Metamorphosis: from gym to Wellness centre

Customers who buy a subscription at the gym are looking more for experiences, emotions and sensations, rather than a specific product. There is less talking of the buyer and more of the individual and their preferences, less mentioning of the consumer and more of an active consumer, who takes an active role in the very production of the contents or goods from which they will benefit. It is true what Lewitt states in his theory:

Once the existence of a customer need has been ascertained, the company operates backwards, first deciding how to satisfy the need itself, then realizing the products or services that will allow it to satisfy such a need.

It is clear that the link between need and product or service is the basic element of any business strategy. Therefore, if the evolution over time of the gym "business model" is proven, as already discussed in various fitness articles, it becomes natural then to investigate what has been the metamorphosis of the customer's needs underlying this evolution and, in a later analysis, what has been the change of the format and the spaces intended to accommodate it.

The metamorphosis of customer needs

Looking back at the development of the management model of the entreprise-gym, these phases can be identified since the 1980s:

  • A first phase of product orientation, in which the only focus was to offer a product of acceptable quality at an affordable price;
  • A second phase of sales orientation, in which aggressive commercial policies generated significant increases in turnover in the short term, but also a low level of loyalty and a high turnover rate, accompanied by a high sensitivity of the customer to price;
  • A third phase of marketing orientation, characterized by a shift in focus on the relationship, rather than on sales, in the belief that success is mainly the result of satisfying the needs and exceeding the expectations of the consumer.
However, if on the one hand Relationship Marketing emphasizes the importance of the relationship with the customer, on the other hand it risks not to fully consider the experiential dimension of using a product/service, which is today becoming increasingly important for the consumer.

The experience of using a product or service is in indeed becoming the centre of the customer's interest, which due to its mutable and subjective nature, makes the new consumer extremely relativist. Therefore, the focus should be on the context of use rather than the goods or services, and on the types of experiences rather than on the attributes of the product.

Therefore, it is imperative to propose an immersive and memorable experience, with a high symbolic content, able to involve the customer on an emotional, physical and intellectual level, adding new dimensions to the offer of products or services.

Changing the experience of usage means changing the very notion of usage itself. Certainly not because products or services are no longer necessary, but because value is translating into a different field: that of experiences.

The metamorphosis of fitness centres: experiential marketing

Product homologation encourages companies to study new ways to differentiate themselves, while increasingly sophisticated generations of consumers are looking for increasingly extreme forms of psychological satisfaction, where experience marks the new metamorphosis of economic value.

For companies, exalting in each good the added value in psycho-physical terms will help to justify the premium value of their offer, to validate a "luxury" increasingly perceived as "necessary", a new paradigm in which generating a memorable user experience becomes the true driver of choice.

In the fitness environment, increasing the user experience allows two types of positive implications in terms of marketing:

  • can be identified as a valid tool for a restyling of the club's image, differentiating its offer;
  • it can increase the level of member satisfaction and as well as attract more diversified market segments

The service provided by a modern Fitness Club in the minds of today’s Prosumers is no longer limited to material benefit, but invests many energies to achieve self-determination for the user himself: by purchasing of the service and frequenting a given environment, the customer comes to outline his identities and feed his self-esteem through social self-awareness, or through self-reflections based on experiences shared with others.

The "top of the line" concept that is preferred today is aimed at ensuring an inner happiness not only through physical well-being, but also through personal gratification, redeeming oneself from the peremptory and repetitive rhythms of everyday life.

This statement is supported by the theory of the hierarchy of human needs of the American psychologist. According to the author, human needs and motivations are structured in interconnected hierarchical degrees, in which the passage to the higher stage can occur only after the satisfaction of the lower degree need.

It is therefore not particularly surprising that, in a society that has reached a high standard of living, first the needs of belonging and then of esteem - including the need for self-esteem and fulfilment, come to take on particular importance.

How online communities have changed wellness

To complete the analysis of the evolving context of customer needs, we must reflect upon the metamorphosis that the advent of the web and digital media have had in the economic and social sphere in the last decade.

The relationship between companies and their public has quickly and radically changed, with the unprecedented opportunity offered to the latter to guide the choices of the former, impacting so decisively on the definition of business models to be able to decree their success or failure.

As the French philosopher Lyotard predicted, geographical communities are being replaced by communities of interest, whether real or online. The need for men to communicate and establish common values, to feel part of a community as a fundamental need, is therefore sturdily re-emerging.

The birth of new forms of community involves a metamorphosis also in the marketing strategy of companies, driven by the need to establish a non-hierarchical communication relationship with their consumers.

Community Marketing provides the opportunity for the company to be part of new communities, becoming their emblem, representation, their new point of reference that allows identification in real "tribes", with their purpose to satisfy the need of togetherness, empathy, and escapism from a chaotic world to one of belonging and exchange.

In this scenario Fitness Clubs can play the role of new social aggregators, proposing themselves as communities of interest: for example, through the organization of events or the creation of special, dedicated, exclusive and inclusive spaces, able to bring together people with the same passions

The most famous phenomenon that has been growing steadily in recent years is the "Boutique Club": a relatively small environment with spaces often dedicated to a single type of user (indoor cycle rather than yoga or pilates, for example). In this case, the relationship between space and person is crucial to approach the client from an experiential point of view, as the new Boutique concept explores the variant of participatory experience.

The Club is thus a pretext for new forms of inter-classist and intergenerational communalism, touching on the deepest needs of the new communities of interest.  Similarly, service use is not the only element of the experience offered to customers, as it also generates familiarity, thus becoming a real instrument of social aggregation.

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