Industry Report on Health and Fitness Aggregators
The health and fitness industry has been slow to adopt aggregators. Are clubs right to be cautious, or are they missing out on business? Kath Hudson finds out more…
If you’ve ever used an aggregator service, such as Expedia or lastminute.com, to book a flight or find a holiday, you’ll know from a consumer’s point of view how useful they can be to both find what you want and get a good deal: they make the information transparent and give the benefit of customer reviews, special offers and consolidated services.
However, the health and fitness industry is very different from travel. One’s global, while the other is local. People are motivated to go on holiday, but can be resistant to exercise. Health clubs want to build day-to-day loyalty and relationships, while the travel industry is less concerned with this.
There are a number of other reasons to be cautious, including the fear of losing control of data and the customer base, and concerns about paying a commission to get the same customers or being forced into discounting.
However, if you always do what you always did, you always get what you’ve always had, so if the industry wants to increase penetration rates, it needs to start looking for different ways to mobilise new audiences.
Aggregators bring extra marketing budgets and new technology to the table, which can translate into different customers being brought into the industry, so they’re definitely worth consideration.
If you’re thinking about giving aggregators a go, shop around first. There are a number of different choices in terms of business model and you need to know whether they focus on B2C or B2B.
Choose one that cares about growing the market and as Nishal Desai, co-founder of imin says: “Go forward with your eyes open and hands on the steering wheel. Choose to work with those companies in a way that puts you firmly in control and keeps you there.”
Neil Harmsworth, PayAsUGym
The consumer experience always improves in markets where aggregators exist because customers love the transparency and independence they provide through the reviews they carry.
We’re seeing real momentum in this area at the moment: we even had one of the board members of one of our largest operators logging in daily, so he knew exactly what was going on in the clubs and could make sure the GMs knew what they needed to improve.
Operators need to take the time to understand the variations before deciding which model is right for their business.
Since the fitness sector is late to adopt aggregators there are lots of reference points in other industries, making it easier to compare models. As the first company, globally, to attempt to aggregate fitness, PayAsUGym benefitted from being able to study models in other sectors to understand best practise. We believe it’s important to always focus on developing a fair, collaborative and sustainable version of aggregation, which grows the market and builds trust with our operator partners.
Going forward, a split of opinion regarding aggregators is likely to remain. Operators who embrace consumer choice, recognise the desire for increased flexibility and are confident their services will stand up to public scrutiny will proactively engage with aggregators, which will result in them reaching new customers and growing their business. Opponents of aggregators will spread fear, uncertainty and doubt into the market, in the hope of maintaining the status quo. Ultimately the customer will decide how they wish to engage with fitness and we can see evidence of this within our own sector.
“We believe it’s important to always focus on developing a fair, collaborative and sustainable version of aggregation” – Neil Harmsworth PayAsUGym