Fitness Merchants & Wellness Coaches Pivot In Response To COVID-19
Fitness Merchants & Wellness Coaches Pivot In Response To Covid-19

Fitness Merchants & Wellness Coaches Pivot In Response To COVID-19


Some fitness merchants and wellness coaches shifted their operations from in-person training to a virtual set up long before the Coronavirus pandemic. Still, a number of entrepreneurs are still adjusting in response to enforced closures by governments around the world. If you are a wellness coach or a personal trainer with no access to a physical location, it could be problematic to transition your entire business to the internet to earn revenue. There’s the challenge of finding workout space. But, connecting your shopping cart or CRM to the right payment options are also an issue.

Data suggests that the online fitness industry is undergoing a transformational boom. At home workouts, digital meal plans, and virtual spinning classes are a few of the services attracting increasing numbers of customers. This post will help wellness coaches and fitness merchants of all types. We will help you navigate the new world we find ourselves in. Just because doors are closed to the public, doesn’t mean you can’t operate or even scale.


COVID-19 causes boom in online fitness market

Gyms are the staple routine for many fitness fanatics. But now customers are looking to other online products and services that fulfil their fitness needs while in isolation. Everything from online meal prep services to virtual HIIT classes have increased in memberships. For instance, Daily Burn is an app with virtual workout classes including CrossFit. During one week this month they experienced a 268% year-over-year increase in sign-ups.

Of course, this is due to the enforced closures of many gyms. But even in locations without it, sign-ups are up. This is because gyms present a significant risk when it comes to infection. Almost every machine and surface in a gym has someone else’s sweat on them. Pause for a moment to think about how many people use a piece of equipment every hour, every day, and every week. It’s easy to see why customers are looking for alternative solutions.

Cancellations are a major worry for gym owners. Many establishments have annual memberships in place. Customers may try to issue a chargeback through their credit card to get out of long-term agreements. They will argue they are unable to receive the service they have paid for. Fitness merchants who offer 30-day membership are vulnerable to revenue loss. Many will cancel before signing up again upon reopening.

In response to these threats, leading gym chains are shifting their offerings online. For instance, Barry’s Bootcamp is taking its famous “Red Room” experience online via IGTV for members. Other leading chains are freezing memberships. But what can you do to accommodate the spike in interest associated with online fitness?


Pivot your fitness business from the physical to the virtual


Pivot your fitness business from physical to virtual

Traditional fitness merchants need to use this moment to optimize their online service offerings. Small add-ons to services provided at physical fitness studios need to be ramped up to meet current demand. The most pressing issue will be setting up online fitness classes. People need at-home workouts more than ever before. If you don’t yet provide these, then make sure to record and upload as many as you can to your website over the coming days.

Remember that clients are indoors and could have neighbors sensitive to noise. Many will not have the necessary equipment. Adjust your workouts to reflect these circumstances. Leading a class that requires special equipment will leave some customers feeling frustrated. They may try to cancel their subscription as a result.

Perhaps split videos up into areas of the body, followed by equipment vs no equipment. Cover as many bases as you can and add as much variety as possible to avoid boring your clients. Customers who are unimpressed with your online offering will look to wiggle out of agreements. So make this your priority.

Looking to respond to the coronavirus crises by launching an online subscription? The rules around subscription businesses are changing, read our guide to find out what you need in place before applying for a merchant account.


How to launch new fitness products and services

After pivoting, switch things up to introduce new or extra online services via your website. For example, it’s not unusual for wellness experts to produce and sell e-books. These can be part of an initial or upsell offer. For example, a step-by-step meal plan with meal prepping suggestions for a one-time fee. Or perhaps offer a discounted online-only subscription for your newly recorded online content?

For existing customers, you could look to add promotions or bonuses, such as longer virtual personal trainer slots. Perhaps you could offer a bulk discount for customers who pre-pay for up to 10 sessions in advance? Remember that your payment provider wants to work with compliant entrepreneurs and reduce liability. Always use disclaimers. Protect yourself from lawsuits. Remind potential clients that all online classes and PT sessions are completed at the participant’s own risk.

For nutrition merchants who have physical nutraceutical stores, can you develop an online nutrition plan to follow? Why not include shipping of your weight loss supplements in the price? Creating a cleansing or detoxing program could prove very popular. Particularly if exercise becomes difficult for some members.

For those new services that rely on a rebill or subscription model, be careful with offering long-term commitments. They can become a magnet for chargebacks. Offer flexible and easy-to-cancel memberships lasting 30 days or less. Wellness coaches and fitness merchants must protect their merchant accounts and payment processing status at all costs. Short-term boot camps are a great fit for this new environment as the payment is upfront. Moreover, a huge commitment is not needed from the client to feel like they got what they paid for.


Establish the right payment processing channel

Remember that your payment processing will play a vital role in any products or services you begin to offer. A lot of personal trainers and wellness coaches choose what appears to be the easy route. Many health and fitness merchants flock to set up payment processing with a payment aggregator like Stripe or PayPal. Just remember that if you receive a wealth of chargebacks, there is the risk of having your funds frozen or withheld without warning.

Moreover, you may think your business is in a low-risk health category. However, that isn’t always the case. If you sell other products in addition to virtual classes, it will change how you’re classified by your payment provider. Supplements and similar products fall under the nutraceutical category. E-Books, meal plans and one-on-one virtual coaching over platforms like Zoom are labelled as digital or info products. These all fall between medium and high risk. So, not all health and fitness merchants are the same.


Securing a merchant account is a better option than Stripe

Once a merchant learns they are high risk, they usually try to secure a merchant account on their own. We strongly recommend relying on a merchant service provider to do this for you. Time is of the essence. Not having enough knowledge can hinder your ability to get approved for high-risk credit card processing.

Explore dedicated merchant account options with a professional who will be your advocate. When all the costs are added up, it is comparable to a third-party aggregator. There’s also more control over your transaction data and chargebacks.

If you already have a merchant account, you may be experiencing issues with your processing limit. When launching new products and services, ask your current merchant account provider for increases in monthly sales limits. You don’t want to create a great online offering, only for you to get stuck, because you’ve maxed out your limit within 15 days. On a similar note, diversify your payments to lessen risk. Many fitness merchants rely on credit cards. Yet, they could attract more orders with less risk by adding payment options like e-check or ACH payments to their checkout. Also, debit and credit card payments can be made through a virtual terminal if your online offer attracts clients wanting to pay over the phone.


Don’t stand still – innovate and adapt to your new fitness environment

There’s no doubt that the fitness industry is undergoing rapid change in response to the coronavirus pandemic. However, some of these changes are set to stay long after service returns to normal. That’s why it makes sense to upgrade your online fitness and wellness offering. Even if doors to your physical location open again within the next few weeks.

At DirectPayNet, we’re continuing our operations as normal and are doing everything we can to help our merchants scale during this crisis.

Email us today to start expanding your fitness business!

About the author

As President of DirectPayNet, I make it my mission to help merchants find the best payment solutions for their online business, especially if they are categorized as high-risk merchants. I help setup localized payments modes and have tons of other tricks to increase sales! Prior to starting DirectPayNet, I was a Director at MANSEF Inc. (now known as MindGeek), where I led a team dedicated to managing merchant accounts for hundreds of product lines as well as customer service and secondary revenue sources. I am an avid traveler, conference speaker and love to attend any event that allows me to learn about technology. I am fascinated by anything related to digital currency especially Bitcoin and the Blockchain.