By understanding who your customer is, what they are passionate about and what motivates them in life. This insight allows you to personalise the experience and allow your brand to resonate with them, a factor that can result in loyalty and therefore, spend.

However, this information isn’t going to come from the data they provide when they sign up and even if it could, there’s still the question of how to acquire the people who haven’t registered with your service.

Social clustering

Enter social data – or, to be more precise, Starcount’s unique method of ‘social clustering’. We analyse the passions and likes of social media users and cluster them together into different segments based on similar passions, using our pioneering platform, The Observatory. This method is different to, and much more effective than, ‘social listening’ (if you would like to understand more about the differences and why social clustering works better, read our guide here).

We used the Observatory to illustrate what social data can tell us about the kind of person paying for a specific form of exercise, what motivates them and what they are passionate about, all valuable insight that can help a brand to understand what customers are looking for in a workout service.

Traditional vs. Trendy

One useful example would be to compare the audience of a traditional player, such as Pure Gym, who offer a low-cost option in line with traditional gym workouts, to the audience of Barry’s Bootcamp, one of the up and coming disruptors taking consumers away from the gym and putting them into specialised work out spaces with boutique classes. Both represent two very different sides of the same industry and both are fighting for a slice of the market.

Pure Gym

The audience of Pure Gym is fairly balanced in gender, although slightly in favour of men. This slight male dominance is reflected in most of the other traditional gyms like The Gym Group and Fitness First.

Pure Gym fans are more passionate about nutrition and sporting activities such as Football and Rugby. Meanwhile, their top brands are related to supplements and muscle gain, such as MuscleFood UK, The Protein Works, Optimum Nutrition and BodyPowerExpo.

Their top media titles are Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Fitness Magazine, Men’s health and PT Magazine, and their top influencers include Russ Howe, a body builder coach, Ross Edgley, founder of The Protein Works, and Joe Wicks, also known as The Body Coach.

All of this insight paints a masculine dominated picture of who the fans of Pure Gym are. Knowing that it is weighted slightly in favour of men, this insight all makes sense.

Just on the basis of it, it provides useful information for developing a marketing strategy: the passions guide how you should talk to specific customers, allowing you to tailor communications; it highlights brands that resonate with Pure Gym customers, showing which would be best to partner with and create tailored offers in line with gym membership; the media titles illustrate where the best space to advertise is; and the influencers display those who could represent the Pure Gym brand and speak authentically to the audience.

However, it’s what this insight doesn’t say that is just as interesting. The dominance on masculine-related subjects shows that, despite the near equal split in gender, Pure Gym might be lacking a clear strategy for attracting a different segment of women.

Barry’s Bootcamp

If we investigate the fans of Barry’s Bootcamp, we can see a vastly different picture. The audience for Barry’s is female dominated, with nearly 70% women (the share is even greater for women in the audience of ClassPass, the app which allows users to purchase a bundle of different classes and use them at different locations).

The Barry’s audience is passionate about Sportswear, Lifestyle Tips and Beauty.

Their top brands are Soulcycle, a fitness company who offer indoor cycling classes, Sweaty Betty and Lululemon, both brands that cater to female sportswear, Raw Press, a healthy juice café, and Nike Women.

Top media titles include Hip and Healthy, Women’s Health, Women’s fitness Magazine and Self Magazine, a wellness publication. Meanwhile top influencers for this audience are Charli Cohen, a fashion designer, Cantara, a lifestyle blogger; and Calgary Avansino, a food blogger.

Immediately, we can see a completely different audience, one that Barry’s has managed to successfully tap into, but a segment that Pure Gym is missing out on, and the same vice versa.

Using competitive insight in fitness

In such a highly competitive market, a strategy of only sticking to one group of people does not allow for future growth. By tapping into other segments, a workout service can expand their slice of the market. But to do that, they need to understand how to talk to different customers in a way that will resonate personally with them. In this case, Pure Gym might look at the insight from the Barry’s audience, while Barry’s does the same for Pure Gym fans, utilising this knowledge to attract these missing segments.

This is why social clustering is a game changer.

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