While gyms struggled to stay above water and Peloton put a bike in every midtown apartment in 2020, Fitbit was quietly coasting along, building a steady influx of new users and preparing for its merger with Google to go through. While it didn’t have the 2020 breakaway its stationary-bike competitor did, Fitbit’s strong 2020 user metrics are a promising showing for Google’s first major foray into personal health and fitness.
In almost any other context, a downward trending job listings chart like this would make it seem like the company is in trouble. But that’s not necessarily the case for Fitbit — the company has been slowing down its job listings ever since Google announced in 2019 that it would acquire the company for $2.1 billion in a merger that went through on January 14. The first major drop off took place between October and November when the acquisition was announced. COVID-19 only accelerated the trend: in the first three months of the pandemic, Fitbit reduced its job listings from 91 down to 27. For much of the new year, it’s been sitting at just 20.
To see where Fitbit is winning, all you have to do is look at how its social media chatter compares to fitness clubs across the country. Fitbit has been mentioned on Facebook far more often throughout the last year than gyms, peaking at a 282% increase in May and again at 268% in December. Meanwhile, chatter about fitness clubs and gyms has stayed relatively tight-knit and low across all brands without much deviation.
Back in spring and the early summer months as people came to grips with the pandemic’s changes to everyday routines, talking about counts for gyms varied dramatically. Is my local gym closing? Will I still be forced to pay membership fees? This period of uncertainty drove dramatic increases in talking about counts for some gyms. But once they did start reopening their doors, albeit with some restrictions, people still weren’t showing up, preferring to work out at home either with an expensive bike, a fitness app, or, apparently, wearable fitness tech like Fitbits.
Adding Peloton to that chart is a testament to the company’s powerful branding. Even if you can’t afford a Peloton, you know what they are, and you probably wish you had one taking up space in your already-cramped living room. But it would be difficult for any company to go toe-to-toe with Peloton’s marketing — the real opportunity for Fitbit exists in the space between the gyms’ lines and its own. Fitbit isn’t just attracting people new to fitness, but has an unprecedented opportunity to siphon off customers left stranded without a gym and give them a new way to stay fit.
And it’s done exactly that. Fitbit’s concurrent user counts and guest user counts also averaged much higher in 2020 than they did in 2019. Apple App Store reviews (not shown) are also up 26% since late March — an increase of nearly 30,000 — and sits at a 4 star rating, showing that Fitbit has attracted a significant and relatively content batch of new customers over the course of the pandemic. Peloton may be a stand-out winner, but avert your eyes and you’ll see a whole world of fitness apps and products feasting off the corpses of gyms.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.