The word Symbiosis comes from the Greek term for “living together” and is any type of a close and long-term mutualistic biological interaction between two different biological organisms.
In a cleaning symbiosis, the clownfish feeds on small invertebrates that otherwise have potential to harm the sea anemone, and the faecal matter from the clownfish provides nutrients to the sea anemone. The clownfish is protected from predators by the anemone’s stinging cells, to which the clownfish is immune. The clownfish emits a high-pitched sound that deters butterfly fish, which would otherwise eat the anemone, making the relationship mutualistic.
In the Masai Mara in Kenya, I am lucky to have seen for myself the symbiotic relationship between ants and the Acacia Tree. The plants provide food and accommodation in the form of food bodies and nectar as well as hollow thorns which can be used as nests. The ants return this favour by protecting the plants against herbivores, such as elephants and giraffe.
In inosculation, the bond is even tighter. Inosculation is a natural phenomenon in which trunks, branches or roots of two trees grow together. Technically and biologically these two trees are no longer two separate organisms, but have become one, new organism.
So where does this apply to the fitness industry?
Many of the big chain (“big box”) gyms have finally latched on to the need to deliver a high-quality product to their members. Increasingly, we are seeing boutique studios start to emerge within the larger chains, offering that greater personal attention and quality of service. These companies have huge finances and can put considerable money behind delivering a “best in class” service.
Over the past year, there has been much talk of the “hybrid model”. In the UK we have taken the (largely) predictable route of exploding back out of lockdown, with a large percentage rushing back to the gym or studio. Consequently, many facilities have binned-off (or significantly paired-back) their online sessions.
Nevertheless, the likes of Peloton and Apple+ (and many, many others) continue to invest heavily in the online space. They are playing a longer game.
In territories, such as Ireland and the US, there seems to be a greater appreciation that the online model will remain and will sit as part of a core, hybrid offering. In due course, I personally believe this will become similarly evident in the UK (once we get over the giddiness of being allowed out of the house!)
The question is how the typical small, independent small-group training gym can compete against some of these high-gloss offerings? And this is where, in the UK, I think our natural tendency for individualistic thinking might be about to change.
I predict that, in the coming months and next couple of years, two things will happen:
1. Smaller, independent gyms will start working together (in a symbiotic relationship) to provide complimentary services to each other, and to build a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.
For example, the sharing of on-demand videos; exercises; programs etc. Modern facility management software tools, such as Quoox, provide an effective platform for facilitating this exchange (or commerce) through their Marketplace features.
2. Hybrid will become truly ‘hybrid’. Presently, and in the main, the delivery of online and in-person sessions are treated as two separate things – particularly in the UK. In the US there is a greater understanding that the true strength comes from the delivery “as one”.
Every in-person session should also be an online session. Give your members the option to choose how they consume your product. They can tap into a lunchtime workout from the office, which you are running in-person in your facility. Through the likes of Myzone‘s MZ-Remote they can be fully engaged in their participation in that model.
Presently the effectively delivery of a “pure hybrid” offering can be a bit tricky and does bring some technical challenges. However, QnetIC (an exciting new innovation currently in development with Quoox) will be a game-changer within the fitness market.
There are many like-minded communities of gyms & studios around the globe, with more seemingly springing-up every month. The enlightened will see that strength comes from within, and I am excited to see how the industry will continue to innovate over the coming months and years.
Chris Windram | Co-Founder
a: Quoox Ltd. | Innovation Centre | Knowledge Gateway | Colchester | CO4 3ZQ | United Kingdom