15 Fitness Ecommerce Empires: Beyond Bodies into Growing Global Brands

15 Fitness Ecommerce Empires: Beyond Bodies into Growing Global Brands
  • Gymshark’s triple-digit growth — fueled by a multi-channel, online-to-offline strategy — catapulted them to $52 million in annual sales
  • Two weeks after SweetLegs replatformed to Shopify Plus, they celebrated their biggest month with 10,000+ transactions totaling $2 million in sales
  • Fit for Life’s multi-site migration from Demandware increased conversion rates by 70% and saves them $250K per year

    To say the fitness ecommerce industry is jacked would be an understatement.

    In 2018, the fitness segment in the U.S. alone amounts to $3.463B. And the market is expected to swell with an annual growth rate of 4.3%, reaching $4.1B by 2022.

    Data via Statista including apps and wearables

    While a bit leaner overall, the European fitness industry is worth an estimated $2.54B this year (2018) and is expected to grow faster than the U.S. at 5.5% annually, hitting $3.1B by 2022. 

    Data via Statista including apps and wearables

    In contrast, the Asia Pacific fitness segment currently sits at $9.11B but is expected to grow slower than in the EU, at 5.3% per year, capping at $11.2B in 2022. A global comparison of the fitness industry reveals that China generates the most revenue at $6.56B.

    Data via Statista including apps and wearables

    Of course, market growth is both a blessing and a curse. With opportunity comes competition. Fierce competition.

    It also reflects a larger trend in commerce itself: brands that don’t go global … might as well go home.

    To help guide you, we’ve rounded up some of the most cutting-edge and high-growth brands.

    Here’s what you can learn from 15 of the best ecommerce fitness brands ...

    1. Gymshark: Bridging the Gap Between Online-to-Offline
    2. Women’s Best: Using Instagram for International Funnels
    3. Xenith: Customizing Products and Showing Off Safety
    4. 310 Nutrition: Fueling Community, One Supplement at a Time
    5. SweetLegs: Templating the Front-End, Partying in the Back
    6. Fit for Life: Saving $250K a Year While Still Moving Faster
    7. MMA Warehouse: Keeping Pace with Digital Trends
    8. Mava Sports: Giving Load Times a One-Two Punch
    9. NO BULL: Selling Out with Midnight Launches
    10. GuardLab: Revolutionizing Teeth, Digitally Speaking
    11. Altitude Sports: Searching with Predictive and Visual Features
    12. Kayla Itsines: Driving Traffic From Loyal Followers
    13. Fabletics: Using Customer Data to Its Full Potential
    14. Jillian Michaels: Gamification to Incentivize Loyalty
    15. Fitbit: Taking A Healthy Chunk of the Wearables Pie

    1. Gymshark: Bridging the Gap Between Online-to-Offline

    How do you build an army of millions of loyal customers spread out across 131 countries?

    If you’re Gymshark, first, you create a multi-channel online presence that spans social networks and onsite experiences with a consistent brand aesthetic.

    The kind of presence that gets you a shout out from Cheryl Samberg during a Facebook earnings call. (No, really!)

    Then, you bring that online experience, offline … into the real world.

    Gymshark has mastered the art of online-to-offline (O2O) commerce through international popup shops. These pop-ups include meet-and-greets with some of the most popular fitness experts and influencers, and there’s merchandise you can purchase IRL. 


    “It’s a customer experience second to none,” says Daniel Knight, Gymshark’s website manager. “It bridges the gap between the digital and physical worlds and creates emotional customer experiences that can’t be had online alone.”

    2. Women’s Best: Using Instagram for International Funnels

    As a brand that focuses on supplements and vitamins for women, Women’s Best has made an international name for itself by creating different ecommerce storefronts around the globe.

    Even more impressive, they’ve applied that same approach to Instagram.

    The U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, the UK, and France all have custom Instagram accounts that lead to specific online shops — in local currency and languages — for regional customers.

    Women’s Best U.S. Instagram account and onsite funnel

    Women’s Best French Instagram account and onsite funnel

    They also use Instagram to its fullest potential with separate accounts for different categories like beauty, recipes, reviews, and even a TV account which only posts videos.

    By creating these targeted accounts, they’re able to build very specific customer funnels based on their location or their interests.

    So when your goal is to sell around the world, it’s important to note there are customer nuances you should observe, which is why different accounts will help you satisfy those distinctions.

    3. Xenith: Customizing Products and Showcasing Safety

    Equipment company, Xenith, allows customers to customize practically every aspect of their gear. Aside from the color of your helmet, you can choose the style of the facemask, the colors of the chin straps, cups, and sleeves too.

    Beyond just colors and shapes, Xenith is revolutionizing the way (American) football protects its players. By allowing players to select their ideal headgear, they’re ensuring players’ get the protection they need.

    If you offer a product that is customizable, it’s important to ensure your customers are clear on what they’re getting. Having an interactive feature like the one Xenith uses showcases this and brings it to life.

    4. 310 Nutrition: Fueling Community, One Supplement at a Time

    With over a million social-media followers — 223K of whom are part of their closed Facebook group — 310 Nutrition has built a thriving online community to help support their members through their wins as well as during the tough times of getting healthy and fit.

    Recipes on their website and Q&As with nutritionists on Facebook allow members to feel like they are fully supported and empowered to make healthier decisions.

    When you’re trying to get healthy or change your eating habits, most of us feel like we have to give up treats. By sharing recipes like their Peanut Butter Cacao Cookies or Salted Caramel Brownies, as well as smoothies for every holiday and season in the year, the 310 Nutrition community feels supported.

    Even more than that, 310 Nutrition’s website and campaigns are full of user-generated content: stories, testimonials, and before-and-after photos to support the stories.

    Real success stories from real customers

    Reviews and UGC is a great way to motivate skeptical visitors. Fitness brands that can anticipate customers’ difficulties and address them with support from either internal sources or through their social community will see better results and better loyalty.

    5. SweetLegs: Templating the Front-End, Partying in the Back

    SweetLegs sells leggings to women of all shapes and sizes. But what sets them apart, aside from an incredible product, is the fact that they’ve forsaken the complications of traditional enterprise ecommerce platforms for simplicity.

    In 2016, the SweetLegs website crashed on the most important shopping weekend in the world: Black Friday. In the aftermath, this multi-million dollar brand decided they couldn’t face 2017’s holiday season exposed to the same risks.

    And they decided to replatform one month before Black Friday itself …

    “On October 16th,” says Chris Pafiolis, CEO of SweetLegs, “we picked a standard template, paid a firm to migrate our data, and were up and running by November 1st.

    With our craziest month to date — $2 million in sales, over 10,000 transactions, and insane amounts of traffic — we no longer worry about sending marketing emails in batches or crashing the site. We can truly focus on growing our business!

    Simplicity means you can spend more time taking care of what matters.

    6. Fit for Life: Saving $250K a Year While Still Moving Faster

    With a roster of well-known brands in their portfolio — like C9 by Champion, FILA, and PetWell — a 2016 licensing agreement added millions in market cap to the fitness empire, Fit for Life.

    Unfortunately, it also left two of their newly acquired online businesses wondering, as Katrina High — the Director of Merchandising and Site Experience over Fit for Life — put it, how they “were going to make up for the apparel sales that shifted in the deal.”

    Worse, after the deal was announced, Fit For Life made a startling discovery. “They took one look at our invoice,” recalls High, “and saw what we were spending on ecommerce and went: ‘Whoa.’”

    Demandware was costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. On top of that, due to the added overhead of complex development, projects moved slow on the platform: sometimes as long as four months to launch a new landing page.

    In response to their multi-site needs, the brands migrated from Demandware to Shopify Plus. The results …

    • Increased online conversion rates 70%
    • Reduced page launches from months to days
    • And now saves them over $250K each year

    7. MMA Warehouse: Keeping Pace with Digital Trends

    For MMA Warehouse, the secret to their ecommerce success has been predicting and experimenting with what shoppers might want … coupled with ease of implementation.

    What does that look like?

    Once they replatformed to Shopify Plus, they were able to create a responsive mobile site which accounted for 35% of sales in one month and saw a 60% sales improvement from their previous platform.

    They’re also able to easily leverage apps like LimeSpot to show recommendations based on:

    • “Related”
    • “Recently Viewed”
    • “Frequently Bought Together”

    In addition — using Shopify’s recently released Dynamic Checkout — their products pages have both “Add to cart” and “Buy Now” buttons for accelerating customer conversions.

    The below picture shows all four instant checkout options on the far right, but Shopify’s backend recognizes a returning customer’s choice and automatically displays only their previous payment preference.

    Product pages include ‘Add to cart’ and ‘Buy now’ buttons

    I install 80-90 percent of the applications myself,” says Mika Casey, founder of MMA Warehouse. “It’s as easy as installing apps on an iPhone.

    All told, MMA Warehouse saved $200,000 on implementing these enhancements.

    8. Mava Sports: Giving Load Times a One-Two Punch

    Can a few seconds affect sales?

    According to Kissmetrics, it can. A slower page response means greater bounce rates and cart abandonment. Even a one-second lag on your page’s upload can result in 7% fewer sales. And if you’re pulling in $100,000 a day in sales, that adds up fast.

    For Mava Sports, that was unacceptable.

    “You can have the best advertising,” explains Vali Vetan, co-founder of Mava Sports, “but if the people don’t wait for the page to load, it’s useless.”

    What did they do about it?

    Vetan removed as many non-essential apps and plug-ins without compromising the customer’s experience.

    Practically speaking, this meant the only items to load immediately were essential, and using the LazyLoad script meant even those necessary items would only show once the page was rendered.

    Thanks to all these tweaks, the Mava Sports website now loads 5x faster.

    Having all the bells and whistles is nice, but if it comes at the cost of a faster site, is it worth it? Understanding what is critical to the user experience and removing what is not can help speed up your pages and make visitors stay longer.

    9. NO BULL: Selling Out with Midnight Launches

    When you’re competing with worldwide brands like Nike, Reebok, and Adidas, you better bring your A game. And that’s what NO BULL did and continues to do.

    Their brand manifesto is “for people who train hard with no excuses.”

    Sure enough, when you’re selling out from regular midnight product launches, there is no excuse for site crashes and other issues.

    “We launch all of our products at midnight because right now demand greatly exceeds supply,” says NO BULL co-founder, Marcus Wilson. “It’s a way to make sure our most loyal customers, those who are willing to show up and shop at midnight, are more likely to get what they want.”

    And because of these loyal customers, sometimes the shoes still sell out before the midnight masses manage to check out.

    Having an ecommerce platform that can grow with the demand is imperative to ensure that the only thing preventing customers from getting your products is the supply and not a website that crashes.

    10. GuardLab: Revolutionizing Teeth, Digitally Speaking

    Would you ever think of buying a mouth guard online?

    The folks at GuardLab have done it. How?

    They’ve incorporated an online-to-offline (O2O) strategy that takes the worry out of the buying process.

    Their signature products require an in-person scan with a dentist or at one of their scan events across North America. To customize the mouthguard, you can add your name, a logo or image, or even your country’s flag.

    If having O2O is part of your strategy, it’s critical you have the systems in place to ensure a seamless experience for customers.

    In this case, you need to be able to sync up the in-person scans with their purchases on the back-end. But for your business, that might mean you also need to sync up inventory to ensure you can fulfill orders.

    11. Altitude Sports: Searching with Predictive and Visual Features

    Altitude Sports started off as a brick-and-mortar shop in Montreal in the ‘80s specializing in outdoor equipment and clothing. Fast forward three decades and you have a multi-million-dollar ecommerce mega-hub.

    What makes Altitude Sports so successful?

    Their openness (pun intended) to the evolution of the digital world. Because they first started out as a store IRL before the internet became common or popular, it’s not uncommon for store owners to rely on word-of-mouth and foot traffic to continue to grow their brand.

    However, the powers that be at Altitude Sports decided to join the website revolution and launch their site in 1999. Since then, they’ve continued to grow and evolve alongside technology.

    One of the innovative features on the current website is their predictive search feature. Using SearchSpring, they’re able to auto-suggest items based on the first few letters typed into the search bar. The search also offers visual merchandising features so visitors to the site can see what their options before clicking.

    Predictive search function allows customers to find items faster

    With many search functions available for etailers, how do you choose the one that’s right for your business?

    There are many factors that should go into your decision-making process, and we’ve even posted an article to help guide you through the right questions to ask and what features to look for.

    12. Kayla Itsines: Driving Traffic From Loyal Followers

    Kayla Itsines is a worldwide fitness phenomenon and was voted one of Time’s 30 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2016.

    In 2008, Itsines started out as a run-of-the-mill gym trainer when she finished school. She worked with women who all had the same fitness goals: slim down but don’t bulk up. When the machine-based classes she was leading didn’t seem to do the trick, she switched to the aerobics. The women loved the classes and Itsines saw way better results.

    That’s when friends started asking her for help with nutrition and fitness. In return, Itsines wanted before-and-after pics to share on Instagram. She got noticed by women all over the world who started asking Itsines for guidance.

    From there, her empire was built.

    Her almost 10M followers on Instagram and close to 23M on Facebook didn’t happen overnight.

    She majored on the aspirational side of fitness, and it works because real women in the real world began showing their results and spreading the Itsines gospel.

    Another noteworthy tactic is her products pages all have a “Recommended for you” section to help guide customers and drive upsell. These methods work best when you have a loyal customer base that trusts your recommendations.

    Customers like knowing what to expect from brands, and so consistency helps move you forward. The takeaways from Itsines is to be true to yourself and your brand.

    While all the above examples operate on Shopify Plus, we’d be remiss if we didn’t add three more standouts off the platform …

    13. Fabletics: Using Customer Data to Its Full Potential

    Kate Hudson’s athleisure (athletic + leisure) brand offers customers a VIP membership which gets curated them monthly outfit choices at a reduced cost.

    Dustin Netral, senior vice president at Fabletics, says, “We use that information to project inventory. We are able to see past purchase behaviors and attribute a transaction.”

    By asking new members seven targeted questions about their lifestyle and style preferences, as well as using their past purchases as predictors, Fabletics is able to personalize outfits for each member.

    What’s more, by using their online data, they can enhance the offline experience for customers.

    They have developed an “omnicart” technology which allows stores to see what members have put in their carts but not purchased and offer to have them try it on in-store (if stock is available).

    Alternatively, if a customer is unsure of an item, the associate can add it to their online account for future purchase.

    In today’s online world, we have the technology to keep track of our clients’ likes and purchasing behaviors. With the proper permissions in place, using this information to improve a customer’s experience will result in the elusive yet oft-mentioned “surprise and delight” factor.

    14. Jillian Michaels: Gamifying to Incentivize Loyalty

    In the fitness world, motivation is 99% of the work. How do you keep your ideal clients motivated, especially in the beginning?

    Jillian Michaels uses gamification to incentivize her customers to keep going. By rewarding users with badges for completed workouts and complete their goals. This might sound like a small thing, but it’s an important piece of the staying-on-track puzzle.

    Once you receive the badges what’s to keep you from stopping or slowing down your progress? They’ve thought of that too by adding new badges regularly which makes completed workouts and goals more exciting. There are also incentives and prizes for creating groups and competing weekly.

    15. Fitbit: Taking a Healthy Chunk of the Wearables Pie

    The wearable tech sub-segment of the fitness industry overwhelmingly takes the proverbial cake. It is worth an estimated US$8.3B worldwide alone and dominates all other categories of the fitness industry as a whole, with Fitbit controlling approximately 15% of the wearable pie.

    Fitbit was released in 2007, less than one year after Nike joined forces with Apple to create Nike+, the first wearable activity tracker on the market. And with all the competition, Fitbit needs to stay relevant and keep new and returning customers alike informed.

    They’ve done this by organizing their products into categories like smart watches, fitness trackers, and more. You’re probably asking why does this matter? Because when you have several items, organizing them by product type makes it easier for customers to find what they’re looking.

    More than that, organizing them lets you save digital real estate and allows you to put all the category-specific benefits, features, and apps in one easy-to-find and easy-to-use section.

    Each product category has a separate page for all useful info

    The lesson for other ecommerce businesses, whether big or small, is to ensure your product information is organized in a way your customers will understand and appreciate.

    User experience should be top-of-mind when building a site, and that’s the benefit of sometimes choosing templates over custom layouts (the former have been tested and user-approved).

    Fitness Ecommerce: Bigger, Better, Faster

    If the roundup of these experts has shown us anything, it’s that what makes a fitness brand stand out is …

    • Using customer data to help inform decisions
    • Giving your users an incentive to stay motivated
    • Unifying O2O strategies help solidify connections
    • Leveraging social media for a global marketplace

    The adage of “thinking outside the box” (or in this case, thinking outside the gym) isn’t dead just yet.

    Social media can make a huge impact on a budding business, so don’t discredit these strategies. The most important part of any social media plan is to be where your customers are. And customizing needs to be interactive to get buy-in from customers.

    About the Author

    Karine Bengualid is a freelance copywriter (and Sesame Street enthusiast) at Brought to you by the letter K. She writes audience-specific stories to connect brands with their ideal customers. Karine brings her special spice blend (2 cups of research, 1 tbsp of detail, and a dash of chutzpah) to her style of copywriting. When she’s not busy stringing your perfect words together, she’s building her animal rescue, Maison Misha. Connect with Karine on LinkedIn and let her bring your story to life.

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