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The shifting value proposition of a subscription revenue business

Corey Loehr
September 29, 2021
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In the ever-changing world of the pandemic, fitness centers have had to transform into service providers to stay in the game. That shift may need to be even more, especially when considering the subscription-based service model that has continuously operated.
What does value mean to consumers these days? Is access to equipment enough, or do you need to shift your thinking to what service you are providing and where the consumer's value comes from?

It's a more competitive subscription marketplace now

During 2020 and 2021, you have felt the shift required within the fitness industry to stay operational. The marketplace has changed and become more competitive. Who is your competition? FitBit and Peloton. Consumers can now use the touch screen attached to their exercise bike to attend a live-streamed spin class—something they pay for via a monthly subscription as an add-on to the piece of equipment they purchased.
When fitness centers were closed due to restrictions and consumers locked in their homes, consumers shifted their focus to in-home equipment and online subscriptions.
While your fitness center may, in the past, have had small virtual training classes, the boom has come with online class participation based on payment of a monthly subscription. As a result, consumers weigh up the cost of a monthly fitness center membership over virtual online classes with someone they follow and like.
In explaining the trends coming from the 'Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2021', Walter Thomas states that the number one trend was online training.
“Online training was developed for the at-home exercise experience. This trend uses digital streaming technology to deliver group, individual, or instructional exercise programs online. Online training is available 24/7 and can be a live class (live streaming workouts) or prerecorded.”
Thomas states that the number five trend from the survey was virtual training.
“Virtual training was defined as the fusion of group exercise with technology offering workouts designed for ease and convenience to suit schedules and needs. Typically, virtual workouts are played in gyms on the big screen, attracting a smaller number of clients compared with live classes while providing clients of all levels and ages with a different group fitness experience. Virtual classes are often a gateway for live group fitness classes. Virtual workouts typically attract smaller numbers, and clients can go at their own pace, making it ideal for training a novice looking to learn the moves.
Consumers have shifted to purchasing monthly subscriptions for fitness classes that do not necessarily include fitness center membership.

Consumer value isn't in the equipment you have anymore

No longer are consumers paying their monthly subscriptions to use the specialized equipment you have in your fitness center. The marketplace has changed with the cost of home equipment opening up and more consumers opting to set up their home gyms.
Yes, the equipment you have in your fitness center is of a different quality than what is available at the home gym level. And, with more consumers opting to try different methods for increased health and fitness at home, large numbers are considering other options than paying for the monthly gym membership they may not use.
That means that more people are now considering fitness an essential part of their day-to-day; therefore, it's time to change the strategy of thinking of fitness center membership as a static model. What is the new value proposition that you can develop for consumers? Paying a monthly membership fee may no longer be for in-person trips to the gym.

Is a one size fits all subscription working? explains that “Despite the desire for social interaction, going to a gym or paying for a traditional gym membership received a lukewarm response from customers in a recent survey. The survey found 37 percent of consumers reported feeling intimidated in a gym environment, and that 29 percent would be happy to pay for fitness services that did not require setting foot inside a gym.”
Consumers have a preconceived idea of what paying for a fitness center membership is. Perhaps that is the vision of toned and sculpted bodies that can use any equipment to complete repetitions with ease and a little sweat. Yet, they don't see themselves able to do that, especially if they are starting to gain a higher fitness level.
The standard membership fee for accessing the fitness center during set hours may need to be reconsidered and moved to a model of providing services rather than access.

What creates value add for consumers?

It may take a lot of time for the world to return to a pre-covid way of functioning if it ever does. But, with the impacts of the pandemic still shifting, now is the time to begin to think outside the box about what value means to consumers.
Consumers themselves are saying that fitness and wellbeing are vital to them, now more than ever. To be a part of the supply chain in that space means a shift in thinking about what services you are providing and how you can better meet the general public's needs. Thinking about what creates value for them is a great start?
In a Washington Post article, Rachel Lerman stated, "As devices and the internet become more prolific and entire industries shift to digital, it's increasingly clear that subscriptions are necessary to maintain previous levels of profitability."
Yet buying a subscription to an online fitness program doesn't mean the consumer will stay motivated enough to use the program. So is motivation the new contributing factor in the real value add for fitness center memberships? Leave your thoughts in the comments.