SWEAT – The Rise of Kayla Itsines’ Fitness Empire
The SWEAT App, created by fitness influencer Kayla Itsines, emerges a winner in the fitness industry’s digital revolution.
As the fitness industry shifts away from traditional gyms and towards more convenient and energizing digital offerings, the SWEAT by Kayla App (or SWEAT) gains considerable global traction through continuous digital innovation.
Kayla Itsines, the Adelaide-based personal trainer and entrepreneur, aims to empower women throughout the world and spread her reach beyond her in-person training sessions. In 2014, after the successful release of her first fitness eBook, Kayla turned to social media to get her program out there. Today, she has over 12 million Instagram followers and her programs reach over 20 million women worldwide. SWEAT topped the fitness app charts in 2016, bringing in revenues of over $17 million.
The high-end digital fitness market is growing, with players such as Peloton ($2,245 one-time bike purchase + $36/month subscription) and The Mirror ($1,495) offering luxurious solutions for stay-at-home workouts that engage users and have a community-feel. Yet the high barriers to entry make these services inaccessible to many.
On the low-end, the propagation of free workouts and fitness tips on YouTube has inundated users seeking at-home fitness. The personal trainers creating these videos struggle to keep a steady following due to the low switching cost, a lack of community engagement, and lack of customization.
SWEAT plays in the mid-market segment alongside powerful incumbents such as Nike+ and Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal, who rely on their brand names and existing customer databases to build their fitness communities.
Itsine’s core solution is not a new one; to get more fit and reach your weight loss goals, you need to exercise and eat better. It’s her strategic reliance on digital platforms that has set her up for success.
At its core, SWEAT is a tech company. By making the decision early on not to enter the hardware space, Itsines is able to focus on the digital content and customer experience to reduce churn rates. Itsines has made use of various digital platforms throughout the growth of her brand. She began in 2014 by growing her Instagram and Facebook following, simply relying on word of mouth from clients. Soon, her following was in the millions such that when the SWEAT app launched in 2017, she had already won the hearts of her community. Her customers were now being offered a seamless service, whether they attended her in-person personal training sessions, watched her Instagram circuit trainings, or followed her sessions on the app. On the flipside, SWEAT is benefitting from the growing database of user information to create new fitness programs better suited to the needs of the public. SWEAT goes one step further to integrate seamlessly with iOS systems. A strategic partnership with Apple has allowed SWEAT to fully integrate into users’ existing tech, such as the Apple watch or Apple TV.
Unlike traditional fitness videos, SWEAT fosters an online community of women – often referred to as #KaylasArmy – hoping to hit their fitness goals and motivate others to do so as well. Itsines uses Instagram as a two-sided platform, allowing communication to and from her followers, but also encouraging followers to speak amongst each other. Her Instagram is used for followers to post their body transformation photos under her hashtag and the SWEAT app offers members-only forums where interaction is location-based, so that followers in the same geography can rally and complete workouts together at meeting places of their choice.
Whereas traditional fitness classes or videos are rigid in their offerings, SWEAT boasts customizable workouts and nutrition plans based on a range of preferences. The flexibility allows Itsines to cater to all women and further empowers women by avoiding any exclusionary memberships. For only $20/month, SWEAT allows women to select workouts based on their level of fitness, the equipment they have on hand, how much time they have, etc. They have also expanded into yoga, mindfulness, pregnancy care, and post-pregnancy work outs, making SWEAT a universal fitness solution for women.
SWEAT’s omnichannel approach, impressive community engagement, and endless customization options are just some elements that have attracted so many people to the brand and have differentiated them from other fitness apps in the mid-market segment. In order to maintain her position, Kayla Itsines will need to consider the consequences of having an entire empire built around one person. She might also consider offering options for men in order to expand her total addressable market. But one thing is sure – as long as she keeps pushing the boundaries of digital innovation, her position on top is well protected.