girl taking a virtual yoga class at home

With COVID-19 lockdowns starting to lift around the United States and some gyms and health clubs now reopening around the country, how do people feel about heading back to a public place for a workout? Drive Research, a New York market research firm, surveyed 600 gym-goers nationally in late May and found this: Three out of four respondents aren’t comfortable going back when their gym reopens. Though they’re likely eager to abandon their neighborhood walks or escape the confines of home for a trip to the gym, what are the biggest concerns that will keep people away? Survey participants said they felt they wouldn’t be able to trust gym members to follow new health and safety rules and that they were anxious about their health when having to wear a mask while exercising. To bolster consumer confidence and rebound after the crisis, this is what fitness marketers should do now to help their brands adapt and innovate for the post-pandemic routine:

  • Prepare and Communicate New Messaging.

The Drive Research survey showed gym-goers’ greatest fear around going back to the gym was germs: on the equipment, in other communal areas and being too close to other members. For employees and guests alike, make health and safety your top priorities.

For employees, consider implementing health screenings before every shift and offering masks, gloves, sanitizer and plenty of hospital-grade cleaning supplies to make them feel as protected as possible while on the job. Keep ceiling fans going to help circulate the air and ensure all exercise areas are well-ventilated. Ensure employees frequently sanitize common areas and wipe down machines, at least hourly.

For guests, have them schedule workouts, at least for the short term. That way, you can easily monitor and cap gym capacity. Offer visitors contactless check-in and sanitizer as well as masks, water bottles and towels for sale. Naturally encourage physical distancing by spacing out your equipment to help keep people apart. Ramp up sanitation and cleaning by installing handwashing stations and providing cleaning spray bottles throughout the gym and make people wipe down all equipment before and after use. If possible, hire a professional cleaning crew to come in daily.

Once all your new COVID-19 health and safety protocols are in place, build your messaging around them. Share all you’re doing for guests and prospects to ensure their workouts are as safe and stress-free as possible. Consumers are paying careful attention to how businesses respond during this period, so providing support, demonstrating genuine care and concern and finding new ways to serve members will set up your brand for success. Exhibiting these values through your messaging and actions will result in a win-win for businesses and consumers.

  • Provide On-Demand Content.

With some consumers still wary of sweating it out at the gym, help them continue their workout routines at home until they’re ready to return in person. Leverage your owned platforms, such as branded apps and social media channels, to connect with consumers and stream fitness classes, post motivational content and offer other virtual on-demand wellness services, such nutritional support, meditation sessions and more.

  • Offer Equipment Access Alternatives.

To help keep money flowing in during these difficult times, get creative and consider offering equipment for rent or sale. Days after a small indoor cycling studio was ordered to close when the pandemic began, the gym owner asked members this on Instagram: If you could rent one of our 56 stationary bikes for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, would you be willing to pay? All bikes were rented within a day, and members now pay $250 a month for the bike rental and an unlimited number of virtual classes. This is just one example of how in-home remedies can take on a whole new meaning for those who can’t afford to purchase equipment themselves. Fitness trainers can also incorporate household items (chairs, water bottles, paint cans, etc.) into their virtual training sessions to make all attendees feel they can participate in workouts and achieve good results, even without traditional equipment.

  • Collect Your Data.

Remember to take time to review your first-party data processes, both how you collect your data and your strategy on putting that data to use. Tap your most loyal customers to get feedback on your new gym practices and offerings before and after you implement them. Also, capture contact information from online workout classes to connect with these consumers after reopening and to encourage more foot traffic into your facility. Modeling audiences and gaining insights based on your consumers’ patterns will help guide your data strategy as life slowly gets closer to normal when COVID-19 ends.

The $38 billion fitness industry was already battling new at-home smart bikes and trainers when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit, further challenging its bottom line. And unlike past recessions which were primarily financial, the impact of a health-related recession means gyms and health clubs will be among the hardest hit. While these times may be filled with uncertainty and ups and downs, this is what fitness marketers should do now to win: Implement new health and safety measures, pivot and communicate new messaging to stay relevant with consumers, respond to an increasing demand for fitness-at-home options and make smart use of data. For more expertise and tips to help your fitness brand succeed and thrive now, check out our Marketer’s Guide to COVID-19 or reach out to us to discover all the ways you can use digital advertising and the latest digital industry news and trends to your advantage.