The fitness industry in China
Since people are realizing the importance of sports for health and better appearance, the fitness industry is booming in China in recent years. More and more people become members of gyms, however, with the development of technology and the changing lifestyle of Chinese consumers, the fitness industry also has to work on new concepts to adapt to the fitness needs of the population. As the living standard for Chinese people increase, people are more concerned with their health and the gym moved from wealthy people’s trend to an essential for all.
According to IBISWorld market research, the gym industry has been developing rapidly in recent years, largely due to increasing disposable incomes and health awareness among Chinese consumers. The industry is set to generate $7.1 billion in 2020, having grown by an annualized 4.4% over the past five years. The Internet has changed people’s fitness concepts, greatly promoting the development of the fitness industry. For this reason, in recent years, gyms are increasingly aware and more focused on their brand image and brand value to increase their popularity in China.
The Covid-19 effect on the gym industry in China:
While sports lovers return to fields and courts around the country, local gyms are struggling to recover the loss from the lockdown. How have gyms dealt with the crisis?
When the pandemic hit and forced the closure of public places, many gyms in China chose to stream exercise lessons, in the hope that once an online fitness community was created, customers, as well as their membership fees, would remain. Some gyms, for example, create WeChat groups for online tutoring.
The virus outbreak alerted the public to the importance of physical health and gym lovers pursued a higher degree of professionalism. In fact, with the spread of fitness knowledge and higher customer expectations, coaches should meet a higher standard for work performance.
How can a gym increase brand image and value among Chinese people?
Digitization is the key to increasing gym popularity
The Internet has a great effect on the promotion of fitness, in particular among young people. For example, famous people in the industry who share photos of their running course on Weibo attract a lot of attention in China.
Social media improved this trend by sharing people’s results after exercising on “Wechat” or “Weibo”, both helping netizens show a healthy lifestyle and memorize fitness records.
Social media are therefore essential for fitness lovers to learn and share; since the use of social media to engage with people, the best way for a gym to increase its popularity in China is through social networks. But what are the right social networks and how to use them?
Wechat to increase branding and teach how to lead a healthy lifestyle
WeChat is an incredible place for your branding. You can share interesting content about your brand and your products. You can share videos, audio, photos, and messages.
WeChat was created by the Chinese giant, Tencent. At its core, it is a messaging app, but it has so much more to offer. No other app in the West is comparable to WeChat. It would rather be a mix of Facebook, Skype, Slack, Amazon, and Paypal, all rolled up into one and only app.
Knowing this, it is easier to understand the huge role of WeChat in Chinese people’s lives. Indeed, it is the most popular mobile app in the country, on which they all spend hours every day.
The app enables companies to:
- create an “official account” to promote their company. This is the best way for a brand to create a community, gain followers, and be actively engaged with them.
- set up and use the in-app Wechat CRM is a great tool to communicate with your followers/customers and can be used as a replacement for a newsletter.
You should know that email marketing does not work in China, people don’t read emails. With a well-set Wechat CRM, answers automatically any questions your followers may have, welcomes new ones, offers special discounts, etc. You don’t spend time doing it, and it increases your trust level with followers.
“Gansn fit” and “Tera wellness” articles on WeChat are an example of how to teach Chinese fitness lovers how to exercise and what type of food to eat. The gym has become a real online coach.
Our agency specializes in promoting the Wechat channel on social media, forums, Wechat groups, or among users. We also communicate among other Wechat channels to help your Wechat posts gain visibility. If you want to learn more about how to manage your WeChat account, contact us!
Short video apps to teach people how to exercise in the right way
It has become an increasingly important component of user leisure. Chinese people averagely spend more than 60 minutes daily on short video apps.
Many brands are looking to short video platforms as new channels to reach and connect with their target audience through quality content. Short videos can be used for various types of promotional materials, especially to promote brand culture and value.
With creative and meaningful content, short videos can deliver brand messages to a target audience strongly and impressively even with just 10 – 15 seconds.
Here you can see how Tera wellness is using short video apps like Kuaishou and short videos on Xiaohongshu, the Chinese social eCommerce app which integrates social media and an e-commerce platform, to teach how to do physical exercise.
As you can see in the following images, these short videos are led by expert instructors or KOLs who are perceived as trustable among Chinese consumers, and therefore a good way to lead people to choose your gym more than another one.
Collaboration with KOL and KOC to influence people to follow a healthy lifestyle and choose your gym
Influencers in China are a fundamental part of a company’s communication strategy. Indeed, influencers are seen as having more relevance than mass media because they are able to connect and relate to their audience. These influencers create word of mouth which is incredibly important in terms of consumer decision-making.
While KOLs are famous people with many followers and with a fairly high collaboration price, KOCs are simple consumers who become loyal to the brand and promote it.
KOL and KOC marketing works extremely well in China because they engage with followers, by developing a relationship and making themselves reliable. They have the ability to make things trend and that is an opportunity that foreign brands should be looking to invest in.
- Regarding the choice of KOLs, in the fitness industry, famous fitness KOLs are the right choice. For example, famous instructors or dieticians can make an important contribution or advice to the consumer.
- For KOCs, on the other hand, are very functional for gyms thanks to their authenticity, in fact, they are perceived as more reliable than KOLs among Chinese. And as we know, reliability is fundamental in China to induce consumers to choose your gym over another. Before choosing which gym to enroll in, Chinese consumers ask for advice from friends, family, and people who already have a gym membership to understand if the gym is reliable or not.
The use of KOCs on social media and on question-and-answer platforms such as Zhihu would greatly help your visibility and reliability. If you want to know more about how to use Zhihu to leverage your community talks about you, contact us.
The example of people who have already used the gym services and the results they have achieved is a great way to influence people to choose your gym given the results obtained.
This is exactly what Tera Wellness is doing by using Wechat to show people results after their 100 days of fitness services.
PR: Use of local newspapers and blogs to increase visibility
As we said before, reliability in China is everything, therefore, your reputation is the key to success. PR is a good way to build your credibility. It increases your visibility because not only you are getting experts talking about you, but it also means backlinks from authority websites.
PR is a marketing tool that excludes paid ads. It consists of having an authority profile talking about your company, which can be media (newspapers, blogs..), KOLs, or even the community.
It is not always easy to get a press release which is why our agency with the right connection and that know how to proceed is offering this type of service.
PR has the advantage of lasting in time and getting you covered by trusted people on third-party websites which gives you legitimacy. So why shouldn’t you use it?
On the images below you can see several local newspapers talking about Tara Wellness in China.
Gym apps for Chinese who prefer flexible time and less site limitation
Most young Chinese tend to do self-training, according to their own leisure time. With a working time limit, young people in big cities often prefer fitness with flexible time and fewer site limitations. As it may be time costing as well as expensive to go to the gym, many young Chinese tend to exercise with apps like “Coolfit” or “Keep” which provide people with free online courses for different fitness levels.
The coolest model is one of the representative domestic fitness O2O models. Cool fit is currently providing course information through WeChat Subscription. The user selects the courses in which they are interested and books them online, which is supposed to be cheaper than taking courses directly to the gym while enjoying similar services.
The O2O model in China is a very good tool to stimulate certain fitness needs of the Chinese population. To meet the needs of this group of consumers, gyms can, for example, use apps or social networks to take lessons online. This would help the company to capture the attention of that part of the population who has no time and desire to go to the gym and who prefers to do it from home or in a place more comfortable for them.
How can a gym sell more memberships in China?
To sell more memberships in China, gyms should focus on building brand recognition, reliability, and reputation. How to do this?
Following the tips, we talked about previously is a great way to increase your brand’s popularity and reliability. The construction of your image passes first of all by creating a loyal community of followers. This can be created on WeChat as well as on other social networks such as Weibo, blogs, and forums in the fitness industry.
Managing your reputation is also important. Word of mouth and user comments are the pillars on which a good online reputation is based. GMA can help you manage your reputation and generate word of mouth in Q&A forums and blogs related to your industry.
If you follow our advice, rest assured that you will sell more memberships!
Do you want to know more about How to market your brand in the Chinese market? Contact GMA a digital marketing agency, specializing in the Chinese digital market.