Data on Demand: Putting Some Muscle Into Les Mills’ Pure Play Bid

Catchi’s optimisation programme has driven real gains for Les Mills. Now, as the fitness business grows its online option, the pair are breaking new ground, ditching old models and bringing clarity to analytics and optimisation complexity.


Co-founded in 2012 by Cornelius and Linda Boertjens, consultancy Catchi is a digital optimisation and conversion specialist, offering a highly data-focused approach to digital marketing analytics. Though originally focusing on conversion rate optimisation (CRO), in recent years it has evolved into a sophisticated, data-driven optimisation outfit that counts major national organisations such as Countdown, My Food Bag, ASB and Air New Zealand among its clients. 

For the past three years, Les Mills has been among them too. Founded in New Zealand in 1968 by four-time Olympian Les Mills, the company is a global leader in group fitness, with 140,000 instructors teaching its programmes across 21,000 gyms in 100-plus countries worldwide.

Catchi initially focused on using analytical tracking to bring greater visibility to Les Mills’ customer-acquisition journey, targeting would-be consumers searching for classes on the internet. A lot has changed since then. Launched in 2015, Les Mills’ digital offering, Les Mills On Demand, lets customers stream, cast or download more than 1000 virtual classes via PC, smart device, TV and Xbox. As the offering has evolved, so too has the relationship between Les Mills and Catchi – the focus shifting from optimising leads for instructors on lesmills.com to helping Les Mills meet the market with its direct-to-consumer value proposition. 

Les Mills was an early mover in the workout-video space. In the past, at-home exercise experiences typically meant buying a Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons workout VHS or DVD. With the internet and online streaming – and then the Covid-19 pandemic sending the world home – market conditions presented Les Mills the opportunity to double-down on its at-home offering. 

Kim Walbridge.

“Global circumstances were dire, but all the earlier effort we put into crafting the product and go-to-market activity, including foundational analytical work with Catchi, started to pay off,” says Les Mills International’s Global Marketing Director D2C Kim Walbridge. “This meant we were well-positioned in the face of the pandemic, and the related surge in interest and demand.” 

“Marketing analytics really is an enabler, but you have to continuously work at it,” says Catchi co-founder and CEO Cornelius Boertjens. “But the more you grow with it, the better the opportunities are, and that’s where that competitive advantage really comes from. That continual optimisation – that’s the real enabler.” 

Les Mills has well and truly caught the wave, practically tripling the size of its direct-to-consumer business in the space of a year. The trick was to combine these data streams in a way that could be turned into insights for acquisition and customer experience optimisation. Catchi has managed to do that by creating a Datamart cloud data warehouse that connects different sources (Google Analytics for acquisition website-traffic data, Google Ads and Facebook Ads for marketing spend, and CPC activity and conversions, plus first-party data and other channels) to create a single source of truth for performance marketing reporting and to personalise experiences for higher engagement. 

“That’s our go-to place whenever we need to track campaign results, check our results against targets or find new opportunities,” says Catchi’s Head of Data Vinicius ‘Vini’ Tsugi. “That data is constantly being updated, so it’s always accurate, and we can then build client dashboards on top of that.” 

There’s a lot of ones and zeros coming in, but it’s the ability to combine, crunch and glean insight from this data that Les Mills is excited about. “We’ve got all this first-party data we’re getting off our performance-marketing activity, all these media signals, we’ve got our transactional data that flows from the Les Mills On Demand subscription platform, plus we’ve got all the behavioural data flowing off usage of the workouts from the app or the web platform,” says Kim. “It’s unifying these disparate first-party data sets that’s opening up exciting opportunities for us.” 

Vinicius Tsugi.

The results of Catchi’s deep-diving data approach speak for themselves. “Data-driven custom audiences that we’ve been advertising against as part of our acquisition marketing have been up to 40 percent more efficient for us than interest-based audiences available with Google or Facebook,” says Kim. 

It all looks great on paper, but time and again, it’s monotony and repetitive tasks that get in the way of progress. How does Catchi cut through the data overload? Forget manually pulling up records and spreadsheets to track daily results and analyse cost of acquisition and drop-off rates – Catchi automates as much of the process as possible, including all the main KPIs and media reporting, for huge efficiency and operational gains. 

Kim cites the data-rich dashboards the Catchi team created for Les Mills and its agency partners as a foundation of their daily optimisation activities. “It sounds simple, but just dashboarding and reflecting back performance data in an easily digestible way has been super important for the way we work and daily activity of the team.” 

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) initiative, Catchi has played a key role in implementing Les Mills’ consent-management system globally. More recently, Apple’s sweeping iOS 14 update has impacted targeted advertising and apps that share identifiers and location data with third parties. Server-side tracking (as opposed to client-side tracking) offers one solution, with advertisers managing a single, consolidated tracking pixel per destination, providing better reliability, greater control over what data is being sent to what advertising platform, and greater privacy for the client – plus it’s compliant with these modern privacy regulations. 

At Catchi, we’ve been very focused on future-proofing our clients’ data and analytics needs. An important example of this is server-side tracking, which is something pretty new and advanced,” says Cornelius. “It’s where the marketing analytics market is going, because with the changing regulatory environment, it just has to be done.”

Cornelius Boertjens.

Les Mills has partnered with Catchi and Facebook to set up server-side tracking, and at the time of deployment a couple of months ago, Les Mills was a notable early adopter of the technology. 

The work is never-ending. “The aggregation of different sources of first-party data into the marketing data cloud is delivering efficiency already, but it also gives us lots to build on,” says Kim. “Once this has been up and running for a few more months, we’ll be able to go looking for new customers optimised to potential lifetime value, which is super cool. That’s an exciting opportunity that we’re close to being able to achieve.” 

Once Catchi has that lifetime value implemented, next on the agenda is ‘propensity modelling’. “For established and recurring customers, we can know what their likely lifetime value to the business is, but what about new customers who’ve been with us just a few weeks or months?” says Cornelius. “That’s the next step: to predict what the lifetime value is for new customers, to understand what’s going on with them and what their propensity to churn is. Once we know that, we can optimise the product or service to offer them truly the best entire customer experience possible.”

Curious about how Catchi could improve your digital revenue? Find out more at catchi.digital

About Jonathan Cotton

Jonathan Cotton is an ink-slinger, keyword hacker, next-gen content trafficker, and owner of Rocket Skates Digital.

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