The growth in the online fitness business shows no sign of slowing in the post-pandemic world, which means there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to successfully enter the market.
The past two years has seen the market for online fitness businesses explode across the world. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and many people were put under lockdown conditions and gyms were shut, increasing numbers turned to online solutions to help them maintain – or improve – their fitness levels in their own homes.
While gyms have reopened now, there remains a significant and growing appetite for online fitness programmes. Users prefer the flexibility of online fitness programmes as they can generally be accessed at any time, as well as their privacy – nobody else can see you get sweaty, which is an advantage for those who are not body confident.
The scale of the appetite for online fitness is huge: the global online fitness market was valued at US$5 billion in 2019, but is predicted to grow to US$30 billion by 2026, a CAGR of 30%. In the UAE, the fitness sector is estimated to increase at a compound rate of 10.9% per year to more than US$600 million by 2025.
This growth is being driven by several factors, not least a growing awareness among populations of the importance of physical wellbeing and living a healthy life. People of all ages are looking to get involved in online fitness and are seeking out programmes that are tailored to their wants or needs, such as older people seeking lower impact exercise. As the percentage of people who have access to the internet increases over time, so too does the potential market.
This shows that the market is growing quickly – and is set to continue to for some time yet, as it is nowhere near saturation. This presents a range of opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs – whether established in the sector or new start-ups – to capitalise on it in the coming years, if they have the right product or service.
With the market still in its infancy, there are relatively low barriers to entry, even for startups, which means there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to gain a good share of the market if they have a product of sufficient quality.
Here is our list of some of the bigger opportunities for entrepreneurs:
Some personal trainers have found success by going online and delivering one-to-one fitness sessions to clients via online platforms such as Zoom or Teams. While this can now be done face-to-face again, some people may prefer the online experience – it also makes it more flexible as it cuts out travel time and sessions can be booked at the client’s convenience.
The advantage of being an online personal trainer is that establishing the business is easy and has few startup costs, other than for a decent internet connection, access to a web conferencing platform and some gym equipment. This sort of business is perfect for those who want to establish a business and make a good living for themselves. Good personal trainers, with a few regular customers, can easily carve out a success story with this model.
Similar to online personal trainers, the online fitness programmes have also grown rapidly in popularity over the past two years. Here, there is usually a defined programme of exercise that users or subscribers follow – often these sessions get harder in terms of exercises included, length and intensity as the user becomes fitter.
Sessions can be pre-recorded on a designated channel, often YouTube. Many online channels offer a variety of workout programmes, such as fat burn, cardio through to boxercise or aerobics, to suit a wide range of ages, abilities, and life goals.
Again, the startup costs are relatively small, as are the barriers to entry. However, it can take time to build a following, and some advertising may have to be invested in, which can cost. Programmes can be subscription-based – usually monthly or annual in duration – which brings in regular revenue, and advertising can be sold on the channel too.
These sorts of businesses are highly scalable. There is a huge range of online fitness programmes out there, and demand for streaming and on-demand workouts. Companies such as Peloton have demonstrated how they can scale and diversify in recent years and now employ thousands of people around the world.
Of course, when people work out at home, they still need to have the right apparel and equipment. As with the online fitness industry, the online fitness clothing sector is growing rapidly, and it is estimated that it will reach a global value of $248.1 billion by 2026.
Allied to this is the equipment online fitness users may need, which can include anything from dumbbells to yoga mats to wearable devices.
Obviously, there is a lot of competition in the market, from global retailers to small online sellers, but it is still possible to build a successful business. With online, customer experience is paramount, so the website has to deliver a fast, intuitive experience. A growing trend is for using augmented reality to enable customers to virtually ‘try on’ outfits before buying.
Some entrepreneurs with their own online fitness channels and programmes also market their own ranges of branded apparel and equipment that customers can purchase. Generally, this is something only done once an online trainer has gained a certain level of popularity to make such a move effective in terms of being able to generate enough sales to justify the outlay on the clothing and suchlike.
Apps that can track people’s fitness are also proving popular and there are a wide variety on the market that can help users to monitor their progress on their fitness journey, monitor their health (heart rate, blood pressure etc), provide ideas for new ways to get fit, as well as complementary things such as healthy eating plans.
Obviously, these sorts of apps require some development before launching – and, as with online sellers, experience is crucial, so that must be tested exhaustively – which takes time and capital. But the market is not saturated and, while many of the bigger players have apps out, there are plenty of people who prefer to go with others.
Much depends on what people want, and if you can find a unique selling point, then there is money to be made.
Future of fitness
While the worst of the pandemic appears to be in the past, and gyms and fitness centres have opened their doors again, the appetite for online fitness solutions remains high. Many people got used to their flexibility and convenience during lockdown and, for those with busy lives, or who work shifts, or live in rural areas, it is the perfect solution.
With consistent growth expected in the coming years, entrepreneurs have an excellent opportunity to break into the market now before it becomes saturated and build strong businesses. Whether it is as a sole trader lifestyle business or with the potential to scale up and become a multi-national brand, the opportunities are there for entrepreneurs with good products – or disruptive ones – to be successful.