The pace and challenges of life seem to move at more and more frenetic speed each week so we seem to turn more to mobile apps to help us do everything from ordering food to hiring a car to finding a housekeeper for the day all in a flash. But a new strain of apps seems to reflect a more nurturing aspect that many are seeking in their rather than that of simple utility, and they are growing in popularity.
Call it, perhaps, a by-product of the “slow movement” – a collective of thought that encourages a more smell-the-roses or more mindful approach to life. While not too many years ago, the trend of beauty expert/blow-out on-demand apps was the big narrative, now we are starting to see more movement toward a new crop of wellness and fitness apps that are steadily gaining traction. It’s well-timed play for these ventures within a culture that is desperately seeking new ways to balance life but still using technology to do so.
“The shift we have seen in the market is two-fold,” explains Colin Szopa, Co-Founder and CEO of the Los-Angeles-based startup Plankk, a new streaming service gives anyone access to on-the-go workouts with the world’s most elite fitness trainers from any screen. “First, people are consistently becoming more and more health conscious and prioritizing it in their life. Secondly, people are moving towards efficiency in their lives.”
Szopa says that the explosion in the popularity of boutique group fitness brands such as Soul Cycle, Barry’s Boot Camp and others made fitness fun again. “But not everyone has two hours a day to attend a class when you factor in the door to door time,” he adds. Thus, Plankk Studio was born and now helps its community of users actually attend a boutique-quality class led by his or her favorite creators, live or on-demand, from the comfort of their home, thereby eliminating the need for the rush and dash to make a class.
This is about taking fitness and one’s own pace and customizing time of day to do so. The app offers over 1,000 live and on-demand workout videos from the fitness world’s biggest influencers. But this is no one-way-only scenario. Users can also interact with their favorite trainers by asking questions, sharing their progress and more.
But the real draw of this app may be in how it has also connected with another key cultural narrative in addition to that of a slow-go, and that is democratization. Plankk Studio gives anyone access to some of the world’s most-recognized trainers that have traditionally only been available to those with the budget to do so. The company has quietly spent the past couple years building customized apps for elite trainers, helping them scale their businesses and monetize their audiences. Through Plankk’s influencer partnerships, the company says that it currently reaches 110 million people worldwide on social media.
Part of the secret sauce lies in the app’s tech backend. “Plankk Studio uses class category tagging to highlight on-demand classes to users based on their viewing behavior. Each on-demand class also has ‘suggested classes’ where user data helps determine what additional classes a user may be interested in,” reveals Szopa. Primarily, the company’s business model rests in connecting fitness influencers with their audiences. The app not only creates an additional revenue stream for Plankk’s partners but can also be used as a platform to further promote their own apps.
From Fitness to Wellness, There’s An App For That Now
However, Moaz Hamid, Managing Director for REME, a mobile app that provides mindful health & wellness services and education, gives additional insight into the growing trend in this particular category of apps. Hamid says, “Before the Internet and connected devices ruled our lives, there was a clear distinction between home and work. Now, with our devices and the ‘on-the-go’ culture we live in, work comes home with us so we are much more connected than ever before.”
He believes that such behavior sets a dangerous pace encouraging us to stay up late and wake up early. Hamid says that there is a growing awareness about the importance of practicing self-care yet the lack of time to often drive to an appointment to actually access the service, or worse yet, finally having made the appointment only to cancel it due to unforeseen meetings or family emergencies.
“People suffer from a shortage of time, and when there’s a shortage of time, the ability to address self-care and be our best selves takes a back seat so we’re seeing more and more of a need for on-demand health and wellness services,” reveals Hamid.
Thus REME was created in order to have wellness experts come to the client. Whether one is at home, the office, or even a hotel room, health and wellness can be delivered via the app. But there’s an interesting twist with Reme.
“Many service-oriented, on-demand apps are just that: service-oriented,” explains Hamid. “They aren’t solving the root of the problem, which is helping individuals uncover why they were in need of the service to begin with. So in addition to providing on-demand services, we’ve created a community that actually teaches people how to manage their time properly in order to best practice self-care, which includes enlightening them with tools for relaxation from everyday stress.”
REME has developed educational programs with the goal of restoring everyone’s well-being through on-demand IV therapy, stretch and massage, where vetted experts bring personalized relaxation and mindfulness to the user.
The app’s goal is to serve a business traveler who may be in need of rehydration after a 24-hour flight to the mother who is also an entrepreneur and needs to order stretch therapy on-demand so that it fits into her schedule. “But we’re not just a temporary fix or masking of the problem, we go above and beyond by fostering healthy and sustainable wellness habits,” explains Hamid.
Indeed, the company had a strong presence at a number of high-profile events and most recently at Sundance Film Festival at one of the VIP lounges Reme offered attendees with their choice of B12 shots, Energy Boost IV drips and Hangover IV drips intended as support during the demanding Festival pace.
During the regular day-to-day usage of the app, REME relies heavily on algorithms that live within the product in order to access the location and time period the user will most likely request services. “This helps us increase our pool of experts as well as understanding our users’ needs. We also take into consideration the type of services that are most relevant to the services our users request in order for us to make suggestions and recommendations,” shares Hamid.
He also says that strong customer service is key to the app’s growing word-of-mouth because the REME concierge team regularly communicates with the company’s clients in order to better understand specifics issues such as where the pain may be located in the body and/or overall goals so that the most appropriate choices and matches can be made.
But no matter what the cultural trends, success continues to challenge both of these startups.
“The fitness app space is definitely becoming more and more crowded,” says Szopa. He says that they are constantly working to edge out competition via the variety of influencers which the company selects.
“A challenge that we often face,” says Hamid. “is wondering if the services and the habits we’re fostering within the community are relevant. Are they accessible to the community? Are we including everybody? Will it work for everyone? As a company, we’re learning as we go.”
There is also the specter of consumer fickleness that always looms large whether it may be new trends that arise or simply new and better apps with more customized offerings, perhaps incorporating AI in the near future.
But these companies are undaunted for the time being. “We see a lot of future opportunities which include bringing more exclusive media partnerships onto Plankk Studio, as well as continuously adding more of our influencer partners to the app as well, ” says Szopa.
Hamid concurs, “We see a great opportunity in corporate wellness. Our research shows that the U.S. economy takes a hit of over $300 billion a year because of work-related stress, leading to sick days and lost productivity in the workplace. This is where the next big opportunity for growth.”