The Internet of … spinning?

Jan 10, 2018 | Hot Topics

I’m following CES, the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, from the comfort of home. Many interesting announcements, but one caught my eye:

Peloton, the maker of an awesome spinning app and an expensive spin bike, is branching out into treadmills. Peloton’s spin app is a for-fee setup where you can take any of hundreds of pre-recorded or live spin classes. If you want to, and can afford to, you can use Peloton-branded bicycle that’s got an iPad-sized screen and connects you to the instructor and other people in their physical studio or virtually doing a live class. If you’re connected, you compete with others in the class, get shoutouts from the instructor and see how the power you generate on your bike (if it’s the special Peloton bike) compares to others in the class. (There are probably other benefits; I’ve only used the app on my decidedly cheaper spin bike — and it was awesome even that way).

The point, according the NYT and borne out by many other examples: It’s hard to make a hardware product stand out from its competitors. I use a $300 (?) spin bike and have a perfectly fine workout; a Peloton bike costs 10x as much and I’m not sure I value my spin time enough to spend that much more on it. But Peloton isn’t aiming for me. It is betting that the experience it creates by melding a built-for-purpose bike or treadmill with a spiffy (and, for now, probably unique) user interaction, takes it closer to having a trainer come to your house and take you through a workout — now the price starts being comparable and defensible.

Where I think manufacturers can learn from this example is that it’s not about differentiating the device. It’s about creating an experience around the device that makes it stand out from competitors who make similar devices, but also from the service providers who make that device fit its particular purpose. Peloton told NYT that 95% of the bikes they’ve ever sold are still paying their subscriptions for spin classes. That’s phenomenal, if you consider how many fitness devices gather dust starting after the New Year’s resolutions wear off. That’s not because the bikes are all that special; it’s because Peloton’s content is.

It also speaks to the idea of connecting random things to see what happens. Peloton’s secret sauce is the way instructors interact with the people in the classes, and a lot of that is down to the data sent from the masses of connected bikes back to the exercise studio in New York. It truly is like having a personal session with a world-class instructor, filmed up close with sweat dripping off her nose. (It’s motivating, not yucky.) The combination of video class, a pumping soundtrack and (for those with the special bike) live data feedback is a smart combination of the technology available today.

What can you take from this? It may be time to dust off the old team building class exercise: write a bunch of unrelated technology concepts on little pieces of paper and put them into a bowl. Now pull out three, and figure out ways to combine them to solve your current business problem, or to invent a new product offering. So many technologies today, all to be creatively applied — what are you waiting for? Here’s a start: AR, VR, video, images, Internet connectivity, temperature/pressure/flow sensors, CAD models, simulation of so many physical phenomena, generative design, cost modeling, apps, desktop, cloud, subscriptions, perpetual, financing … GO!

FTC note: I’ve used the Peloton app as a paying consumer. No freebies — and stopped using it when it got too nice outside. Maybe time to start up again?

 

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