Recently, I attended the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, UT. The show has more than 1,000 vendors represented in a $289 billion industry in the United States — $47 billion of that can be attributed to product sales.
This conference showcased everything from backpacks to hydration systems, skis to outerwear with heat control, even satellite-based emergency messenger services — literally anything that could be used for outdoor recreation and sport.
The most compelling theme of this show was the increased use of technology to make recreational gear more portable, user friendly and, of course, “cooler.” Technology has become a vascular part of the outdoor industry because of the overwhelming demand from consumers. They want technologically advanced equipment, from ski jackets and backpacks that are MP3 compatible, to skis that “read” terrain conditions and adjust accordingly.
Consumers in this multi-billion dollar industry want to know where they are going and how far they've come. It seems to me that they align closely with health club members. Today, all generations are more interested in overall health and the ability to do the things that they love to do. The trend is certainly toward how fitness supports their lifestyle outside of simply losing weight and managing health risks.
That means that to capture and keep members, the two industries must respond to their needs both recreationally and technologically. Technology is becoming much more ubiquitous in every sport and recreational activity. Its ability to provide a more comfortable, quality experience is essential. Additionally, technology's capability to help measure performance and other data is important.
Consumers in the outdoor industry consist of millions of people who use health clubs to prepare for the things that they love to do. These individuals are not only comfortable with technology that enhances their experience, but they also are demanding it (and paying for it). The same person who is using a GPS system while skiing wants to be able to have equipment and feedback that prepares them for outdoor activities.
Marketing your health club and its products and services should include messaging that ties fitness to the increasing value your members place on programming that prepares them for outdoor recreational activities.
A large untapped opportunity exists to customize outdoor activity training and classes in clubs. This includes using and selling portable technology products that can be used both in and out of the club, such as heart rate monitors that also have altimeters, GPS and even high-tech bags that are convertible for the gym or hiking.
Fitness equipment manufacturers should take note that the new generation of equipment should create a user experience that is both biomechanical and emotional. Their products need to tie the equipment experience to recreational activities rather than merely counting distance, calories and other traditional measurements. This means that the right kind of virtual reality programming tied to cardiovascular and entertainment systems will be more compelling than ever.
The health club industry can learn a lot by watching the trends tied to the outdoor recreation market because we share many of the same participants. We must remember that although we see the outdoor recreation market and the fitness facility market as two different industries, the participants that we share do not. They just want what they want. We'd be smart to give it to them.
Gregory Florez is CEO of FitAdvisor Health Coaching Services and First Fitness Inc., which was rated as the No. 1 health coaching online training service by The Wall Street Journal. Florez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.