Digital disruption in the fitness industry.
Fitness is one industry that is experiencing meaningful disruption. Traditionally dominated by brick-and-mortar health clubs, the industry is witnessing a shift in how people want to pursue fitness. The change in fitness delivery is partially driven by new digital offerings, from wearable devices to virtual reality products. Millennials, in particular, have demonstrated an appetite for digitally enhanced workouts; as many as 36% report that they have paid for such an experience (1). Accordingly, digital fitness, as a relatively new sub-industry, is expected to balloon to a valuation of $27B by 2022 (2).
Introducing a winner: Mirror.
One interesting example of a “winner” in this space is Mirror. Mirror fits into the category of tech-enabled home exercise equipment. Mirror is an LCD screen (connected to the internet), which can be mounted on a wall of the user’s home and disguised as a full-length mirror when inactive. Once started, Mirror transforms into an elegant, interactive fitness platform. Users are served a selection of 70 fresh real-time fitness classes each week, as well as a library of on-demand classes ranging from yoga to boxing (3). Users stream these classes and conduct their workout in front of Mirror; they can watch their own movements on the screen, as well as those of a fitness instructor and fellow classmates.
Mirror has raised over $35M in funding from investors who have also bet on startups like Uber, Blue Apron and Warby Parker (4). The Mirror product officially launched in September of 2018 with a retail value of $1,495 for the physical device, plus a $39/month subscription fee (5). An average of 600 Mirrors have been sold each month since the product hit the market (6).
How is Mirror creating value for customers?
First, Mirror addresses common pain points of customers who would otherwise subscribe to a traditional health club. Used from the comfort of home, Mirror is ideal for people who feel uncomfortable attending an actual, in-person fitness class. Mirror also makes it easy for users to fit a workout into their busy schedule, and provides the flexibility to pursue any type of workout class on a whim (7).
Second, the Mirror experience is personalized. The system’s recommendation engine helps the user to select a workout. During the workout, if the user is wearing a Bluetooth enabled heart rate monitor, the system can also dynamically adjust the intensity of the exercises to help keep the user within their target heart rate zone.
Third, the Mirror platform can be made social, accommodating those who do not want to work out alone. During live classes, users work out in the company of others. Instructors offer tailored feedback and motivational comments to participants in real-time, which facilitates competition and helps recreate the exhilaration of a traditional group fitness class (8).
Is Mirror just a fad?
Many digital fitness products have previously splashed onto the scene, then lost traction in a competitive field (e.g. FitBit). This problematic trend has been described as the “Shark Fin” of adoption for disruptive digital products. Generally, the products that endure and achieve a steady flow of new customers are those that can create a nimble ecosystem, so that “as tastes change, the platform abides” (9). Following this logic, Mirror may be favorably positioned.
Mirror CEO Brynn Putnam explains that in a future state, this product need not even be limited to fitness applications. Mirror could also be used to provide interactive fashion and beauty media, for instance (10). Putnam says: “We’re looking to be the next screen in your life… you have your phone for communication, your computer for information, your TV for entertainment and now the Mirror for experiences” (11).
Who is the loser?
Traditional health clubs are feeling pressure to respond to the rise of digital fitness. While US gym membership peaked in 2018, the rate of growth has been slowing over the last several years (12). Mid-market fitness clubs (e.g. 24 Hour Fitness) are being hit hardest, as customers increasingly migrate to boutique fitness studios (e.g. SoulCycle), discount clubs (e.g. Planet Fitness), and novel “home gyms” like Mirror (13).
Historically, to stay competitive and keep up with fitness fads, these mid-market gyms would incur heavy upfront costs to purchase new physical equipment; the costs were then passed on to customers through significant membership fees. Now, these gyms are seeking new models to help them recover membership. Many are finally choosing to build mobile applications and invest in digital fitness solutions (14). Embracing digital could allow these gyms to deliver a better customer experience at a lower cost.
What do you think?
To what extent do you think digital fitness solutions will be able to cannibalize the demand for traditional health clubs and fitness studios?
Does Mirror, specifically, have staying power?
- Evans, Alex and Geoff McQueen. “Three Myths of the Digital Fitness Boom.” May 21, 2019. https://www.lek.com/insights/ei/digital-fitness-boom-myths
- “Growth Opportunities in the Global Digital Fitness Market.” July 17, 2017. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/growth-opportunities-in-the-global-digital-fitness-market-300489518.html
- “How it Works.” Accessed September 23, 2019. https://www.mirror.co/how-it-works.
- Rubin, Courtney. “The Most Narcissistic Exercise Equipment Ever.” February 8, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/08/style/mirror-fitness-method.html
- “Shop.” Accessed September 23, 2019. https://www.mirror.co/shop/mirror
- Rubin, Courtney. “The Most Narcissistic Exercise Equipment Ever.”
- Potkewitz, Hilary. “The Trendiest Fitness Class Now: Working Out Alone at Home.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-hottest-fitness-class-now-working-out-alone-at-home-11565712323
- “How it Works.”
- Downes, Larry and Paul Nunes. “Finding Your Company’s Second Act.” January, 2018. https://hbr.org/2018/01/finding-your-companys-second-act
- Griffith, Erin. “Silicon Valley Jumps Into the Fitness Business, and It Will Cost You.” September 6, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/06/technology/tech-workout-machines-price.html
- Brown, Dalvin. “Home Workout: Companies like Peloton, Mirror and FightCamp Push Remote Fitness Forward.” June 11, 2019. https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/06/11/how-5-g-wearables-and-ai-help-bring-smart-gyms-your-home/1331406001/
- Potkewitz, Hilary. “The Trendiest Fitness Class Now: Working Out Alone at Home.”
- Club Intel. “the Rollercoaster Ahead: 11 Prognostications for the Fitness Industry in 2018.” https://www.club-intel.com/wp-content/uploads/Eleven-Prognostications-for-2018.pdf