15th February 2023

How Behavioural Science can help outperform the competition in the health and fitness industry

Much has been written about impacts on consumers over the course of, dare we say it….Covid. Attitudes, behaviours and habits have changed; some might say forever. Now we go into even more economic hardship as we enter a recession and consumers battle less work, fewer resources and less money.

From a business perspective, the impact on the health and fitness industry has been a game of two halves. On the one hand, the sector has seen changing regulations, reduced capacities, increased costs and the uncertainty of forced closures.

On the other hand, demand for equipment, products and digital alternatives sky-rocketed. Those brands which succeeded were the ones that were able to quickly adapt. To be able to thrive, however, businesses must understand, not just top-level business effectiveness, but consumers’ behavioural biases, both fixed and changing. Uncovering consumer psychology during a crisis is critical for brands to navigate uncertainty.

Applications of this comprehension can help the health and fitness industries grow their customer bases, increase revenues and ultimately outperform their competitors.

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Changing the habit of a lifetime

PTs, boutique gyms and independent health clubs are still continuing to compete post-pandemic with home gyms, fitness apps and the “big box” operators. Since Covid, consumers have lost old habits to forge new ones; as one would expect from such a major life event as the pandemic.

Commercially, these broken habits result in a novel opportunity for brands to share in the customer experience and increase business effectiveness. According to research from Dai, Milkman & Riis*, people are more likely to alter their habits at the beginning of, for example, a month or after a major life event, such as a wedding. This concept is known as the “Fresh Start Effect”.

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Armed with this behavioural insight, businesses can target consumers and marketing efforts around, even minor occasions, increasing loyalty and revenues without waiting for people to realise the age-old adage of: “New Year; New You”.

Taking the time to then harden these habits is imperative. Market research helps gain the consumer; reiteration ensures retention. Don’t wait for the membership to run out, remind your clients of all of the features, programmes and opportunities to help them constantly explore the full breadth of your fitness proposition.

Boost trust and grab attention

As humans, we tend to find people or products who are willing to admit flaws in themselves more appealing. In behavioural science, this concept is referred to as “The Pratfall Effect”*. We also have a blog centred around the explanation of this behavioural bias, which you can find here.

Many consumer brands have leveraged the Pratfall Effect; essentially turning a negative into a positive. For instance, Marmite: Love or Hate? No judgements here either way, but the brand has clearly portrayed the willingness to recognise that not everyone will like their product, in turn creating a more likeable persona.

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If you market to everyone, you appeal to no one. By appealing to a specific audience and confessing to a minor flaw, you boost trust and your other claims (better diet, top-of-the-line equipment, a flatter tummy in 12 weeks etc.) will be more believable.

The power of free

The Power of Free* is an interesting and sometimes disillusioning business principle. How can a business expect to increase revenues when they are providing a service at no cost? Well, we aren’t talking about forever here – just enough to get the (exercise) ball rolling.

Getting someone to begin a healthier lifestyle is a trying task. A person must first be willing and, of course, an old habit must be broken. Now, a business could take the earlier lesson of waiting to market until an appropriate time or they can break down barriers.

Humans have an innate, instinctive desire to repay favours and reciprocate debts. By providing a complimentary service (for even one session), you have created a mutual transaction that creates an easier decision for the consumer by not letting them have to consider this opportunity cost. This year has been hard on a lot of people; lend a helping hand and reap the rewards.

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Taking the first step

Whether you’re considering your business or your consumers, taking that first step toward creating new plans and habits is difficult. The last few years have demonstrated that brands within the health and fitness sector that are willing to adapt to changing consumer mentalities and restrictions are the ones who have succeeded.

To prosper in 2023, the health and fitness sector must research its consumers. Understanding audiences and targeting messaging is incredibly important to reaching those who will listen. Once reached, communications must be attention-grabbing, distinctive and consistent. Finally, hit them with the offer; what can your business provide that no one else can and, in turn, what can your consumer do for you? You can also read our blog on healthcare marketing predictions in 2023 here.

By applying a solid comprehension of your market, consumers and business flexibility, independent health and fitness brands can use behavioural science to help grow customer bases, increase revenues and outperform competitors.

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Want to know more about behavioural science and how this can help your brand? Drop us a line at [email protected].

For further reading, please see here:

  • Dai, Milkman & Riis (2014): The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior
  • Shotton (2018): The Choice Factory

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