The Illuminist Blog

Big Box vs. Boutique: Reimagining the Member Experience

Posted by Jason Hammond on December 15, 2016


There is a quiet war happening in the fitness industry that very few people are aware of. Consumers are migrating away from larger, traditional health clubs and gyms that offer an “everything under one roof” experience in exchange for smaller specialty boutiques such as SoulCycle, CrossFit, and others. This trend appears to be driven by the accessibility of fitness offerings, along with consumers’ (especially millennials) desire to find a workout that meets their needs as both a physically challenging and socially satisfying experience.

Here are a few ways that big-box clubs and gyms are, or should be, adapting to this trend:

Big-Box Boutiques

Many big clubs fail in assuming that their volume of offerings is too small. In reality many consumers are not necessarily looking for more features, programs, or equipment, but a deeper connection which helps lure them back and keeps them active. By offering uniquely branded groups, clubs, or programs within the club, you can help foster these connections and create a sense of belonging and community. Brands like Life Time Fitness have launched a series of “clubs-inside-a-club” approach. Their Alpha program was launched in response to the rise of CrossFit gyms. It’s proven to be a wildly popular program with a hardcore following.

High-Touch meets High Tech

Technology has become a huge part of the fitness world. The abundance of smart devices has provided consumers with instant feedback—giving them new insights into their workouts. As a result, this has now become a part of their expected fitness experience. Orangetheory Fitness built their entire model around technologically integrated workouts that give participants instant feedback—transforming the traditional group training session into a completely personalized experience.

Tell a Better Story

Big-box clubs have fallen prey to the idea of “if we build it, they will come”. Luring new members is no longer as easy as simply showing photos of fit people in big, beautiful facilities with tons of equipment and packaging it at a competitive price. Small boutique brands are proving that consumers are willing to pay a little more to have access to a great experience and will be lured in by a great story. Equinox Fitness has been creating great content via Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and SnapChat that come together to tell their own unique brand story of “It's Not Fitness. It's Life”.

The fitness industry is a fast moving, trend driven industry. Only those brands that show the speed, dexterity, and creativity to respond to consumer demands will survive.

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Topics: Health & Wellness