Physical-digital space can foster sense of community for health and wellness consumers

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Health and wellness brands should use the physical-digital space to foster a stronger sense of community among their customers, according to experts in the field.

“Today, when you talk about fitness, it’s all about being social. When you are social, you just want to hang out, stay active at the same time, and live an active lifestyle,” said Jeffrey Foo, chief executive officer of LIV3LY, a mass sporting online registration platform. Gone are the days, he said, of fixating on how fast and how far you’ve run.

Mr. Foo was a panelist in All That Matters 2020, an online festival on Asia’s music, sports, gaming, and online entertainment sectors.

Considering the pandemic, LIV3LY was surprised at the fast takeup of slots for an upcoming virtual run it organized for the Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times. Instead of the usual mass running setup, participants download an app that tracks how much distance they cover over a preset number of days.

Half of those who signed up opted to run 175 kilometers over two months, a bigger commitment than running the 17.5-kilometer category over 10 days. Mr. Foo believes that this is due to a desire for both social interaction and continuous engagement.

“It’s kind of fun—the way you gamify it,” said Mr. Foo, who foresees groups of friends making side bets as to who can reach the end first, with “last one gets to buy everybody a meal” as the stakes.

Activating a community creates an opportunity for brands to engage with customers in ways that may not have been possible before the pandemic. Aside from creating a presence in the usual social media channels, brands may want to consider building a 360° platform that houses social feeds, content, reviews, and e-commerce. Integrating a machine-learning component could also help brands collect useful information on their customers’ fitness and purchasing habits.

“This is definitely what we’re driving towards: building community within cities, within suburbs, within countries. It’s a very powerful tool. With the community comes the brands,” said Mr. Foo, who added that analytics and community development can go hand-in-hand.

When choosing which digital platform to use to build these online communities, brands should consider the connection quality of their customers. “Living in Singapore, we’re fortunate that bandwidth and Internet generally is quite good. In terms of looking at the other markets, we also have to look at, ‘Can your platforms perform for slower bandwidth markets?’” said Yvonne Tey, marketing director for Under Armour South East Asia. Aside from hosting virtual runs, the health and fitness company has apps such as Map My Run which helps customers train for running on their own. — Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo