How live streaming can help your gym and fitness business survive and thrive in times of social distancing

The coronavirus pandemic has left many businesses operating on life support. If your gym or fitness business depends on members being at your physical location, chances are your business is taking a hit too.

It’s hardly surprising. After all, who in their right minds would visit the gym for a calorie-crushing workout during these trying times?

Right now, safety is everyone’sthe number one priority. But you can’t help asking: Will I have a business to go back to once this global health crisis is over?

As your members drop off one by one, you wonder if you’ll be able to pay your rent and utilities in the next few months. The hardest part is not being able to pay your fitness trainers and employees—all hardworking people who now find themselves without a paycheck.

What can you do to keep your business alive?

The solution: Take your gym sessions and fitness classes online.

How At-Home Workout Videos Are Keeping the Fitness Industry Fit

If you haven’t offered remote at-home workouts before, now is an excellent time to do it. Heck, it was a great idea even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In fact, online fitness classes are one of the main reasons why the fitness industry has boomed over the last several years.

With that said, the fitness industry also suffered economic setbacks as fitness and health clubs were forced to close up shop due to the coronavirus outbreak. Case in point: one of our clients, Basic-Fit, the largest fitness chain in Europe, closed all 828 of their gyms as social distancing measures were enforced in their part of the world.

But there’s a silver lining in all of this. As it turns out, people are finding new and creative ways to stay fit while staying mostly indoors. As such, gym establishments and fitness clubs saw an opportunity to keep engaging their members and even grow their audience: live-streaming and on-demand fitness classes.

Basic-Fit’s GXR: Live and on demand fitness classes

Because why not?

“If people can’t go to the gym, they might as well bring the gym to the people!”

Many fitness companies—especially those who already had a digital platform in place before the outbreak—have benefited from the digital push by varying degrees. Fitness company Beachbody for instance, generated a 200% growth in subscribers since they took their workouts online. Fitness bike maker Peloton also saw its stocks increase to 37% since they beefed up their digital platform in response to the outbreak. Daily Burn, a virtual workout provider, saw a 268% year-over-year increase in membership signups in mid-March. Last but not least, our client Basic-Fit saw their streaming numbers soar in the period from March to April 2020 — all thanks to a company decision to launch a mobile app that comes with live and on-demand videos and guided audio training sessions back in 2018. Thanks to that digital push, the fitness chain is able to keep their business afloat and help their 2.3 million members stay fit amid the coronavirus outbreak.

These results are a clear sign that fitness brands can adapt and find new profitable revenue models in difficult times. After all, humans are social creatures, and live streaming and “follow along” video content allow them to satisfy their need for social interaction.

Live-Stream Workout Classes: Why You Need to Get On Board the Hype Train

If you’re not fully equipped yet for live-streaming and VOD (video-on-demand) services, you may find yourself at a disadvantage. After all, overhead costs like rent, payroll, and utilities may leave you little in terms of financial resources. You want to be careful where you’re spending your money if you want to maintain your business’s daily upkeep.

Chances are the idea of offering virtual fitness classes has already crossed your mind, and you need to know the reasons why it will be a smart investment and a good decision on your part, considering the circumstances.

Five reasons why sports & health brands should start their own streaming service:

  1. It provides a perfect opportunity to reach new online audiences.
  2. It helps you keep your customers and build brand loyalty.
  3. It gives you a bunch of data to help you better engage with your audience.
  4. It provides you the opportunity to help out.
  5. It gives you an additional source of revenue.

Let’s go over them one by one.

1. Provides an opportunity to reach new audiences

People have their own way of coping with stress and anxiety, but a good percentage of them will want to resort to physical exercise. However, some of them won’t know the difference between a back squat and a deadlift. Or maybe they do, but are not exactly sure if they’re doing them correctly. Some already know the basics, but crave the structure and the sense of accountability and community a fitness class provides.

With gyms and fitness clubs currently closed up for the foreseeable future, people are more likely to search online and see what options are available to them.

This is where you come in.

As a fitness expert and provider, you are in a unique position to offer them what they need: your guidance and expertise. Offer them fitness classes online and they will likely jump at the opportunity. That means new audiences for you. And if these workouts are high quality, it’s very likely that they’ll come back for more, either online or—once the pandemic is over—in-person, or both.

Better yet, they might share the experience with their peers via social media or in-person (from 6 feet away, of course), resulting in more (potential) clientele.

2. Helps you keep your customers and build brand loyalty

Your members signed up for a membership for one thing only: to stay fit by attending your fitness classes and workout sessions in person. But with social distancing measures in place, they might think they have no good reason to keep their membership. Some of them might already be asking you for a refund.

Do you want your business to survive throughout this pandemic? Give them a good reason to keep their membership! And what better way to do that than by offering them online classes and workouts, either through live remote training sessions, on-demand videos, guided audio training classes, or even healthy cooking videos?This way, not only can you deliver the services they’ve paid for, but you can also help them cope with the coronavirus outbreak, become part of a social online community, and ultimately stay fit!

3. Gives you a bunch of data to help you better engage with your audience

Before you can take your fitness classes and workouts online, you need a video hosting service. Now here’s a cool thing about video hosting services (the good ones, at least): they not only help you upload or live stream your training and workout videos, but they also give you a ton of data that will help you better engage and connect with your audience.

These data are gathered from two sources: user analytics and video analytics. If user analytics give you data at the user level (number of videos watched, number of views, average viewing time, etc.), video analytics give you data at the video level (number of unique viewers, average viewing duration, conversion ratio, etc.).

How do you know which sports programs or workouts are the most popular among your audience? You look at the video analytics data. Want to know how many times a particular user from Amsterdam has watched your 30-minute Yoga video? All you need to do is look at the user analytics data. And so on.

Remember, both types of data have equal value in terms of helping you understand your audience. They, after all, give you valuable insights as to what works and what doesn’t. With all that data at your disposal, you’re in a much better position to make smarter and more impactful decisions in your fitness video campaign!


4. Provides you the opportunity to help out

As a fitness establishment, you have a platform that can help make people’s lives better and easier during this chaotic time.

For one thing, you’re not just keeping people in shape, you’re also helping to keep the coronavirus strain at bay. After all, regular exercise can boost our immune system, helping us stave off pathogens. Moreover, by keeping people physically active, you’re offering them a healthy and effective way to manage stress and anxiety. And the way things are now, a dose of calm is exactly what the doctor ordered.

5. Gives you an additional source of revenue

You don’t need to be familiar with Netflix to know that Video on Demand (VOD) is all the rage. By offering your members another way to engage with your services, you’re not just getting an additional source of revenue, you’re also driving traffic and awareness for your brand. Granted, there’s an adoption curve involved, but with some consistent effort, your investment will translate to big wins in the long run.

Four Strategies To Win Over Your Streaming Audience

Are you ready to give your fitness platform the digital push needed to stave off your coronavirus-induced business slump?

You need to make a few adjustments to make this work. After all, things are different now, and different times call for different measures.

To this end, here are essential strategies that will help your business survive, and even thrive, during these tough times.

1. Reduce costs

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a massive amount of layoffs and furloughs around the world. As a result, most people don’t have the financial resources to pay standard rates for, well, anything. This is a problem. Why? Because the moment you stop engaging your members and potential customers is the moment you sound the death knell of your business.

To keep your business afloat, you need to offer them remote workout sessions and make them financially acceptable to your audience. By cutting the costs of your services and offering incentives, you can reinforce your business’s bottom line despite the economic downturn.

The key is to be generous with your offerings while maintaining positive cash flow through it all. One way to do this is to offer free trials to go along with your live-streaming and/or on-demand video services. The House of Yoga, for instance, gave everyone access to their collection of remote classes every week while offering unlimited access to their entire collection for €35,-
instead of €70,-.

Peloton also offered a generous 90-day trial while offering several paid packages via its digital platform at the same time.

2. Create challenges

Everyone is dealing with a myriad of life disruptions these days, and it can be difficult for you to keep everyone engaged and motivated as a result.

One method that has proven to be effective here is gamification. It’s an innovative methodology that uses typical game-world elements in business contexts for stimulating user’s involvement and personal growth. In other words, it helps you keep them motivated. Which makes sense, considering your main goal here is to keep your audience engaged and interested.

To keep them focused, the “game” needs a structure (use points, badges, charts, and leaderboards) so participants know where they stand in terms of the game’s challenges, outcomes, and goals. And this is important: create small “achievable” challenges. This way, they can keep their mind focused on the milestone ahead of them and not feel discouraged.

Setting milestones or challenges gives your audience a sense of achievement, however small, that will help keep them going. Giving them a specific goal to accomplish will not only give them a much-needed distraction from their real-life worries, but it will also help motivate other participants.

Going the virtual route may pose challenges for participants who want to keep track of their milestones and achievements. Thankfully, trainer apps like Trainerize and Funxtion feature milestone badges that will help them do just that!

3. Give them some words of motivation

A little “pep talk” can go a long way in helping your audience cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Before starting every session, take the time to connect with your audience. Right now, some people are feeling isolated and anxious, not to mention bored. Ask them how they are doing. Provide them with some good advice and some words of encouragement. Always listen and empathize with them. Trust me. It will make them feel better and more primed to do their squats, push-ups, and crunches. Better yet, they will be more likely to come back for another session since you took the time to connect with them on a personal level.

words of motivation

4. Give them no-equipment exercises

Due to the restrictions caused by the outbreak, people have limited access to gym equipment and can’t go outside for a run. As a fitness provider, you can provide them with what they need to stay active: quality exercises they can do at home, even with no equipment.

Florida-based fitness franchise Orangetheory Fitness, for instance, has been posting 30-minute daily workouts on their site for free. No equipment needed!

Without access to an exercise ball, an indoor bike, or a foam roller, some of your customers will be at a loss on how to keep themselves fit. So it’s your job to remind them that there’s such a thing as such as crunches, push-ups, wall sits, burpees, and wall sits.

“Your body does not need weights to change; it requires resistance,”Born Fitness head coach BJ Ward says in an interview with Consumer Reports. “When machines, dumbbells, and barbells are not available (or you’re avoiding public places), your body weight can be used to create an amazingly effective workout.”

Besides, many gym equipment alternatives can be found in any regular home. Why use a step machine when you can use the stairs? No dumbbell set? Two milk jugs filled to the brim will do. Need a medicine ball? Ask your 7-year-old if he has a basketball or a soccer ball lying around the house.

[Source: Facebook, Blink Fitness]

How to Set up Your Fitness Class Streaming Service in 5 steps

Let’s get to the fun stuff. So, what do you need to do to set up your own live-streaming and video-on-demand fitness classes? What are the minimum technical requirements? Dive right in.

1. Create a landing page

In marketing speak, a landing page is a page on your website that’s designed to convert visitors into leads or customers. For your landing page to be effective, make sure that the web copy speaks directly to your audience’s needs and that it touches on how your live-streaming and/or VOD training classes will address those needs.

Some information on the measures your business is taking in response to the coronavirus crisis will go down nicely as well. More importantly, your landing page needs to be clear on what your visitors need to do to access your at-home fitness classes.

When creating a landing page, make sure to include the following:

  • Who are you? What does your brand stand for?
  • What do you do? What is your brand mission?
  • The reason why you’re conducting online workout sessions
  • Indicate how much you’re charging.

And this is important: make sure that your landing page comes with a lead capture form where willing participants can enter their information and their email address. This way you can continue to provide them with email updates about your upcoming workout sessions and other offerings you may have.

2. Choose your revenue model

How would you like to charge customers for them to gain access to your remote workout sessions? There are different revenue models to choose from, which are:

  1. Transactional Video on Demand. Also called “pay-per-stream,” this revenue model is set up so that you can charge customers a fee for each stream.
  2. Subscription Video on Demand. Customers pay a weekly/monthly/annual fee to gain access to all your streams. Make sure you set it up in a way where members who have already paid before the pandemic hit can get free access.
  3. Ad-Supported Video on Demand. You can give users free access to all your workout videos while earning revenue from Ad-publishers.
  4. Donation-based. This was briefly touched on earlier. Check out this guide by Punchpass for more information.

3. Set up the platforms and equipment you need to stream video content

There are many ways to publish live streams and on-demand video content.

In fact, anyone who has a smartphone and an internet connection can start one thanks to Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Periscope, and many other video platform services out there.

You also have the option to build a fitness studio to give your virtual classes a more professional experience and atmosphere. The problem is setting up and maintaining one will probably require you to hire people, which, as you already know, is not a viable option at this time. Asking your trainers to go to your studio to provide virtual classes will only put them at risk. Want a cautionary tale? Peloton, who used to record its live-streaming classes in its New York and London studios, canceled its live classes when one of their employees tested positive for coronavirus in early April.

You don’t have to cancel your live classes, however. Why do that when your individual trainers can record live streaming sessions in their respective homes (or personal studios)? That’s exactly what Basic-Fit did.

You don’t need to buy expensive equipment to publish live streaming and on-demand video content. That said, you need to meet some minimum requirements for your remote at-home sessions to run smoothly.

You’ll need the following:

  • High-quality video camera (minimum of 5 megapixels)
    – Your smartphone
    – Computer or laptop built-in webcam
    – An external webcam to connect to your computer (preferably including a capture card)
    – DSLR camera with an HDMI output
  • High-quality microphone
  • Lighting equipment
  • A tripod (or the alternative)
  • A video encoder (this is a hardware or software device that converts your video into a digital format to enable streaming)
  • Stable internet connection (at least 5 Mbps so that the stream doesn’t buffer, drop off, or become intermittent

4. Choose an online video platform

Next, you need an online video platform that will host and publish your videos. This platform could be an app, site or software that serves as the streaming destination that allows your videos to be available to customers.

There are many free popular online video platforms you can use, including Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, Instagram Live, and more.

Using a free video platform like YouTube has many disadvantages, however. If you want your fitness videos to serve your business and customers better, you’re better off using a dedicated (or private) online video platform like VIXY Video. And when we say “dedicated,” we mean dedicated with a capital “D.”

Here are some of the things a dedicated video platform can do for your business:

  • Allows you to provide immersive and branded experiences. A dedicated or private video platform gives you better control over where and how your live stream and on-demand videos are presented. No pop-ups, no ads, and no competing streams that might potentially distract your audience and cause them to go somewhere else. Your video player is also customized to reflect your brand identity, resulting in immersive workout videos that will turn your viewers into raving fans (and make them spread the word).
  • Get to know your audience better. Unlike free video platforms, a good private video platform comes with a monitoring and analytics feature, giving you access to viewer numbers, behaviors and engagement statistics, among many others. These data will prove invaluable to your VOD platform because they provide you with key insights that will help you create video content that will resonate with your target audience.
  • Helps drive more revenue. If you provide your audience with a great workout experience, they will be excited to hear about your other offers. As such, you need a platform that allows you to present relevant offers within your videos, whether it’s an in-video ad, a CTA button, or a pay-per-view. In other words, a private video platform makes your offers intrinsic to your videos, making them stand out and high-converting.
  • Gives you complete control of your media library. When you upload your videos on YouTube, you’re giving up some of your exclusive rights to the popular social video platform. By using a dedicated online video platform like VIXY Video, your video content remains your business asset, and you can ensure that your videos won’t be used in a way that will compromise your business and branding efforts.

5. Spread the word

Are you all set up? Excellent! Time to spread the word about your newly-launched live-streaming and on-demand workout classes.

To get the best possible turnout, use all available channels, including:

  • Email marketing
  • Social media
  • Your website
  • Community forums
  • Text messages
  • Tell them in person

Oh, and a dose of video marketing shouldn’t hurt if you want big, big gains over time.

Once your customers have been alerted, it’s time for you to go live and give them a workout they will never forget.

Conclusion

As a fitness provider, you’re not only enhancing people’s lives by giving them a top-notch fitness experience, but you’re also instilling in them a sense of community—and perhaps even family—that they will carry with them throughout their lives. But as it stands at the moment, the coronavirus pandemic is keeping you from fulfilling your brand purpose.

But then again, you can’t let that stop you. Times are hard, but you’re too fit to quit. You have a job to do, so turn on that camera and start beasting it up! People are watching.

Online Video Platform

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Video Analytics

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