Health and fitness. We all need it and it’s big business. But are you fully prepared to work with a fitness business?
In this guide, I’ll present some of the common needs of online fitness businesses, offer some tips for implementing the features they’re looking for, and share some ideas for attracting new business.
The Industry at a Glance
The fitness industry is predominantly comprised of fitness facilities, fitness instructors, personal trainers, group exercise instructors, and sports coaches. Though the needs of these professionals can vary, one thing is constant – the need to attract customers is paramount. I’ll be focusing on fitness facilities, personal trainers, and sports coaches in this article, as they are typically the groups that have the greatest need for an online presence.
Fitness facilities: This covers everything from the small fitness club to the large commercial fitness facility such as 24hr Fitness (with over 400 locations throughout the US). The small fitness club sector has exploded in the past decade, principally through the emergence of CrossFit, which now has over 5,500 locations worldwide.
Personal trainers: Typically self-employed, personal trainers may work out of a fitness facility or independently. According to the IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, there are 6.4 million people who use personal trainers in the US, with a total of 51.4 million health club users. It's estimated that there are over 250,000 personal trainers in the US alone. It is a fast growing industry too – the UK Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS) states that there are over 19,000 personal trainers in the UK, and that figure has grown 50% since 2005.
Sports coaches: The sports coach may or may not focus on fitness, but their core business is normally centred around the coaching of specific techniques to help an
individual improve their performance. Common examples include tennis, golf and football coaches.
According to the US Fitness Industry Revenue Report 2012, online sports equipment sales account for the smallest revenue share:
- Online Sports Equipment sales: $4.89 billion per annum
- Pilates and Yoga studios: $6.85 billion per annum
- Personal Training: $7.31 billion per annum
- Gym, Health and Fitness clubs: $25.27 billion per annum
While stores selling sports and fitness equipment are more commonplace, there is a huge market of fitness professionals whose core business is based around providing services in the form of training sessions, memberships and exercise classes.
Top 5 Features of a Successful Fitness Site
1. Allow Customers to Book Appointments
Whether it’s a fitness facility that wants to allow people to book into a group exercise class, or a personal trainer who is selling blocks of sessions, the ability to offer this via the site is vital for many businesses. The Shopify platform can of course be used to sell services as well as products, but there are a few ways to make it easier. On a very basic level, you can of course treat the service as a product and set it up to limit inventory and offer specific options.
Berkhamsted Fitness sells access to its outdoor fitness sessions based on school term times (these are typically 6-8 weeks long). Customers choose to attend either one, two or three times per week and are offered the appropriate package as a product variant. Personal trainers also work in a similar fashion and will normally sell blocks of five, 10 or 20 sessions at any one time, with a discount if you book more sessions.
For a more advanced booking system, you could try something like Book That app.
2. Sell Digital Products
The health and fitness industry is driven by information and education, so it makes sense for trainers and facilities to leverage their knowledge – digital guides and instructional videos are both excellent ways for health and fitness professionals to add value to their store. The vast majority of businesses, especially small to medium-sized ones, will also have a limited geographic range within which they can work, so it makes sense to optimize the store for this.
3. Build Trust
Choosing a fitness coach or facility can be a difficult process, so it’s important to offer a variety of trust-building methods to help make the decision easier for the prospective customer. Implementing a review module, such as Product Reviews, makes it easier for the customer to read about others' experiences with that business or individual.
Fitness is also a very social media-friendly topic, especially when using images and video. Consider implementing something like an Instagram feed onto the homepage, such as this Snap Widget integration on the Beyond Genetics site:
4. Offer Additional Products and Services
If you’ve ever been into a gym and spotted the rows of sports supplements or clothing, then you’ve seen an example of secondary spend, or cross-selling. Some fitness facilities even have juice bars, beauty salons, and chiropractors onsite because they recognize the power of being able to up-sell to their customers.
Health and fitness businesses can generate additional revenue by cross-selling a variety of products that meet the needs of their customers. Things like t-shirts suit the market well, so consider adding something like Merchify, which allows for print-on-demand t-shirts.
You can also take advantage of the built-in custom fulfilment functionality in the Shopify dashboard to allow merchants to add a variety of third-party products to their stores.
5. Add Features That Free Up Time
This is important for all business owners, but for the health and fitness professional (who will almost certainly be more focused on their day-to-day appointments), the ability to automate certain areas of the business is vitally important to enable them to grow.
Building a subscriber list gives them prospective clients to market to, be that for face-to-face services or products, and is a simple but powerful feature. Apps such as Pop-Up Window, Email Pirate, or SumoMe offer a quick and effective way to encourage more sign-ups.
The majority of health and fitness businesses (individuals and facilities) will also offer a free initial consultation. You should make this a key feature of the site with prominence on the homepage if possible. A simple option using a contact form works well, and you could also include some additional fields to further segment the lead generation process.
Common fields include:
- What are your goals? (e.g. weight-loss, building muscle and strength, sports performance)
- What are your reasons for contacting us today? (e.g. face-to-face training, online training, tips and advice)
- If you are interested in face-to-face training, how many sessions per week can you commit to? (e.g. 1, 2 or 3)
Another key task that can often be automated is that of the pre-exercise questionnaire. (This is normally filled out by the prospective client before attending their first session and is generally a mandatory requirement). By adding this form to the site as a pdf file, fitness businesses can improve their efficiency.
There are undoubtedly a huge number of fitness professionals, whose core business is based around services, that could benefit from a Shopify store. This guide has covered some of the key features that will help fitness professionals build their online businesses.
Let us know what challenges and successes you’ve had while working with fitness businesses in the comments below.