When Equinox first launched its Variis fitness app earlier this year, it was only available to members or those who had a SoulCycle at home.
Then COVID shook up the industry and turned digital home workout products into an essential offering for fitness brands looking to stay viable during the pandemic.
"We spent the first six or seven months of the year really trying to perfect the experience with the Equinox members and with the Soul riders," Equinox Media CEO Jason LaRose told Cheddar. "That's a group that's very, very engaged in their fitness, so they gave us amazing feedback and we were able to continue to refine the product."
As demand for the service increased over the span of the pandemic, Equinox decided to make the app available to the general public. It also partnered with American Express to give account holders a $25 credit toward the $39.99 per month membership.
There is already plenty of competition in the space, however. Networked at-home fitness devices such as Mirror and Peloton have exploded in popularity during the pandemic.
As a result, Equinox, which also owns SoulCycle, has focused on expanding and diversifying the programming available on the app, with brands such as PURE Yoga, Rumble, and Precision Run.
"That lineup of brands provides us an opportunity to bring content that's really unparalleled," he said. "We run a TV studio and content production facility that tries to bring these brands to life at a way that's as premium as what you see when you visit them in real-life."
LaRose emphasized that Equinox doesn't see its digital offerings as a replacement for in-person classes. Instead, the goal is to keep members and non-members engaged with the brand and then, eventually, drive them back to the gym once they are able to fully reopen.
"We definitely see this as an 'and' proposition, digital and physical, not digital or physical," LaRose said. "Before the pandemic, 60 percent of Equinox members were already using at least one fitness app on their phones to augment or even to guide them through some of the in-club experiences."
He noted that 72 percent of Equinox members said digital at-home workouts have made them more likely to want to work out at a physical location when possible.
"That's always been the play of us, is digital and physical," he said. "We never anticipated that one of the reasons that you couldn't make it all the time to physical would be pandemic, so that's thrown a new reason to the top of the list obviously in a very odd 2020."