Usage of the fitness and wellness coaching service Wellbeats skyrocketed earlier this year, one of those companies that offered what the world really needed in a pandemic.
It’s set up to provide more than 30 channels of fitness-class instruction and coaching over the internet.
This was not some sort of accident, another case of a company that found opportunity in a disastrous time for lots of other businesses. Wellbeats had been working on improving convenience for users for a long time.
The same is true for the founders of Netflix, an essential entertainment programming service in 2020 that wasn’t thinking ahead to a pandemic. The company got its start in the movie distribution business back when even the DVD was new and unfamiliar.
The founder of the booming retailer Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, was talking about his obsession with improving the customer experience more than two decades ago. There are a lot of ways to improve convenience. To make it easier, just think about things that cause friction in the process of trying to buy or use a product. The best businesses try to eliminate them.
Friction can happen in so many ways, from having to wait a week to get into the car dealer’s shop when the “check engine” light won’t go off to getting no response on an e-mail to customer service that was just looking for clarification of the shipping date.
The Wellbeats team also talked about user convenience in a slightly different way, by describing how they break down barriers to get people to exercise more.
Not enough time is one barrier, and unfamiliarity with the world of gyms and workouts is another. Some people thought of gyms as an unaffordable luxury or didn’t feel comfortable going to one, even before coronavirus.
Wellbeats, based in St. Louis Park with nearly 50 employees and growing, is not exactly an upstart now with a dozen years of history. Its model could be called a B to B to C, meaning it’s a business that sells to other businesses for their consumers to use the product, like employees or members in a health insurance plan.
It got its start with a different name and a slightly different business, enabling a fitness-class experience for users of gyms like Anytime Fitness, which weren’t usually big enough or staffed for large classes.
The original Wellbeats product was both hardware to equip a fitness room, including a big screen, and a provider of instruction and encouragement with a virtual coach.