Why audio fitness app Aaptiv opened a pop-up gym

Audio fitness app Aaptiv, which provides audio-guided workouts, is figuring out a way to bring its online product into the physical space.

Two weeks ago, the app worked with Refinery Hotel in New York to open a pop-up gym. To invite people to come to try out the gym, it invited its followers on Instagram, where it has 82,000 followers who the platform has found are more engaged than its audience on other platforms.

Both current users and non-subscribers could book an hour-long workout time alone or with a friend for free. Within the first three hours, all available slots were booked, with about 80 percent members and 20 percent non-members signing up for the experience.

The digital exercise experience is a departure from its subscription-based online business model to create an offline relationship with its subscribers.

“All digital products are not the same,” said Ethan Agarwal, CEO at Aaptiv. “People have a real relationship with our trainers and other members on the app. But we wanted to create more touch points with members. From a digital perspective, we’re sophisticated in our tech and data aspects. But this is just us dipping a toe in the offline world.”

Agarwal said the gym is not a revenue driver in any form. “Typically, online companies who open physical stores are trying to find another way to sell you their product. It helps drive their revenue, but for us, it’s a relationship-strengthening exercise,” Agarwal said. Aaptiv sent emails with discount codes and free one-month trial offers to all non-subscribers who signed up for the experience. The team said that the pop-up converted people into subscribers but declined to share numbers. The app currently has 230,000 paying subscribers.

Agarwal also said that the gym was designed to be extremely Instagrammable.

The Aaptiv experience comes at the heels of most online retail brands rolling out physical store strategies through long or short-term pop-ups. Casper, Parachute and many other brands are already building their retail stores around the country. Establishing a brick-and-mortar presence has become an important base for digitally-born brands to cover to encourage stronger brand loyalty among their consumers.

“Moving from online to offline is a logical path in an environment where the lines between online and offline blur,” said Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group. “It’s happening for categories where person to person contact adds to the value proposition. Pop-ups generally fill a specific tactical need, like capitalizing on an event or supporting a specific promotion.” In terms of marketing, this experience can offer users a way to imagine the use of the product or service in their lifestyles.

The collaboration with Refinery Hotel is also open to the hotel’s guests and will stay open for a longer period for them. They can access the gym once during the stay and Aaptiv offers them a discount code if they subscribe to the app. This is also Aaptiv’s first foray into the hotel business. Following this pop-up, Aaptiv is now looking at three potential partners for more pop-ups.

“Our clients are primarily the business travelers and we know that the same demographic is consistently Aaptiv’s number one user base,” said Eric Foley, general manager at Refinery Hotel. “So we know this product is going to succeed among our clients.”


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