Novo Fitness Studio in Midland, Georgia is a fast-growing, community-minded business owned by sisters Beth Anne and Ellen. They came to Berry Interesting in 2018 for WordPress support after their previous agency closed up shop. We happily welcomed them to the family, and over the next 18 months or so not much of interest happened.
Then came the coronavirus pandemic.
Reacting locally to a global pandemic
As business across the country and around the world came to an abrupt halt, gyms and fitness studios were hit especially hard. Novo wasn’t just losing revenue, they and their members were losing a space for self-care and community-building. As they, along with the rest of the world, reacted to the realities of social distancing and the unknowns of the future, they reached out to BIPi to discuss the possibility of taking their classes – and their community – fully online.
The Novo site, as it stood before social distancing, was largely informational. Opportunities for user-interaction were minimal, and all purchases were processed and paid for directly via their members’ MindBody accounts. The site was not set up for user management or for processing financial transactions.
In the strange days of March and April 2020, with no options for in-person classes, our primary goal was to take classes online for existing Novo members as quickly as possible, and worry about the details afterward.
A rapid pivot from informational to interactive
Thanks to the flexibility and extensibility of WordPress, as well as the fantastic tools provided by Vimeo’s Premium plan, we were able to all work simultaneously to make online Novo classes a reality. Ellen and Beth Anne worked tirelessly to record and upload enough videos to Vimeo to create a modest library (they recorded about 20 classes over the span of two weeks!). It bears mentioning how easy it was for them to adopt the tools provided by Vimeo. For a business that had heavily relied on BIPi to provide ongoing technical support, the ease-of-use of Vimeo was key to the overall success of this project!
Meanwhile, the BIPi team got to work on building a section of gated content on the front end of the Novo website, along with user- and video-management functionality on the back end. Thanks to a WordPress custom post type and several plugins (Import Users, Peter’s Login Redirect, and Restrict User Access), we built a Video Library on the WordPress site itself, restricted access to that library to only logged-in users, and onboarded Novo’s existing membership in bulk.
Click on the thumbnails to see images of the components of Novo’s On Demand and livestreaming content.
The downside to lightning-fast development
Under normal circumstances, a project like this should have included at least 2 weeks of planning and research and another 4-6 weeks working with a specialist to build and push live… and would ideally have allowed for users to self-manage payments via the WordPress site itself.
Of course, spring 2020 was anything but normal circumstances!
Working as quickly as possible, BIPi handled the entire build in-house. We used the existing design of the site to inform design decisions for the library pages, posts, and archives. We created a rather clunky (but, again, fast!) user-management process that used the existing payment processing tools on MindBody and manual follow-up by the Novo staff to onboard members to the WordPress site.
At that point, we were ready to actually bring the videos over from Vimeo so that users could browse them via the WordPress site, sorting by instructor, class run-time, and class type. While this was faster than waiting for a specialist to build a connection from the site to the Vimeo API, it did result in a lot of manual work to embed the Vimeo videos into posts on the WordPress site.
We knew as we worked that we were building for now and not for the next 5 years, but time was of the essence. Novo’s membership was hungry for classes from their favorite teachers to keep them positive as they all stayed safe at home.
Another benefit of the Vimeo Premium plan was the ability to livestream via Vimeo to the website itself; the Novo On Demand library includes a page where several times a week, members can access a livestreamed class and chat.
Lessons learned, and plans for better tools in the future
This was the first time BIPi built anything like this in-house, and the entire process resulted in a long list of “things we’ll do differently next time”:
- We’ll definitely be using Restrict Content Pro, which will allow for users to manage their payments on the site itself (instead of the disconnect between paying on MindBody and then getting a user profile manually created by the Novo staff).
- We’ll plan for the project to take at least 8 weeks from start to launch instead of 2.
- We’ll schedule live training sessions for the client team to make everyone more confident in using the tools (as opposed to trial-and-error borne from necessity)
- We’ll user-test with real subscribers to ensure that both our written instructions and the interface we build work perfectly once launched out into the wild.
How a small yoga studio leveraged tech to survive the shutdown
The real key to Novo’s success – aside from having excellent judgment in choosing a web development partner – was the community they’d already created at their studio combined with absolute mastery of social media. They were in near-constant touch with their audience, and the minute that the On Demand library went live, their members were tweeting, instagramming, and facebooking about their excitement to be “back in class”. Ellen and Beth Anne were tireless, focused, and downright determined to keep their membership together through the crisis. Their messaging remained on-point throughout it all.
To be totally frank, this build is what got the BIPi crew through those scary first weeks of lockdown. Not only were we able to do something truly helpful and supportive for our client, but we got to witness countless posts of joy over what we helped create.
Now that restrictions have eased, the Novo studio is back open, but the Novo On Demand library is still going strong. As of September 2020, the library contains over 200 video classes that members can access 24/7, averaging 6 new videos per week. The On Demand library and livestreams have even allowed students in other cities, states, and countries to participate in a Novo class from afar (they’ve even got a student in Italy!).
The future of Novo’s On Demand services
What’s most exciting about the advent of an On Demand library on the Novo website is that it’s resulted in a new revenue stream for the business and it’s taken their potential reach from local to global.
At the start of lockdowns, Novo’s regular members got access to the library as a part of their membership, but now that the studio is back open, members pay a monthly fee separate from their in-studio class fees. Students benefit from 24/7/365 access to Novo classes, and the business benefits from recurring revenue on what they’ve created. The bigger the library gets, the greater the value to the studens and to the business itself.
Additionally, Novo now has the ability to reach students far beyond their brick-and-mortar footprint, expanding not just their potential pool of students, but also their potential pool of apparel/merch customers.
The Novo Fitness Studio website was built using the Divi Builder from Elegant Themes. If you’re curious about how Berry Interesting Productions can help your team build an outstanding website, we’re always happy to help! Drop us a line or book a consultation directly with our fearless leader, D’nelle. You can also sign up to get emails from Berry Interesting, and we’ll keep you in the loop.