Surveying more than 12,000 U.S. consumers since March, PYMNTS has assembled the most comprehensive statistical view anywhere of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on virtually every aspect of American life.
To summarize that body of research with brevity: Daily life has changed, in some ways permanently. The shift to digital living is perhaps the most profound. This is especially true for a retail fitness industry quickly being supplanted by high-quality streaming workout interactions that turn homes into vibrant virtual fitness studios.
The Great Reopening: The Road To A Digital Normal is the latest report in the series and analyzes our latest poll of nearly 2,100 consumers, delving into the great digital shift and its device-happy connected world of working, playing, shopping, dining, paying — and working out.
“Consumers are far from ready to go back to business as usual,” according to The Road To A Digital Normal. “PYMNTS’ research suggests a large portion of them have grown comfortable managing their lives online and using their homes as command centers. Just three out of 10 are ‘very’ or ‘extremely interested’ in leaving their homes more often than they do now, for example, and one out of four have no interest in going out at all.”
It is against that backdrop that we match the latest survey findings with emerging connected commerce trends and experiences the at-home nature of which seem prescient now.
Trends in Digital Living
In the PYMNTS survey of April 27 it is unmistakable that consumers have acclimatized to the lockdown and work-from-home routines rather quickly.
“Consumers have shown little interest in leaving their homes, even when surveyed six weeks after the first statewide stay-at-home orders were issued in California on March 19,” the report states, adding, that PYMNTS “…found just 27.8 percent were ‘very’ or ‘extremely interested’ in going out more often, while 46.5 percent were ‘somewhat’ or ‘slightly’ interested in doing so. The remaining 25.6 percent had no interest in leaving their homes, whatsoever.”
That’s bad news for businesses that rely on concentrated foot traffic — especially the sweaty kind — like gyms and fitness studios. Venerable Gold’s Gym has filed for Chapter 11 protection, and competitor 24 Hour Fitness is reportedly considering doing the same.* International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has praised the White House’s Opening Up America Again plan placing gyms in the Phase 1 reopening plan.
But recent retail reopenings have fizzled, and there’s mounting data that Americans are moving on to new forms of fitness, as they have with eating and working.
For example, connected exercise bike and media brand Peloton saw its stock surge “…nearly 11 percent in after-hours trading Wednesday [May 6] after closing with a 5 percent gain at $38.03,” according to MarketWatch. “Shares were headed for record highs, trading above the company's intraday high of $39.25. Peloton went public in September at $29 a share. The stock was up about 16 percent premarket Thursday.”
As lockdowns drag on, Peloton reported sales $524.6 million for the quarter just ended, a 66 percent year-over-year increase. The company’s emphasis on the quality of customer experience, such as choice of popular trainers and streaming workouts in virtual classes is paying off. It’s also an ideal illustration of how things have already changed that’s only now coming into focus.
It’s Going to Be a While
Because consumers also expect the pandemic all-clear not to sound for seven months, it’s small wonder that those who can are plunking down thousands on connected home fitness gear. The Great Reopening: The Road To A Digital Normal shows the arc of consumer sentiment since we began polling, with the average length of the pandemic steadily trending upward.
“The average consumer now expects it to take another 225 days before their lives will return to normal, up from 178 days on April 11 and 138 days on March 17. This means they now expect the pandemic to last 63 percent longer than they did 40 days ago,” according the new report.
“There has also been a dramatic increase in the share of consumers who expect the pandemic to last longer than six months — and in the share who never expect to recover. Most now believe it will take six months or longer before their lives can return to normal, cited by 53.2 percent. This is up from 44.7 percent on April 11 and 30.6 percent on March 17.”
(*Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that 24 Hour Fitness had filed for bankruptcy. While the company is reportedly considering such a move, it has not done so.)