According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), global “health club” revenue totaled $81 billion in 2015, with 151.5 million members visiting nearly 187,000 clubs. And though general use gyms make up the bulk of that activity, boutique fitness firms have carved an ever-growing niche in the market.
Boutique fitness studios tend to focus on a single workout or method – think SoulCycle studios or specialty workout hubs like Switch Playground, where workouts feature things like trampolines or fog machines and promise users “a journey for the mind, body and soul.”
According to reports, there are approximately 1,000 fitness studios and gyms in the New York City metro area on the fitness booking mechanism ClassPass. And while those boutique offerings are all competing for the love and attention of the fitness-focused consumer, ClassPass has not, until very recently, had much in the way of competition.
But a new platform, Mariana Tek, thinks it can do fitness booking better, offering a streamlined process that gets users into their fitness hub of choice, with more options to customize their workout, with less data to keep track of and fewer clicks.
The platform was developed by Stacey Seldin, John Huffsmith and Bob Rademacher — all fitness enthusiasts who wanted to build a better booking experience that wasn’t as labor-intensive or confusing as the offerings they were finding.
“We want to make booking reservations as quick and easy as possible,” Seldin, Mariana Tek’s chief executive officer, told PYMNTS. “We shouldn’t have to take fitness classes to relieve the stress of booking them.”
Mariana is a very young firm – so far, 11 boutique brands in the U.S. have incorporated the booking startup’s software in their backend – though Seldin notes they are currently in negotiations to add several more, which will be named once the deals are final and the studios are ready to publicly announce the pair-up.
For now, she noted, the plan is meet their early demand here in the States, with hopes for an international push coming soon.
“We’ve crossed all methods — yoga, boot camp, boxing, Pilates, strength,” Seldin said. “The brands that want to do new things and break new ground have been particularly excited about us and the things that we’re doing.”
Booking is Mariana Tek’s core service, and they are very dedicated to fixing pain points that fitness fans frequently complain about. The platform is designed to sync naturally with consumers who travel often for business; users only have to create one account within any given studio and then can use that access the studio’s facilities wherever they happen to be. A customer who normally works out in New York, for example, can use their same membership and credits to work out in an associate L.A. studio – and because everything is connected, they can see the total number of classes they’ve taken across locations.
Mariana Tek also makes it easy to add guests within the app. And, most highly reviewed by customers, the app not only allows them to book fitness classes, but also to pre-order various amenities that they might want before or after their workouts. In essence, Seldin said, the app features a virtual concession stand that allows users to quickly customize their workouts on the go, without a lot of added fuss or muss.
“You know that last-minute crush where people are buying waters two minutes before class … you still haven’t put on your shoes, you’ve got to grab your towel, and get in. There’s a two-click buy option for the front desk that gets the customer everything they need in record time,” Seldin noted.
In the era of boutique fitness, Seldin said, consumers get options about how they want to work out that go far beyond the “slog on the treadmill” that once was the defining feature of the experience. But for all the variety in workout types, booking is often a one-size-fits-all experience, even if that size doesn’t fit anyone all that well.
“Sometimes a feature that seems so unsexy actually makes your experience so much easier,” Seldin noted. “Those are the types of things we wanted to build into the system.”