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A Peek Behind the Curtains

Community and Innovation

Liz Smith headshot
Liz Smith
Sr. Sales Enablement Manager

As the retail industry is rapidly transforming, technology and innovation are of paramount importance. There are many industry leaders in omni-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail that have paved a new path. But sometimes it’s about more than just retail.  I rarely call out a specific retailer or brand, but there is something very different going on which needs proper acknowledgement, which is why I am going to put a spotlight on Peloton.

First Stop, the market:  The fitness market itself hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years.  In the 80’s it was all about jogging and step aerobics, the 90’s introduced some pretty archaic exercise equipment devices and then fast-forward to today and there are crazes like Orangetheory Fitness, Flywheel Sports and Pure Barre, but nothing revolutionary, well until now.  Enter Peloton.

        A Peloton is the main field or group of cyclists in a race.

Peloton isn’t your typical home “gym” clothes hanger, but instead, is a technology rich, gamification enabled, community based cultural shift in the exercise industry that is something to keep your eye on over the next few years. Consumers across 14 countries have the option to either subscribe to the 12 hours of live classes a day and over 9k on-demand classes to watch on an app, or they can live stream them to their spin bike that they purchased from Peloton. Sound intriguing yet? In 2017, Peloton saw explosive growth and their subscriber base tripled to 600,000 subscribers.  Even more impressive, today the subscriber base has swelled to nearly 1 million members and its brand awareness has risen from 15% to almost 50% in the past 18 months, the brand says.

So they are clearly doing something right, but where is the special sauce and what can we learn from it?  One word = community. The Peloton community, fueled by online Facebook groups and powered within the app itself is something that not even CEO and founder John Foley expected. Foley says “I was totally surprised by it. When I started Peloton with my cofounders, I saw clear as day what it was going to look like and how it was going to work — the technology, the hardware, the software, the business model. I saw everything except the community. The community has blown me away.” And it’s something that has just happened organically and was created on its own.  

So let’s take a peek behind the curtains.  What can we learn from the success that Peloton has seen?  


Ask yourself, how can we use digital for creative purposes to engage people at scale and ultimately change what it means to be a consumer?

“When your friend says, ‘you have to try this thing’, you listen. You cannot buy that much goodwill with all the advertising and the best creatives in the world.”

Henry Davis, Glossier


Create a culture that leads with technology to drive innovation and growth. 

At Peloton, they have an active appreciation for consumer feedback and are always improving their technology to further fuel engagement.  For example, the Here Now feature that they enabled. Even when someone is riding at home, they’re never alone. Consumers can see who’s riding at the same time in an On-Demand class, no matter where they are in the ride. Imagine it now, when you are riding your Peloton at 6 a.m. by yourself and then other people start to take the same class as you, so you know you aren’t alone.  They even have the ability to send a high five to cheer on and further encourage the community.

Know your consumer. 

We read a lot about the millennial, generation X, the boomers and so on and so forth, but one thing that we can learn from Peloton is that it’s not about a stereotype.  They have riders that have literally never in their life taken a spin class, and yet they purchase a $2,000 bike (with a $39 a month subscription fee) because of the echo of the community.  And they aren’t alone.  There are people in the Peloton community who aren’t fitness gurus, people of all ages and backgrounds, even people who have had heart replacement surgery.  But they believe, they have a community, and they ride.


Don’t settle.

The entrepreneurial story of Peloton is inspiring, but it was definitely an uphill journey.  Foley started with a kickstarter fund that believe it or not, even with his Harvard degree and experience as the former president of e-commerce at Barnes and Noble (and the connections that come with it), wasn’t an easy journey.  The first-time entrepreneur expected a relatively smooth ride getting funded when he started out in 2012, but three years later, he hadn’t landed a single venture capitalist.  This can be largely due to the decision to skip the off-the-shelf solutions he could afford and build their stationary bike and the companion tablet that runs Peloton’s digital streaming and analytics systems from scratch—a huge undertaking that required an intense and meticulous development process.  Ultimately, they refused to settle and it’s paying off.

“There’s a quote from Churchill I had to lean on several times,” Foley says of the early challenges. “ ‘When you’re going through hell, keep going.’ I was just like, ‘Don’t stop in hell.’ ”


So what are some things that you can do with technology to create culture both in-store and online?  The answer isn’t always Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. I would like to believe there may be something under the hood that you haven’t uncovered yet.  Perhaps it’s just as simple as creating that euphoria that some are getting from Peloton with that seamless consumer experience.  Or perhaps, it’s that frictionless consumer experience idea that you have been playing around with for a few years and just needed that extra push to make it a reality.  Really, I bought something yesterday in the car (I was a passenger) on the way home from dinner with 3 clicks and the touch of my thumb.  It was as seamless as seamless can be.

Do you have the next big idea?  I can’t wait to write about it!

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