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Expert insights on digitalization with Ernst de Neef, Funxtion CEO

Ernst de Neef Funxtion CEO digitalization
In this interview, Funxtion CEO Ernst de Neef shares how new on-demand fitness trends, artificial intelligence, and partnerships are transforming the fitness industry.

New fitness ecosystems on the rise

In the current fitness industry landscape, we see new partnerships on the rise, with club, health and wellness operators and instructors working hand in hand with hardware and software-based companies to create workouts that improve the member experience.

Here we ask industry leader Ernst de Neef, co-founder and CEO at Funxtion, for his expert insights about the newly formed fitness ecosystems and what this means for health and gym operators in 2023. 

What would make an ideal fitness ecosystem for gym operators?

For decades, the fitness ecosystem was captured between the four walls of a club facility, focusing only on the physical location. But you see that the fitness ecosystem has changed from being place-orientated to more person-orientated. 

Members want more personalized services to help support them achieve their unique fitness goals 24/7.

Of course, it is challenging for fitness club operators now to meet the demands of each member. This is when you realize fitness operators need an omnichannel customer journey, a new business model and the right, digital platform solution.

Why are fitness industry leaders choosing collaboration?

It’s complicated to do it alone. So the ideal fitness ecosystem needs to place collaboration engaging content and community at the center. Just to give you an example, recently, Funxtion partnered with EGYM. This is a massively exciting collaboration for a digital content platform like Funxtion; it means that global leaders in the industry are choosing 360-degree fitness content solutions instead of building everything themselves.

Because it’s extremely challenging and costly to cater to members’ new and evolving needs. The only way to address such demands is through collaboration.  

An exciting future for the fitness industry

Recently, EuropeActive completed a consumer survey report with Deloitte, revealing that global budget cuts and inflation had not heavily impacted gym activities (EHFMR 2023). With this in mind, we ask de Neef to share his thoughts on the future of fitness and what gym operators can do to stay competitive. 

What’s the future of the fitness industry?

The future of the fitness industry heavily relies on digital solutions. We are experiencing how artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming the gym experience with smart equipment, wearables and digital devices that can provide real-time feedback and coaching, and soon a personalized member experience at scale. 

Let’s look at the budget allocated for artificial intelligence development only in the fitness industry. It will soon reach US$ 900 million worldwide by the end of this year. We also know that only the virtual fitness market industry is expected to surpass US$ 187.8 Billion by 2032 ( These numbers speak for themselves. 

Indeed, the future of the fitness industry will significantly depend on the ability of gym operators to get ahead in the AI revolution quickly. 

How to integrate digitalization in the gym? 

the omnichannel delivery system makes the whote fitness experience more interesting for member

Digital transformation is a process for gym operators. It doesn’t mean that the world of the gym doesn’t exist anymore. It means that digitalization will empower gym operators to turn their facilities into attractive places next to outdoor exercise classes and at-home fitness activities as part of an omnichannel journey.

For example, I remember when Mendel and I founded Funxtion over a decade ago. We already knew that the gym was no longer the type of place it used to be in the past. 

That’s when we quickly realized that Funxtion would be extremely helpful for gym operators in their digital journey. We were there to help them transition their fitness classes from analogue to digital because members were already asking for digital solutions for home workouts.

Can you explain how does Funxtion Fitness Content work?

Our customizable white label digital fitness content platform can be delivered at home using any device or in the gym with MultiScreen and Virtual Players. The omnichannel delivery system makes the whole fitness experience more interesting for members. 

But back then, many operators didn’t have a clear digital strategy in place or hesitated to integrate digitalization into their businesses. Then the pandemic happened. Like Warren Buffett says: “You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.”  Only now will we see who truly embraced an omnichannel approach that is sustainable and scalable.

What do gym members want in 2023?

Members want to improve their physical, mental and emotional well-being, but they want to do it smarter and with tailor-made fitness content. If we consider that 80% of gym members are Gen Z and Millennials, as recently shared by Athletech News, then it’s clear that hybrid solutions and personalization are at the core of their demands. However, it’s worth noting that the biggest challenge of these two generations is staying engaged and motivated. 

That’s when having access to high-quality virtual classes and workouts helps to increase engagement. In return, loyalty and engagement positively impact retention rates.

Do you know of any gym that increased retention with content?

Yes, SportCity, one of our clients in the Netherlands, increased retention with our white-label content plugged into their Member App. Next to it, Fitness First in Germany increased group class participation by 220% with our MultiScreen Solutions integrated into the gym floor. But I’d like to highlight PureGym in the UK because their members said they tackled “gymtimidation” with Funxtion’s beginner-friendly training plans. Stories like these make us aware of the importance of delivering our enterprise customers the best digital fitness experience. 

About Funxtion

Funxtion is the world’s leading B2B digital fitness content platform that has helped enterprise gym operators achieve high records of member retention since 2011. By delivering fitness content in the gym and on the go, Funxtion has helped increase gym group class attendance by 220%. 

In 2022, Funxtion raised EUR 5.8 million in equity capital to accelerate the innovation of its platform and fuel rapid international expansion. 

Talk to our team. You will receive a personalized plan adjusted to your business that will foster new levels of success.


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