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The only person in charge of the ‘new normal’ is the customer, the participant

The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour has been sweeping and immediate which has already had a profound impact on our sports and fitness habits and will continue to do so.

‘Small Sports’ (social running, cycling and walking) have attracted many more people out on the streets (with fewer cars), online fitness classes have become increasingly popular. Also,  many people are still nervous about going back to their leisure centres and sports clubs. In the countries, which are furthest ahead with easing after lockdown leisure centres are reporting that only 50% of customers have come back during the first weeks of opening.

As centres and clubs prepare for the long haul – what we call the ‘new normal – the situation continues to change by the week and vary dramatically by region. Among the most vexing challenge is determining which consumer behaviours and trends are here to stay and which ones will eventually recede. Sports bodies and clubs and leisure centres which invest in the wrong capabilities, or even worse, in none at all could find themselves on the outside.

To win in the ‘new normal’ providers need to identify the current behaviours that will define customer experience in the near term.  They must then ensure that these opportunities are aligned with their strategies and capabilities

An example: 45% of people work out at home do so as a family.  What kind of family sessions (online and offline) will you be offering in the ‘new normal’?
We believe three priorities will define customer experience post-pandemic within community sport and active leisure:

  • Digital excellence
  • Safe and contactless engagement, whenever possible
  • In-depth and dynamic consumer understanding

Some providers (but not enough) are already demonstrating their understanding of what matters to their consumers as well as innovative ways to meet their old and new expectations. Do you try and meet customer expectations?

Less spending available for sport and leisure  – at least for a while

Consumers are also scaling back their spending on discretionary items, anticipating tougher times ahead, which will also impact on spending on community sport and active leisure. Why pay for a club membership, when you can run/walk/cycle with your mates/family for free?
Are we going from sports clubs to ‘sports communities’ where people get together socially, get active and enjoy a great social life?

 

Social running is getting Wales moving – here’s a story from Cowbridge: 

What do you call a social running group based in Cowbridge, Glamorgan, Wales?

The Moovers, of course 😊

And what’s their hashtag? #getmooving, what else?

The group was set up in October 2018 and is a free over 18s running community that meets three times a week come rain or shine.

They don’t take themselves too seriously and always meet at the same place and publish updates through a monitored Facebook group.

The group has 9 passionate Run Leaders who support people of all levels through tail walkers and tail runners from Walkers to Runners.

 The group operates a concept called, “Chatty Running”, which means that you should not run faster than you can have a chat while running.

 The question, therefore, is how other sports and sports bodies can learn from the social running phenomena?

Should football encourage ‘jumpers for goalposts’ initiatives? 
Should canoeing run social sessions called SocialPaddle?  
and so on...

Behaviours that are here to stay

The most successful providers of community sports have been adept at understanding which behaviours and experiences are picking up steam and are working hard to address them.
This approach is easier said than done: To monitor consumer trends, adapt the way they operate, plan for business continuity, and ensure that everyone are safe and healthy – all while managing the chaos and ambiguity of the crisis.

The wave of services and apps to meet coronavirus-specific demand may soon oversaturate the market and we are likely to see standout offerings to the top while others fail to capture significant traffic.

To get a better understanding of the ‘new normal’s’ contours we analysed consumer trends along with two criteria: user growth since the pandemic hit and the likelihood that these behaviours will continue. Using these lenses, we segmented community sport and physical activity into four quadrants:

Return to the old normal – mature or less-relevant experiences which may not survive COVID-19 in its existing formats.  Team sports or traditional gyms are some examples

Exciting…for now – stopgap solutions with potential for user erosion after the pandemic.  Online fitness classes are one example

Potential to stick – new experiences with momentum and the potential to be cemented in the ‘new normal’

Fast accelerators – high-performing replacements for traditional activities. One example is what we call ‘Small Sports’, ie social running, walking and cycling with friends and family

Yes, behaviours have changed and trends have accelerated so we are convinced that it is futile for sports clubs, leisure centres and others to expect that we will go back ‘to the good old days’.  We simply have to work harder and better to exploit these three key trends:

  • Increased use of digital media
  • Accelerating of anticipated trends
  • The emergence of new trends

Complete reversal of some long-held routines
I have personally seen community sports being very capable indeed when it comes to developing a stronger digital presence, often through volunteers who are working in this field, in their day job.  Unfortunately, we have heard (too) many examples of providers who are afraid of change and too conservative to embrace these new trends. 
To accelerate change within your place why not run a workshop where some of your 16-18 year-olds take the rest of the club/centre through of some of these changes and developments and demystify them

The most successful providers of community sports have been adept at understanding which behaviours and experiences are picking up steam and are working hard to address them.
This approach is easier said than done: To monitor consumer trends, adapt the way they operate, plan for business continuity, and ensure that everyone are safe and healthy – all while managing the chaos and ambiguity of the crisis.

The wave of services and apps to meet coronavirus-specific demand may soon oversaturate the market and we are likely to see standout offerings to the top while others fail to capture significant traffic.

To get a better understanding of the ‘new normal’s’ contours we analysed consumer trends along with two criteria: user growth since the pandemic hit and the likelihood that these behaviours will continue. Using these lenses, we segmented community sport and physical activity into four quadrants:

Return to the old normal – mature or less-relevant experiences which may not survive COVID-19 in its existing formats.  Team sports or traditional gyms are some examples

Exciting…for now – stopgap solutions with potential for user erosion after the pandemic.  Online fitness classes are one example

Potential to stick – new experiences with momentum and the potential to be cemented in the ‘new normal’

Fast accelerators – high-performing replacements for traditional activities. One example is what we call ‘Small Sports’, ie social running, walking and cycling with friends and family

There is a strong local need, and we are slowly filling the gaps but we still feel there are great
So, wherever you are in this matrix you will have to look at the high user growth and high intent to use activities in your field and see what you could learn and implement.  For example, how can a traditional football club introduce ‘come and play’ and ‘family football’ activities? Or how can a traditional leisure centre link up with fitness apps and online classes?
To conclude:
Now is the time to listen to consumers and adapt to their needs – if you don’t do that, someone will. Remember, the fax machine, Woolworths or Blockbuster?
Good luck