Keeping our workout app users engaged now that going to a physical gym is an option

Lisette Fabian, Co-CEO of fitness app 8fit, explains how the company plans to retain its users once physical gyms reopen in England from today.

As gyms in England reopen again today after months of closure, many people will be excited at the prospect of getting out and breaking away from home workouts in favour of a gym that is air-conditioned and full of equipment and energy. For others, however, the prospect of returning to the gym is going to feel less-enticing – especially as group exercise classes remain prohibited until 17 May at the earliest – particularly for those who have found home-workouts to be a safer, cheaper and more convenient way to exercise.

Over the past year, fitness regimes have shifted, and many people have taken up, and become accustomed to, digital-first, virtual gym routines and trainers that can be streamed direct to their living room via mobile, tablet, TV or any other device. But with gyms reopening once more, some will inevitably be eager to get back to a physical workout space. So how can digital platforms encourage people to stick around and stay engaged? The answer is through a strong focus on personalised experiences and a robust strategy to engage your customers.

Motivating our customers
At fitness and nutrition app 8fit – which currently has 1.8m users in the UK and 40m downloads, and counting – we have experienced record growth since the pandemic hit last March, and global lockdowns were enforced across the world. In fact, in the first half of 2020, we saw a 33 per cent increase in sign-ups compared to the same time period in 2019.

Over the last 12 months, fitness apps across the market have boomed as COVID-19 has largely restricted people that still wanted to maintain their health and fitness levels to doing so at home. Globally, 8fit has seen 26m completed workouts and 4m completed meals. One feature of our mobile app is that it enables users to create customised meal plans that align with their nutrition goals, offering over 800 recipes and a grocery list, to make food shopping easier for our customers.

With more than 2,000 different workouts, tailored exercise programs for any level of experience – including classes like resistance band training, Pilates, dumbbells and HIIT extreme – our goal has been to bring excitement and motivation to lockdown exercise. The app also comes with a sleep meditation feature, providing our users with a service above and beyond what they would expect from a normal gym membership.

How we’ve kept our lockdown customers engaged
When the pandemic took full effect, we found many people were feeling stuck in a Groundhog Day scenario, and so were starting to lose motivation. In order to create a great experience through a particularly difficult time, we wanted to engage our customers, encouraging them to try new classes, and feel more motivated to get moving again. So, we partnered with customer engagement platform Braze, to help gamify our user experience. We started sending our users personalised messages encouraging them to keep their workout streaks alive, with badges and awards used as incentives. Users at risk of having a streak broken were encouraged to not break the chain by taking part in at least one class a week.

This is something our customers have loved: upon implementing this we saw class views go up by 40 per cent and a further 17 per cent increase in weekly class completions. It’s also a feature of at-home workouts that users don’t get in a traditional gym setting, but something many have made clear to us that they want to retain. By collecting real-time data on usage and streaks, we were also able to action this into personalised promotional campaigns, encouraging our users to convert from a free trial to a paid subscription. This resulted in a rise of conversions of free to paid users of 13 per cent.

By working with Braze, we were able to achieve our goals of increasing user engagement and helping connect with customers on an individual level, therefore building brand loyalty and driving sign-ups. This personalisation tactic will be crucial for 8fit and other digital fitness platforms as gyms reopen, because it allows us to offer our customers something extra special that they may not be getting from their local gym.

Why many are choosing mobile
At 8fit, we believe that the events of the last year have created a permanent shift in attitudes towards the gym and traditional exercise classes. Over this time, many have realised that mobile workouts are a more flexible, convenient, and affordable way of keeping fit, that can be taken anywhere in the world with them, and still help individuals attain their personal goals.

Were seeing a 36 per cent higher subscriber renewal rate amongst users who joined the 8fit community early on in the pandemic, which is a strong indicator that many of our users will stay with us even once the gyms reopen. However, we are aware of the challenges post-gyms reopening, as many of our customers will be keen to leave their homes, and get out and about again. For us, it is important we stay close to our customers, collecting first-party data to understand their behaviour, which will inform our interactions and enable us to create tailored communication campaigns based on their specific needs and desires.

Our sophisticated customer engagement strategy means that we will be able to retain our newly-acquired customer base even as things return back to the ‘new normal’ and beyond. With the personalisation and flexibility that our platform offers we believe anyone can slot fitness into people’s lives, anywhere, at any time, and help to create a happier, healthier world.