Equinox might be synonymous with physical fitness, health and wellness, but Equinox Media’s chief executive officer Jason LaRose is all about the power engagement.
From his standpoint, the reason to talk about the fitness industry is that it is one of the rare sectors where the digital and the physical are growing together. Having joined Equinox Media this spring after working as Under Armour’s president of North America, LaRose said, “The mission we are up against is to really break down the borders and not talk about digital and physical any more, just really make the brand highly accessible by giving them the best branded class content, personalized programs for one-to-one, world-class coaching and seamless online and offline experiences.”
The Equinox Group’s diversified portfolio includes Equinox-SoulCycle-Blink Fitness enthusiasts who comprise “a highly engaged community,” LaRose said. “They are very vocal, they have some very strong points of view,” he said. The holding company also has Equinox Hotels, interval-based indoor running business Precision Run, the content incubator Project by Equinox, branded lifestyle content Furthermore from Equinox among other assets. With 300 locations across its banners, Equinox has 165,000 daily visits to its various clubs, 8,000 daily personal training sessions, 6,000 trainers and personal instructors and 2.8 million unique visitors on the Web.
Stressing the importance of having a valued exchange with consumers, LaRose said, “There are so many brands and retailers out there who would love to have more information about their customers. They just won’t tell their customers what they will do with it. You’d love to know my height, weight, where I live and how old my kids are. I get it, but ‘Why?’ It feels super Big Brother…I would encourage you all to think about what that exchange looks like and to make sure when you ask your customer for data, they know why they are giving it to you.”
He also encouraged the crowd to consider which interactions they would like to be automated. From his view, bots are a form of communication, but not connection. “Don’t just draw the line and say, ‘Every interaction is now automated because that will save us money.’ Figure out which ones are actually branded interactions. Bring the ones that matter to your brand in-house or staff them with humans. Or find the right balance between humans and technology. There’s still no substitute to having that relationship with a stylist, sales associate, trainer or whomever.”
Staying current in the digital space, of course, involves reading “what we all read in terms of publications and books,” but “by the time it’s big enough to be a story or a book, it’s already a little ubiquitous,” LaRose said. Staying close to young people, asking them what’s on their phones and what they are doing are stronger indicators of what’s to come, he said. The second thing is to listen to customers, LaRose added. “More than anything, engage with them. Too many brands fall out of that user or buyer engagement. They get stuck at HQ and say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re supposed to do a survey.’ Then they do a survey, read it, it goes on the shelf and [they] go back [to what they were doing.]”
LaRose said, “With these members and riders, the engagement is literally daily. A lot of feedback is coming back. They just know so much more than we know. It’s easy to say it’s crowdsourced, but it’s just become a way of life within the holding company. We benefit from that as we build something digital.”