Will a new digital platform create a must-join safe space for Athleta’s customers?

Discussion
Source: AthletaWell/Dr. Leada Malek, Physical Therapist
Jul 29, 2021

Athleta yesterday released news of the launch of AthletaWell, a new digital platform that caters to the wellbeing of its members.

The Gap-owned chain said the platform will deliver exercise content and moderated online spaces for members to discuss a wide variety of topics, including body positivity, fitness and women’s health. Athleta sees it as a springboard in moving from a seller of performance wear to a full-fledged lifestyle brand.

“This is really about deepening our engagement with existing customers, and we know there’s value in building brand loyalty,” Kim Waldmann, Athleta chief digital officer, told CNBC. “And loyal customers drive word of mouth. … We think we can bring in a wider community of people into the brand.”

Athleta, which recently participated in a funding round for obé Fitness, is working with the digital platform to bring fitness, entertainment, pop culture and other content to its members. Four new workouts will be launched each month by obé and the two companies will work together on apparel, content, events and shopping experiences going forward.

Another important aspect of the program is the inclusion of female influencers, including nutritionists, therapists and yoga instructors, who will lead conversations via a digital messaging board. Influencers will also have virtual office hours so members can get in-person advice.

Athleta, in launching its own platform, seems intent on competing in a similar space to lululemon and Nike. Those companies have sought to create ecosystems that bring together physical and digital experiences designed to become central elements of their members wellness journeys.

Lululemon, which has built a loyal community with on-site classes conducted by yoga practitioners and other fitness professionals, added live video appointments last year to more personally meet the needs of customers during the pandemic.

Nike boasts having over 100 million members digitally connected to the brand through its mobile app and others, including Nike Training Club and Nike Run Club. The Training Club app is the most used of any workout app in either the U.S. and Europe, logging 1.8 million workouts a month. Nike Run Club is also tops in its space. Individuals using the apps are all connected by a single membership profile across all of Nike’s online, digital app and physical consumer-direct touchpoints. More than half of all Nike Direct digital revenues come through its mobile apps.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think AthletaWell could be a difference maker for Athleta? What are the keys to creating the types of brand communities that bond consumers with brands and others who participate in them?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The offering will need to be uniquely compelling and enduring to truly be a difference maker."
"This is a loyalty program dressed up as a content program."
"The model is great in my opinion. It just depends on how many of these types of platforms consumers will be willing to adopt."

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8 Comments on "Will a new digital platform create a must-join safe space for Athleta’s customers?"


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Christine Russo
BrainTrust

This is a loyalty program dressed up as a content program. Sometimes I think apparel retailers overcomplicate a loyalty and rewards program and should look for guidance from other retailers with monster loyalty programs driving engagement and shareholder price. Leaders (with estimated members from data Q4 ’20 – Q2 ’21) are Target (80 million), Ulta (32 million), Starbucks (19 million), Chipotle (20 million), and even Dominoes (25 million).

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

This is a great move on Athleta’s part. Fostering an online community works very well for brands that already have a strong following, and Athleta is one of those. The key will be for Athleta to provide a voice of expertise in this community. Hopefully, consumers will be able to come to this space and ask wellness-related questions, and the brand can responsibly answer or find the right professionals to answer those questions.

In addition to Nike and Lululemon, Sephora has built a strong online community that solidifies the brand as a resource in the beauty world. This approach does work well for strong brands.

Jeff Hall
BrainTrust

I have several female friends who regularly shop Athleta, as do their friends, so it seems there is meaningful brand affinity and loyalty. The challenge for AthletaWell is these very same customers already have an active outdoor lifestyle, social well-being groups through their yoga studio, walking/biking groups and local fitness centers. Add in online platforms like Peloton and suddenly you’re asking your customer to adopt yet one more fitness/lifestyle app or platform. The offering will need to be uniquely compelling and enduring to truly be a difference maker.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Will it help? Without a doubt. Will it be a difference maker? We’ll have to wait and see. The notion of building a female well being platform isn’t original, but is more focused that programs aimed at all genders. The keys to success are the same as they would be for any brand building program — authenticity, transparency, continuously upgraded content, and most importantly, the ability to not just “meet” the consumer but, in this case, to stay a half-step ahead of her.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

The model is great in my opinion. It just depends on how many of these types of platforms consumers will be willing to adopt. The Peloton app is best in class from an exercise and engagement perspective but perhaps with more lifestyle content, AthletaWell can differentiate. It’s not here yet, but I see a day of reckoning for all of these subscription apps (as well as streaming services) and retailers and brands need to be best in class to win in this arena.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Creating communities tied to brands works when consumers using the product see value in and get value from participating in the community. Fitness, entertainment pop culture and body positivity are a wide array of topics. Some issues may appeal to some community members. However, finding a way to create one community out of these disparate topics seems challenging. From a Nike training group members expect to get valuable information. What will a member expect to get from a group that presents information on pop culture, entertainment, and body positivity. AthletaWell may need more than one community group.

Brian Cluster
BrainTrust

It’s a must for a brand like Athleta. The online fitness market, according to Allied Market Research, is projected to grow at 33% per year. Athleta consumers that are aligned to fitness and wellness goals are increasingly using fitness apps, youtube, or other fitness websites as sole sources for their workout content. By building out an online wellness hub, Athleta can be a valuable coach for wellness that extends beyond fitness. Additionally, these types of engagements are invaluable for capturing feedback, data, and innovative ideas for new product lines and services.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

I’m skeptical of some of the expectations they hold for this program. It will be evaluated, even by Athleta loyalists, on its own merits as a program. Athleta needs to be very committed to this if they’re to make it solid.

I’m not convinced that they have identified the best use of this. A couple of woodworking product companies I know have built good communities — but it’s been less about company pushed content and more about people showing what they’ve built and asking questions for tips. Company involvement is present, but not major.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The offering will need to be uniquely compelling and enduring to truly be a difference maker."
"This is a loyalty program dressed up as a content program."
"The model is great in my opinion. It just depends on how many of these types of platforms consumers will be willing to adopt."

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