Is it possible to define a new paradigm for the home fitness after the advent of Covid-19?
With Covid-19 shattering and revolutionizing most of our daily routines, also impacted was our relationship with fitness and exercise. Indeed, the revolution caused by the virus has brought an abrupt change to the way people think, practice and adapt to fitness, due to the inability to access in any way dedicated professional facilities and tools for a prolonged period of time. This represented a moment for people to truly re-invent ways in which to keep the body in movement, notwithstanding the limited resources, knowledge and space. Having the opportunity to learn about Gymnasio, a start up with the goal to revolutionize home fitness, was what drove Giulia Rotari to start a structured market research with the goal to answer the research question: Is there a potential business opportunity and customer base for Gymnasio in the Italian market?
Gymnasio is a new hi-tech home fitness start up created by five engineers and designers who want to make professional, safe and personalized at home training accessible to everyone using cutting-edge technologies. They do so through the combined use of a proprietary algorithm, a companion app and a hardware device with a stereo-camera which monitors the user throughout the whole training time, offering support with real-time feedback in case of error detection, training history and customized workout programs.
But what makes Gymnasio so special compared to the existing solutions? Training at home still seems to be a long way from being a viable alternative to the gym experience, without the possibility of being properly monitored and motivated. To date, already existing home fitness solutions are either easy to use but lack the ability to guide the user through the correct execution of exercises, such as the mobile phone apps, or are expensive and bulky, even if more professional. Gymnasio overcomes both these limitations, creating a new paradigm for the home fitness.
The way the paper was structured followed a precise logic: the initial part implied finding the main topic, defining 5 strategic questions functional to answer to the proper research question and a preliminary desk focused on several different aspects of the fitness world, useful to understand the broadest context in which Gymnasio is operating. Then the central section of the work consisted of qualitative research featuring 18 in depth interviews to collect interesting insights before diving into the articulated quantitative analysis.
Firstly, the target population was carefully chosen: Italian people who go to the gym and who are older than 18 years old. They represented the end recipients of a Cawi survey composed of 51 questions which collected a total of 386 valid responses ready to be analyzed on SPSS program. In terms of statistic techniques, univariates were used for an initial socio-demographic analysis of the observed sample, alongside bivariate of different typologies, namely Anova, Connection and Correlation, to better outline consumers workout habits and the impact of Covid on their training routine. Customer discovery featured a traditional behavioral segmentation with a factor analysis and a cluster analysis and further profiling was possible thanks to additional bivariate and a Linear Discriminant Analysis. Then, the Van Westendorp pricing model was used to explore the ideal price for the Gymnasio offer. And lastly, Conjoint analysis was used to understand the best combinations of features for the Gymnasio protype.
Results of this research are be addressed by recalling the 5 strategic questions defined at the beginning of the work.
Have consumers’ workout habits changed with the advent of Covid-19? Yes, a lot more people started exercising compared to those who dropped off and there was a general resilience to keep exercising at home. The keyword was “adaptation” but even if they found viable solution to exercise at home, they were all united by the curiosity to try a home fitness solution designed around their needs.
What are consumers’ opinions and preferences towards at-home workout and existing home fitness solutions? Home and gym represent the preferred places to workout, independently of lockdowns. However, there is the widespread fear to hurt oneself with wrong executions, matched with the frustration of having to exercise in a very limited space and boredom of always doing the same exercises. The most used solutions have been free online workouts and fitness apps.
Is there a potential market and customer base for Gymnasio? Yes, Gymnasio was perceived as innovative, trendy, and unique and a solid majority showed strong interest to try it. What represented the greatest source of interest was the possibility to be monitored and receive real time feedback, have one’s own custom workout plan and track the training history.
Who is Gymnasio’s potential target customer? Out of the 4 clusters identified, Cluster 1 was the more suitable as it is made of sporty and young people from the Millennials & Gen Z, therefore very digital & social media oriented and open to innovations. What’s more they really present all the pain points of training at home for which Gymnasio offers a solution and for this they have the highest willingness to try Gymnasio up to the point that they would switch a PT or gym with Gymnasio, even without having tried it once.
Which is Gymnasio’s ideal price point? To do so, the Van Westendorp Pricing Analysis was used and the four questions necessary to collect the data were included in the questionnaire. What came out is that: 1) The Point of Marginal Expensiveness, where anything above this price point will likely have a limited number of buyers, for Gymnasio, is 25 €; 2) The Point of Marginal Cheapness, namely the lowest amount that should be charged not to be negatively impacted by the perception of lack of quality, lies 13 €; 3) The Optimal Price Point or "Market Entry" is the price that potential customers are unlikely to reject and it amounts to 16€; 4) The Indifference Price Point, which is the "optimal" one, in that it maximizes revenues, lies at 22.5 €. (51)
But what could be the practical consequences of these results?
From a product standpoint, thanks to the Conjoint Analysis it was possible to understand the importance and utility levels of the respondents and so identify the best characteristics that Gymnasio could feature to maximize appeal on its future customers. To do so respondents were asked to rate 9 different scenarios calculated from 3 different attributes: device design, purchasing mode and brand style. Therefore, the ideal Gymnasio is purchasable with a monthly instalment of 29,99€, should have a friendly tech style and the possibility of color customization. Considering results from the Van Westendorp analysis, the pricing strategy was adjusted with a flexible model featuring 3 different subscription plans: a basic, a silver and a gold one.
In terms of how Gymnasio will reach its public, the promotion strategy will be a twofold one, both online and offline oriented. Being this a new to the market product, the main communication goal will be spur brand awareness and knowledge. This will be possible by creating carefully curated social media profiles to reach early adopters with micro targeting activities, complemented with niche influencer marketing. Secondly, is a suggestion of running two parallel campaigns: an emotional one, to celebrate how revolutionizing can be training with Gymnasio and a functional one, focused on communicating the holistic benefits of training. In addition, Gymnasio Loyalty program and Gymnasio Referral Program should be launched to boost WOM and thus expanding the customer base just after launch. For the offline strategy, the Gymnasio team will organize pop up stands around the city to allow people to test the device for free with a short and easy training session. This will be key to witness in first person this radically new and innovative workout experience. Which is something which they are currently doing.
Although this thesis work confirmed that currently there is a business opportunity for Gymnasio in the Italian market, it also leaves open some further actions that the team could implement in the future.
It could be interesting craft a new ad-hoc questionnaire to spread only to the potential early adopters identified to confirm their interest towards Gymnasio.
Secondly, start a process of in-dept interviews to obtain a more complex pool of data to further characterize Gymnasio ideal target.
Thirdly, go beyond the home fitness-only approach and start exploring other disciplines where movement is crucial for good performances.