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Tuesday
Jul292014

Fast-forward stage for Fitness on Demand, virtual group exercise

It’s hard to believe that Lift Brands launched Fitness On Demand (FOD) just three years ago, in early 2011. So much has happened since then, propelling the company to grow far beyond expectations.

Based in Excelsior, Minnesota, FOD delivers digital group exercise so that clubs can offer classes more efficiently and at a lower cost than with live instructors - any time members want to work out. Just a year after its debut, the nascent firm was already boasting a roster of 60 different offerings that were being presented at more than 250 fitness facilities worldwide.

Fast-forward two years, and we mean fast. In that time, FOD has expanded in nearly every conceivable category: from 10 to 33 employees; from 60-plus to more than 600 unique titles; to a presence in approximately 1,000 facilities across the globe; and to year-over-year revenue growth, in 2013, of 130%. “It’s been crazy, but fun,” observes Garrett Marshall, the company’s business development director.

Content is crucial

While several puzzle pieces have come together to help FOD grow so rapidly, notes Marshall, one major component has remained a constant: the company’s content-development model.

PRO FORMA

Year founded: 2011

Number of employees: approximately 27 full-time, six part-time

Annual percentage growth: 130% in 2013

Number of clients: more than 860 in the U.S., and more than 140 in Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

“From the beginning, we pioneered the idea of relying exclusively on third- party brands that produce best-in-class content; we’ve never produced any of our own. That ‘content-agnostic’ vision has given us the liberty to reach out and forge relationships with premium content providers, who already have great brand awareness and a diversity of recognized programs.”

FOD’s 34 partners include such marquee brands as Daily Burn, Induro Cycling, KettleWorX, Les Mills Virtual, and many more.

End users feel comfortable with these classes because they’re familiar, and also appreciate having a selection of them avail- able at any given time, Marshall explains. “For example, if you really enjoy yoga workouts, FOD offers 19 different content providers that focus on yoga classes, each with their own distinct appearance, routine, and style. When it comes to digital group fitness, it’s important that users have enough variety at all times to keep things interesting.”

This content augmentation strategy has followed a map, of sorts, with the growth taking place along channel lines, such as kids’ and active aging titles. Once a channel is developed, FOD makes an effort to dig deeply. For example, in the active aging category, the company recently acquired content developed by Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions, and now offers nearly a dozen classes, including ones for back pain, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, insomnia, and other conditions.

By focusing on developing greater breadth and depth, FOD’s product line “inherently includes the ability for the customer to choose what content is featured on their system,” points out Marshall. “Our approach has been more like that of Netflix and less like that of HBO. Ultimately, our customers get to decide which programming best meets the unique needs of their members.”

Presentation is pivotal

What about cost?

Garrett MarshallWhile you can get a package for under $4,000, the most popular FOD system, which costs less than $8,500, includes a choice of a video display and an audio system, the Fitness On Demand user interface, all of the necessary software, more than 175 pre-licensed classes, and professional installation.

The package also comes with marketing support; a detailed orientation, including digitally recorded training videos, as well as conventional hands- on training; and advice on creating a customized studio layout, and on integrating the system into an existing group exercise program.

While, generally speaking, the pack- age makeup has been fairly consistent over the years, the technology behind it has continued to move forward, and FOD has progressed with it. “Transformation is in our DNA,” avers Marshall. “Two years ago, we introduced the first- ever, wall-mounted user interface - our TRIO product -which still ranks as one of the most cinematic, digital group fitness experiences available. Last year, we recognized an opportunity to create a low-profile design that would be more aesthetically consistent with the types of screens already in most clubs, and created the TRIO70 delivery system.”

In March of this year, Marshall continues, FOD reinvented the conventional delivery concept by creating the category’s first and only, all-in-one user interface and video delivery system for facilities, in the process eliminating excess moving parts.

“Currently, we have two new delivery systems in development. One of these is in beta now and will be available this summer.”

Responding to the quickening pace of technological change, FOD reevaluates all of its systems on a biannual basis. While constantly on the alert for new and better solutions, the company takes care not to “overcook” anything, Marshall is careful to point out.

“The technology industry can seduce you with an endless array of new ideas. But if a new feature isn’t truly meaningful to our customers, or if it disrupts the balance of value and functionality, then we say no. At the end of the day, our product needs to be cutting-edge, but, at the same time, as simple to use and as reliable as a dishwasher.”

– Jon Feld can be reached at jfeld@inc.com.

 

 

 

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