Jazzercise needed to change its image and upgrade its online presence. The company rebranded in 2015 and launched a new Magento site in 2016 – resulting in 20% fixed operating cost reduction and 14% higher revenue.
Jazzercise. Yes, it’s a household-name exercise program, but it certainly has not been the workout of choice for millennials. That’s in part because the brand has struggled to recover from an 80s image – when the fitness world saw a heyday with the rise of stars such as Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. Probably no one is more emblematic of that erstwhile “get in shape” craze than Simmons – whose 1988 sensation Sweatin’ to the Oldies made him virtually synonymous with slimming down in a positive, self-affirming, and entertaining way.
This association with Simmons is problematic because he has been treated rather mercilessly in the media. The jokes of talk show hosts such as Howard Stern and David Letterman were sometimes harmless and other times cruel, as was also true with random amateurs (see this YouTube user). The manner in which Simmons was framed as a laughingstock is troubling, given how emotionally fragile he seems to be – and the fact that he has receded from TV since 2014. What does all this mean from a branding perspective? Jazzercise identified that it was stuck in the past, as part of that same corny fitness trend that made it so easy for pop cultural figures to ridicule Simmons.
Jazzercise wanted to be taken seriously, and in order to do so, the brand had to come of age. Let’s look at how Jazzercise updated its brand image and how the company’s adoption of Magento helped it to recover momentum.
Jazzercise has actually been around for 48 years; now headquartered in Carlsbad, California, the company was originally launched by Judi Sheppard Missett in Evanston, Illinois. In 2015, Jazzercise began its reformulation, rebooting its logo and color palette while introducing a new ad campaign; in 2016, the brand switched to Magento for better e-commerce presentation. Formerly considered a softer, subtler exercise program, the company’s new approach incorporates movements inspired by hip-hop dance, Pilates, and even kickboxing. If this sounds like an overhaul, it is; the slogan of the campaign was actually, “You Think You Know Us But You Don’t.”
Group fitness classes were already a part of American culture before the popular tidal wave of exuberant hip-swiveling that ushered in the 90s. “In the ’80s is when we saw [fitness instruction] really take off, and Jazzercise was a very big part of that,” explains American Council on Exercise (ACE) senior advisor Jessica Matthews. “That’s when you started to have this identified profession.”
The Big Business of Dance-Inspired Workouts
Let’s get something straight so that it’s clear Jazzercise is not a sinking has-been: the company is valued at $100 million, and it’s currently #81 on Entrepreneur’s list of the 500 fastest-growing franchises. True, 2014 saw shrinking in the number of Jazzercise locations; but the dip in numbers was effectively corrected with the 2015 rebrand and 2016 move to Magento.
Jazzercise franchise units (https://www.entrepreneur.com/franchises/jazzerciseinc/282474).
The brand credits much of its success to something that any marketer or salesperson can appreciate: framing. The perspective that the particular take on fitness allows people to take is different from what was on the market previously. Jazzercise positions exercise as dance, and people don’t think of dance as exercise. It allows people to do something they enjoy, rather than having to push themselves through something miserable. That may not convince you to sign up for a membership, but it does help explain the popularity of the model and the essence of the company’s differentiation.
While dance is fun, increasingly the fitness firm has recognized the need to update both the dance moves and the songs in order to keep customers engaged. Jazzercise credits that flexibility, the updating and continual reformulation of what people experience in its classes, to its kind of incredible retention: the average customer stays for seven years. However, for initial attraction, Jazzercise now also focuses centrally on effectiveness. According to the brand, you can burn 500-600 calories in a one-hour session; and independent assessments of dancing’s impact on calories suggest that’s possible (although it might be closer to 400 calories for the average person).
A New E-Commerce Platform as a Springboard for Further Growth
Jazzercise isn’t just an in-person entity, of course. Yes, the physical franchise model is at its core; but today, Missett (still the firm’s CEO) and her team release new branded exercise clothing and accessories via the company’s e-commerce platform each month.
Up until 2015, Jazzercise was with Amazon Webstore, and when that segment of the tech giant was shut down, Jazzercise had to rethink its approach. One of the things that had frustrated the company about the Amazon system was that they couldn’t integrate their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with the platform’s API. That issue caused “syncing delays that dominoed into inventory discrepancies, and fulfillment and accounting nightmares,” according to a Magento case study on Jazzercise.
Mobile use overcomes desktop (http://bgr.com/2016/11/02/internet-usage-desktop-vs-mobile/).
The company was concerned about mobile device support also – since mobile use is now greater than desktop use globally, and since smartphones and tablets are now increasingly used by e-commerce shoppers. Since the Amazon platform did not support responsive templates, that meant the company had to manage both desktop and mobile sites.
Jazzercise needed more thorough and agile merchandising options. The capacity of Webstore in this category was not meeting the fitness brand’s expectations, hurting revenue.
Jeff Uyemura, the Jazzercise digital manager, specifically points to the issue of personalization and how Magento has allowed the company to customize its approach for each user. He said the decision was made to switch because the technology “allowed us to target key customer segments more effectively and offer unique content and price points.”
Impact of Magento on Flexibility, Costs & Revenue
As indicated above, when Jazzercise switched over to Magento, they were able to integrate it with their ERP platform so that there was no longer a delay in syncing data. That near real-time processing allows inventory to be consistent throughout the ecosystem and prevents overselling.
It was also possible within Magento for Jazzercise to upload a custom mobile theme and use it to just have one site that would correctly populate the site on any type of device (rather than the four separate ones, B2B and B2C mobile and desktop. it had when the transfer was made). With this simplicity, Magento has allowed the brand to lower its maintenance costs and create more seamless digital brand consistency.
In terms of merchandising, the e-commerce platform has allowed Jazzercise to highlight certain items in each category and showcase them when a catalog launch occurs. Plus, creating a design that is personalized to the customer provides better targeting.
The brand’s Magento site went live in June 2016. Uyemura credits it with bringing e-commerce fixed operating costs down 20% and boosting online revenue 14%.
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