Rethinking The Role Media Companies Play In Consumers' Path To Fitness Purchases

U.S. consumers have become more focused on the physical benefits of fitness rather than mental well-being, according to new research from Future PLC. But they are frequently overwhelmed by fitness technology.

This creates an opportunity for trusted media brands to strengthen their valuable role as intermediaries, says Jason Webby, North American CRO at Future PLC.

In the research, conducted in October 2021 of 1,015 respondents 18 years old and older, Future found consumers are already heavily involved in their fitness and physical activity, and intend to spend more on new gear while doing activities with others beyond their immediate social circles.

The most common activities are walking/hiking (38% or respondents, basketball (29%), athletics (27%), running/jogging (22%), and swimming (20%).

The pandemic has spurred a shift in the rationale for fitness, with 54% or respondents caring more about fitness than in the past. Plus, there was a four-percentage point increase (21% per-pandemic and 26% now) in the emphasis on the physical benefits of fitness. At the same time, the focus on the mental well-being aspects declined by two percentage points, from 11% to 9%.



Thirty-seven percent of respondents work out of their homes, and the vast majority, 80%, said their primary method of exercise was to plan on their own. Another 37% said they use prerecorded videos — the numbers are more than 100% because of overlap — while 32% use a mobile app.

The top types of equipment owned, according to the research, were weights (24%), gym equipment (13%), and exercise bikes (12%).  The main equipment being considered for purchase were rowing machines (15%), ellipticals (15%) and mini-steppers (12%).

All of this and more, says Webby, means audiences need help in demystifying fitness options and purchases, and media companies can help.

“A key point for advertisers taken from the findings is that audiences want help,” Webby says. “They are in the market and looking to buy fitness-tech products, but are having a hard time understanding what is best for them. So there is still work to be done by health/fitness brands to make choices and products clearer to their customers.”

Future is dedicated to simplifying the consumer’s path to purchase, a journey that he says is too complex now. Online audiences are usually looking for specific information. And with all the focus on a content-to-commerce approach these days in media and affiliate marketing, the risk is that media brands start to create lower-value content, content that procures revenue but doesn’t necessarily really help consumers.

“What we seek to do at Future is bring in our expert reviews and recommendations to help guide and make that online journey a truly valuable experience,” Webby says. A proprietary CMS surfaces products consumers want to see, at the best price, while they read expert editorial content. The technology also helps filter products, based on the best price, so consumers don’t overpay.

One key takeaway from the research is that media companies don’t just possess an audience that advertisers want; they can actively assist audiences as they shop for products around their passions.

“Adding value as a publisher is a benefit we give to our audiences that we can then pass on to advertisers — which can then really connect with our high intent audiences,” Webby says.


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