How the fitness industry is trading in-person ‘high fives’ for virtual ‘likes’

The rising working-out-from-home trend is creating new opportunities for fitness influencers to grow their brand not otherwise possible before the lockdown.

In early April, as the lockdown entered its 3rd and 4th week, we predicted that online fitness routines would skyrocket. It called on brands in this space to develop a hybrid strategy focusing on building a strong online presence to stay relevant – both in the present and the ‘post’ COVID-19 world, whenever that may be.

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SOURCE: SimilarWeb. In the peak of the lockdown, the month of April, fitness brands that previously thrived purely on foot traffic is struggling to gain momentum in their online traffic in the lockdown. The opposite is true for fitness brands that conquered online workout routines before the pandemic and will likely continue to thrive after.

Not only is this trend here to stay, but it’s growing exponentially with the likes of social media influencers latching on and reaping the benefits. Fitness influencers are popping up all over the world and their cult-like following is multiplying without having to leave the house. Forbes is acknowledging them as recently becoming “an anomaly in the influencer business,” mainly because they get profits direct from consumers, which differs from fashion or travel influencers.

While primarily online-based fitness influencers aren’t a new concept, the pandemic has catalyzed the need for them. Chloe Ting is a social media fitness influencer in this space experiencing a rise in popularity during the quarantine. She’s grown her channel by 2.96 million subscribers and received 233,761,000 views in the past month alone. The profundity of this growth is attributed to the opportunity created by this swift change in consumer behavior – an opportunity that most likely couldn’t have been replicated without the shelter in place orders.

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SOURCE: SimilarWeb. Fitness influencers experienced a boom in organic search traffic in March and April. A figure that doesn’t even come close to January data, where New Years health kick resolutions are in full swing.

In the UK, Joe Wicks is an online fitness influencer who has also risen in popularity. So much, in fact, that the government has taken notice asking him to speak on behalf of the national and political news agenda to #stayathome. He runs daily PE lessons for kids to get them off the couch and moving with 2.4 million of your closest friends.

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SOURCE: Joe Wicks YouTube channel. He runs daily live PE lessons for kids to get them off the couch and moving over his 2.4 million subscribers.
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SOURCE: SimilarWeb. Joe Wicks’ (i.e. The Body Coach) surge in popularity has continued even after restrictions around the world have gradually eased. The trend of online fitness influencers is sustaining a loyal base, evident by Joe’s website traffic from March ’20 to May ’20.

Visiting a fitness boutique was just one of the many social outlet casualties of the pandemic impacting our everyday routines. In our new realities, and in more ways than one, people are seeking comfort in our local communities. Though the simplest high-five after a workout class at your favorite studio with your usual crew is no longer a leisure you have or will have any time soon, online fitness brands are trying to re-create this experience. It’s not the same as an in-person high-five, but tagging fitness brands/influencers on your sweaty mirror selfies after a great workout or commenting on a live feed with hundreds of other followers on your social media networks might just be the boost you need to get that sense of shared experience while stuck at home.

Understanding the huge role this plays in our wellbeing, fitness influencers are tapping into this desire by building a strong knit online community. This importance of community has been a shared sentiment and desire from the beginning.

Hall & Partners We have all realized local community is important

As the initial COVID-19 panic dwindles, the initial fear of health and safety is trending downward as well. There are many factors that are at play here in addition to the flattening of the curve, such as finding ways to cope and take control of the situation. Exercising is one of those outlets evident by the growing trend of online workouts and the rising popularity of fitness influencers.

In parallel to stay at home pleas, countless health and government officials have spoken out over the past few months emphasizing the importance of exercise to promote mindful well-being and reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 by keeping your immune system healthy.

Hall & Partners Hall Partners People Pulse

At a time when brands are struggling to connect with consumers, this poses a unique opportunity to do so. People are eager to regain some of the control over their lives that was lost due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns; fitness has been an escape valve to satisfy that need while promoting wellness and a healthier lifestyle. Brands taking an authentic and altruistic approach to this, whether by creating their own health initiatives or leveraging social media influencers, have a good chance to further build their relationships with consumers.

Julia Marks
Julia Marks
Hall & Partners

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