Among the industries that came to an immediate halt due to the pandemic and were forced to come up creatively with alternative ways of staying in business – literally, or face extinction – was the fitness industry.
When the pandemic rolled into the US, gyms and fitness centers closed en masse. The industry is worth $32 billion, yet last March gym class bookings plummeted to 85%. Last year, it’s estimated that the industry lost around $14 billion.
In response, many brands and independent gyms launched livestream classes, on-demand workouts, their own gear, and applications.
Pivoting during the pandemic, one of these fitness businesses was Equinox. The luxury health and fitness company lost $350 million last year due to the pandemic, yet was offset partially by their launch of a new fitness platform, Equinox Media.
As part of their tech development, Equinox Media was built to bring fitness and insight into the homes of consumers, helping them to maintain their fitness as well as mental health.
Within Equinox Media, they developed 2 ambitious products: Variis, an app that provides a broad selection of fitness classes as well as training programs to their monthly subscribers; and the SoulCycle At-Home Bike, a stationary bike for home workouts that includes digital access to the brand’s SoulCycle classes.
The original plan was for the fitness brand to launch the two products last March at the South by Southwest festival (SXSW). But then the country seemed to shut down and every in-person event was cancelled or suspended. SXSW was, of course, cancelled. And very shortly afterwards, Equinox gyms and fitness clubs had to rerack its weights and close its doors, along with its SoulCycle studios.
Equinox Media soon pivoted immediately to an online-only space. In mid-year they unravelled their live SoulCycle classes for those at home, while also starting to market the Variis – half a year ahead of its planned release.
With this acceleration of launches, Variis was put under strain both digitally, along with its infrastructure, and its employees. So it carried out a review of what it lacked and concluded that it needed the following requirements:
- A content management system that can scale
- The flexibility to add more digital content types
- Simplicity for content creators to build and publish fast
- No need for engineers to aid with content creation or publishing
After searching far and wide, high and low, Equinox Media concluded that the platform that best fit these high requirements was Contentful, a cloud-native headless content management system that excels at providing a first-class UX for content creators, strong request verification, the ability to carry out A/B testing, and easily buildable content types for non-devs.
Contentful smoothens it out
(In reality, Contentful was the logical answer to the needs of Variis also because they were already using it to power their content on its ecommerce site and mobile app.)
As the Equinox team tried to scale to power the new Variis platform, they hit multiple issues, in particular caching and APIs. In their first attempt to overcome these problems, their tech team built tools to aid the content team, with the unfortunate result in channelling developers away from product development.
So their new CMS needed to be non-dev friendly so that content creators could work within the platform and create, manage, and publish content with no problems.
It also needed it to be scalable so that the platform could expand its services by adding more classes, and more digital content.
But it wasn’t just the content creators that were happy about the features of Contentful. Product teams and engineering teams were also eager to get started with the content management system. They saw in Contentful a CMS with easy-to-use APIs, and high-functioning caching while more users come to the app.
And in addition, the devs wanted the ability to create a data model that would be able to be flexible as Equinox Media adapts to customer feedback and the changing nature of the industry.
“When we evaluated CMSs,” said Brad Alan, VP of engineering of Equinox Media. “Contentful came out with a perfect score for all our teams. Contentful’s performance right out of the box was exactly what we wanted.
“Everyone was very satisfied,” added Brad. “Lots of people were super excited about Contentful and how they’d work in it. Performance right out of the box was exactly what we wanted – you just just tell the difference immediately within our mobile app, especially.”
Now that Contentful was the clear path forward, “We’re going to attempt to change the engine while flying the plane,” said Brad. In other words, migrating everything from the old content management system to Contentful, while at the same time carrying on to market Variis as well as adding fresh content… all in order to maintain quality services and content to their customers who were attempting to keep (sane) and fit under the pandemic.
“We’re super excited to have Contentful as a partner,” added Brad, “for the things they’re powering for us today as well as the things they’re going to power for us in the future.
“And we’re really excited where we’re going to be able to go together.”
Mining the results of their Contentful integration, Equinox Media arrived at the following:
- The CMS is easy and fast to create and publish new content
- Content creators are big admirers of Contentful
- API-based architecture lets devs easily add functionality
- Their content creators can simply do their job without requiring devs for the day-to-day stuff
- This allows devs to concentrate on building new features instead of building workarounds
- While Equinox Media expanded Contentful enabled it to scale