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Deloitte, McKinsey and European Datahub join Chuck Runyon in stellar speaker lineup at EHFF

The European Health and Fitness Forum has been held in Cologne this week
Delegates at the event were given a taster of the findings from the European Health & Fitness Market Report 2023
The report suggests that the way customers consume fitness has changed during the pandemic
Hybrid fitness training habits, mixing facility-based exercise with at-home workouts, is "here to stay"
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European fitness operators have seen a strong return to growth, with member numbers and income per club having increased every quarter since 2021.

The finding comes from the European Health & Fitness Market Report 2023, whose initial insights were shared at the European Health and Fitness Forum (EHFF), held in Cologne this week.

In a presentation, given by Karsten Hollasch from Deloitte Germany and EuropeActive Ambassador, Herman Rutgers, delegates at EHFF heard how the omnichannel approach to fitness is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, identifying continuing signs that the way customers are consuming fitness has been changed by the pandemic.

Hollasch said: “The results from the European Health & Fitness Market Report 2023 revealed that, next to an increase in overall fitness frequency levels and a strong return to fitness clubs, hybrid fitness training habits, such us the integration of multiple fitness settings into one’s workout routine, are here to stay."

Other findings included that the impact of current inflationary concerns are affecting consumer behaviour – at a time when many operators are still looking to recover from the disruption of the pandemic.

The report will be published in full in May during a webinar. To register for the event, click here.

Hosted in conjunction with the FIBO trade show – held in Cologne this week – the EHFF also included a session from Oleksandra Boliak, the secretary general of UkraineActive.

She took the EHFF audience through UkraineActive's experience in running the 2022 #BeActiveDay campaign under exceptionally difficult circumstances and encouraging everyone's participation in this year's campaign.

"Physical activity is necessary for people in any conditions, it helps to cope with difficulties and maintain mental health," she said.

"Furthermore, experience has shown that the support of international partners is extremely important, especially the support of the European Community.

"We are looking forward to #BeActiveDay 2023 in Ukraine, and we are thankful for the fundraising that has been launched today. Believe us - any support matters."

Other sessions during the day included one given by Self Esteem Brands CEO, Chuck Runyon, who offered his insights on the importance of understanding key metrics to meet the changing consumer demands.

“This industry has long competed on a few metrics – locations, members and revenues," he said.

"Looking ahead, we are looking at metrics that go beyond those standards, measures of health, happiness and industry transformation that helps people live their best lives.

"We need better consumer health metrics if we want to be part of the preventative health industry," said Runyon. "We're too focused on health club operating metrics.

"This is a transformational period for the fitness industry. We are an essential part of the equation when it comes to the health and wellness of people worldwide, and we are thrilled to be with other industry thought leaders at this year’s EHFF."

Runyon's appearance at EHFF coincided with the company launching a new app to own the member 24/7 and reinforce brand loyalty while also delivering enhanced levels of service, including remote coaching.

Meanwhile, Prof Evgeny Kaganer, from IESE Business School, shared his expertise on digital transformation and the need for those in the fitness sector to come up with long-term strategies to make the process of digitalisation successful.

“Digital continues to generate a lot of hype," he said.

"Whether large or small, firms need to take a longer-term view and give a clear answer to the question of why to embark on digital transformation, before diving head-first into what to do.

"When it comes to digital, most companies have plenty of war stories to tell. The challenge, however, is how to scale. And that requires investment in both people and technology capabilities.”

There was also a presentation given by Utku Toprakseven of 4global, Prof Alfonso Jimenez from Think Active and Eric Falardeau and Olga Ostromecka from McKinsey & Co on the socio-economic impact of the fitness industry.

Toprakseven said the European DataHub –  a sector-wide digital transformation project launched in 2022 – is already playing an important role in supporting operators with data-driven decision-making.

"The DataHub is generating actionable insights at the sector level to evidence impact and attract investment," he said.

Revealing insights from the new Think Active report, called Understand the social and economic impact of an incredible industry, Jimenez indicated that evidence, driven by data, is the sector's "best partner for growth”.

"Over the past 18 months we've developed a unique data infrastructure to collect high-quality robust data on business performance, market penetration, consumer behaviour, economic impact, and social value from our industry," Jimenez said.

"The European DataHub project is the instrumental tool to make it happen. We need to model participation data to show how healthcare savings are being influenced and work with health economists to do this. We are in a different industry from before the pandemic and governments are desperate," he said.

The industry needs to improve market penetration across Europe, said Jimeneze: "Only 12.7 per cent of people in Europe belong to gyms. Transformation is needed and this requires energy, drive and collaboration from the health and fitness industry." It was also revealed that only 6 per cent of the population of Europe meet current exercise guidelines, meaning that less than half of health club members are actually exercising enough.

Falardeau said customer acquisition is increasingly competitive and being 'top of mind' is difficult for operators, with health club brands having low unprompted awareness with consumers, however, 46 per cent of consumers are influenced by social media in relation to their fitness choices, the highest of all industry categories, so this may be one way the industry can improve awareness.

He recommended the use of driver-trees to calculate the probability that customers will be satisfied and verifiable forecast to show how the individual components of an experience impact financial success.

Ostromecka said the advent of hybrid was leading to greater consumer satisfaction with their fitness journey, with people more likely to say their wellness had improved if they used hybrid training. She also presented research that showed that year-on-year demand for personalisation is growing, up 30 per cent since 2021.

Jos Esland from pricing expert Simon Kucher presented deep insight into the science of bundling, showing how bundles must comprise a leader product and then fillers, but no 'killers'. He presented McDonald's as an example with a bundle that comprised a Big Mac (the leader), fries (the filler) but avoided the 'killer' which is coffee. He said that when included in a bundle, McDonald's can only command 20 cents for a coffee, whereas people are prepared to pay US$2-3 for a coffee after they've consumed their Big Mac and fries bundle. Go figure.

"Products with low willingness to pay diminish the value of a bundle," said Kucher. "People don't want to be forced to take things they don't think they need at that point in time [when they are only thinking about the food]. They like to buy, not to be sold."

During the one-day conference, EHFF moderator and EuropeActive president, David Stalker, paid tribute to Life Fitness founder Augie Nieto who died recently and also introduced the 'Rainer Schaller Entrepreneurship Award', which aims to promote and foster the entrepreneurial spirit in the European fitness ecosystem as well as recognise Rainer's outstanding career trajectory in the sector, following his death in 2022.

He also highlighted how the new FitCert consumer standard – a certification for operational and health safety excellence – is being embraced by the sector, with David Lloyd Clubs among the first to complete it in full, and the first to achieve Level 4.

"Many other leading operators are following David Lloyd’s example by signing-up to FITcert," Stalker said.

"It is unquestionably the best way we can prove that we are professional and responsible industry."

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