For the Equinox Group, 2020 was the year fitness clubs were replaced by fitness content. The Equinox Group itself, and the brands it owns — including SoulCycle and Blink Fitness — had built a business around in-person training, something that was simply not viable under lockdown.
Josh Rappaport, Director, Post-Production and Publishing at Equinox Media, told us: “The pandemic lockdown certainly shifted a lot of the priorities on the content team. One of the biggest challenges being — how do we all continue to work in lock-step, understanding what each teammate is working on, and providing visibility to all collaborators without being together in-person?”
The purpose, of course, was to share content from all the brands with a now remote member base; the challenge was to find ways to do that seamlessly with a remote content team. The low code cloud collaboration service Airtable was a key part of the tool-kit.
The pandemic forced a pivot
“To take a step back, it’s important to note that, although there was a lot of preparation and work that went into our products in 2019, it was not until March 2020 that we debuted Equinox+, a first-of-its-kind platform powering two products: the Equinox+ mobile app and the SoulCycle at-home bike. Our original plan was to unveil the brand and products at SXSW 2020, but of course, that strategy was significantly impacted by the pandemic, and we were forced to pivot.”
The Equinox+ app (which replaced Variis by Equinox) was always intended eventually to be available to non-members, but the pandemic drastically accelerated the timeline. “For context, we had originally planned to introduce the Equinox+ app to Equinox members via a phased market rollout,” said Rappaport, “but due to substantial interest, we accelerated our rollout by more than six months and expanded from one market to 14 in less than two months.” It was made it generally available in October 2020 for $ 39.99 per month.
“Since launching Equinox+ in March through the end of 2020, Equinox members who use the app are working out nearly 20% more per month compared to 2019,” said Rappaport.
The Airtable migration
Airtable had already been implemented by the content team at Equinox Media as a project management tool. “We had the benefit of being a startup,” said Rappaport (Equinox Media as a division was created in 2019), “and we had the flexibility to move quickly and define the processes we could see the most success with. After an initial period of roughly three months where each team member and production was tracked in a single base, we began what we called ‘the Airtable Migration.’ The goal was to analyze all of the successful components and build them into our ecosystem, while also addressing the pain points and creating a system of requirements within Airtable’s features to redefine the workflow.”
The pandemic forced a halt in production with the business, like so many others, compelled to re-assess its direction and priorities. But this had the benefit of allowing the content team to step back, rethink workflows, and re-tool onboarding for collaborators. There were a number of important elements in the new roll-out:
- A templated base for each partner to ensure privacy;
- Table linking to allow internal stakeholders to work within the guardrails of content supply chain requirements, while still having the flexibility in their timeline of work completion;
- Base syncs to aggregate all information into a single location, giving a full view of the content on Equinox+;
- A production tracking system built out further to support publishing APIs, which have improved time to publish by 400%; and
- Time tracking that will provide an understanding of how long each piece of content (full length content, revised content, marketing assets, etc) takes to be completed, the bottlenecks along the way, and how the team works through them (this is in development).
Agility and flexibility
That’s how Equinox Media is currently using Airtable, but instances of the service can be shaped and customized to meet the needs of a range of businesses. That’s the message I got from Airtable CMO Archana Agrawal.
“It’s a very agile piece of software,” she said, “a very flexible workflow application. We all have very different processes to get our work done. Teams of every shape and size end up using Airtable for different assets and different business objects that they care about.”
Airtable for marketers
Given that many business teams might have use cases for Airtable, we asked Agrawal to whom she was primarily marketing the service. “It’s business users across all teams — obviously marketing teams, but also product, operations, HR.”
The pivot by Equinox from in-person engagement with members to creating content for members is not an uncommon use case, said Agrawal. “Obviously as business went online and digital first, a workflow needed to be created which might not be like the key workflows the company had before. With respect to content, keeping people informed, giving them online options and choices — and the marketing of all that as well — had to move online.”
Equinox not only tracks all fitness classes in Airtable, it manages digital content assets like video clips and images in the same system. “We move every asset through a sku-like system,” said Rappaport. “From initial collaboration of programming with our partners, through delivery to our client apps, there is a single ID created that is used in a multitude of locations that can always be searched in various Airtable tables and bases to find every detailed piece of information about that asset. Each subsequent video clip and image is also managed through the same system. Each week we are able to seamlessly hand-off numerous marketing deliverables that are used to promote our weekly published class list and to reach our members and prospective customers.”
Airtable today announced a solution aimed specifically at marketers, which not only supports management of deliverables, including creative approvals, but can also be used to orchestrate campaigns and launches, and track results. New integrations with Hootsuite and Box are live, with a Salesforce integration in beta, Agrawal said.
A hybrid future
Equinox is not just patching together a customer experience for a temporary situation. “We believe the future of fitness is a hybrid of digital and physical experiences,” said Rappaport. “The pandemic has created a forced trial of digital fitness and expedited a shift in consumer behavior. Yet, we know that our consumers still crave in-real-life experiences, so our membership is grounded in the understanding that members want the flexibility to pursue fitness on their own terms.”
The pressures on marketing teams are also unlikely to recede. In a new survey on marketing trends, Airtable found that 86% of marketing leaders say current workloads are creating stress for their team; 80% say that the volume of campaigns, requests, and content that marketing needs to deliver on has increased over the last year.
“Over the last few years, there’s been this rapid innovation in the way we do work and what work needs to get done,” said Agrawal. “With new channels, new formats, new technologies that marketers use, imagine being able to create a central source where teams — and cross-functional teams — can bring together their processes and workflows to very quickly make changes, have visibility, and deliver work very quickly.”