Millennials and Fitness: Designing for Engagement

Posted by: Adam Hubbard

Earlier this summer, Millennial Marketing Guy™, Jeff Fromm wrote about the impact of the group-oriented and technology-driven mindset of millennials on the entire fitness industry, from gyms to equipment makers. As a leading manufacturer of health club and home fitness equipment, here at Precor we’re constantly evaluating how and when to incorporate emerging trends in fitness and demographics into our equipment.

It’s not always easy. For any manufacturer, especially those with somewhat longer product cycles, it’s important to distinguish between fads and trends. While understanding trends is critical to staying relevant, chasing fads is often the easiest way to lose sight of your core mission. Put simply, our mission is to serve people who want to live a healthier lifestyle. So when we’re considering new products and features, the primary question we ask ourselves is: “Will this enhance the fitness experience?”

Take, for example, millennials and technology. It’s not a revelation to readers of Millennial Marketing that Gen Y-ers love their smartphones. And those smartphones have quickly become indispensible exercise companions. As of January, there were some 50,000 health 5051958998_cd43f83418_zand fitness apps on Apple’s App Store, with more arriving every day. And, as Jeff pointed out, it’s the rare millennial who isn’t listening to music on a smartphone even as they watch TV while working out. Now wearables are becoming popular, too.

What does it all mean? We see the long-term underlying trend being the intersection of fitness, personalization and the desire for a “quantified self.” So the ideal piece of equipment will allow exercisers to create their own unique workouts, set fitness goals and track them as they move from treadmill, to elliptical to bike and more. A smartphone app to record both gym and outdoor workouts is also a much needed companion. They should also be able to plug their devices in to their consoles to listen to their own music or watch their own videos.

Millennials are also big fans of engagement and “gamification”, so apps should offer encouragement by awarding users virtual badges for achieving milestones along their fitness journey. And since social sharing is also a huge part of the millennial experience, it 9772163702_301b395083_z (1)should be easy for exercisers to share their latest workout badge on networks like Facebook or Twitter.

While certainly reflective of emerging trends, equipment makers should choose these features first and foremost because they’re relevant to the fitness experience. Personalized workouts, goals, data and social sharing all motivate exercisers – especially millennials – to work out more and be healthier. It’s easy to jump on a passing fad, like check-ins, but it seemed pretty obvious that the novelty of something like being “Mayor of elliptical number 5” would probably wear off fairly quickly.

Finally, since we’re a major supplier of equipment to the health club market, we know how important it is to offer an in-gym experience that millennials can relate to. So far, tying the gym experience to the outdoor fitness experience seems to be working. While millennials are certainly interested in outdoor activities and group-oriented fitness, according to a recent report by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), more than a quarter (27 percent) of those surveyed aged 21-30 belonged to a club as of June of 2013 (the last period for which data was available). That is the highest percentage of any age group.

So, like any customer savvy company, we’re keeping a close eye on what millennials care about when it comes to fitness. As their buying power increases, they’re going to be some of our best customers.

Photo Credit via Flickr: Health Gauge, Global Panorama & New England Fitness Distributors.

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About Adam Hubbard

Adam Hubbard is Director of Product Management at Precor, manufacturer of premium fitness equipment that personalizes health and fitness experiences worldwide. In this role, Hubbard leads product management of the companies entire commercial and consumer...See Adam's full bio.