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5 Questions with Peloton’s Brad Olson

Peloton is the brand that wants to bring boutique fitness into everyone’s home with its connected services, technology, and equipment. With a mission to use technology and design to connect the world through fitness, Peloton wants to empower people to be the best version of themselves anywhere, anytime. The brand promises a world-class workout experience when it works for you, where it works for you. And the company is innovating to continue to provide fitness options for its loyal- and growing- membership.

Brad Olson, Head of Member Experience for Peloton, spoke on a panel (“Fitness Is More Fun With Friends”) at this year’s SXSW Festival. We caught up with him to learn more about how he’s increasing Peloton’s reach and maximizing the consumer experience.

People may think about the equipment, but Peloton is as much about the community that you’ve built and continue to build. How does the way you think about your brand shape how you think about your customers and brand ambassadors, who are essential for increasing membership and strengthening loyalty? What are you looking for?

Community is integral to our brand and to the Peloton experience. Our Members, no matter where they are located, show up on the bike so that they can be their best selves off of it. They are motivated by the Leaderboard and a passionate community to embrace challenges and to chase their goals. In fact, our most recent brand film was inspired by stories shared with us by our Members on how Peloton empowers them to show up as their best selves all day long.

And our Members always come first. We capture every single piece of Member feedback across all channels, and read it back to the entire organization on a regular basis to identify emerging trends and areas for improvement. The voice of our Members informs everything we do, from developing new product features like “Now Playing” and music playlist previews to creating entirely new products, like the Peloton Tread.

And there is inherent network effect in the Peloton platform, in that each Member’s experience is enhanced as more of his/her family and friends join the community. As a result, our Members are our biggest brand advocates and our best salespeople. Two thirds of new Members know one or more people who already own a Peloton Bike, and 35% of new Members cite Family and/or Friends as a top source when deciding to join the Peloton community.

Let’s talk more about the Peloton Tread, which will be released later this year. Traditionally, treadmill running has not been a group activity, though many bootcamps have started to incorporate running into their circuits. Why was the treadmill the next innovation for Peloton, how are you rethinking the experience, and how do you anticipate the new product and services impacting your membership base?

The Peloton Tread was a natural next step for Peloton. John Foley and our other co-founders never set out to create a bike company; they set out to change the way people experience fitness. And the Tread will be the most innovative experience of its kind. Our designers and engineers really outdid themselves with the shock-absorbing slat belt and intuitive touches like perfectly placed, LED-lit knobs for speed and incline. No more reaching awkwardly for buttons while running. And the immersive 32” HD touchscreen will offer access to thousands of interactive classes led by world-class instructors live from NYC.

We know that the vast majority of our Members continue to supplement Peloton with workouts in disciplines other than indoor cycling, from outdoor running to strength training. This new offering gives our Members another suite of fitness experiences, including a range of live and on-demand classes both on and off the Tread. Not surprisingly, we’ve a significant share of pre-orders for the Peloton Tread coming from existing Peloton Bike owners.

When you think about your members’ experience, it makes sense to think about the bike and classes: what’s the customer service like, how’s the process and maintenance, are they motivated and enjoying classes? But how do you think about customer experience in a more holistic sense? What are some of the ways that Peloton is trying to own the member experience off the bike?

Our goal is to provide a seamless, on-brand experience throughout the end-to-end Member journey, so we work hard to deliver an experience off the bike that is just as intuitive and engaging as the experience on the bike.

As an example, we learned from Member feedback that delivery was often a pain point. So we invested to build our own field operations team to deliver bikes in eight of our largest markets (with more to come). These are Peloton employees, wearing Peloton gear, and making deliveries in Peloton branded vehicles. More importantly, these are brand ambassadors who are trained and empowered to deliver a world-class onboarding experience in our Members’ homes.

When things go wrong (as they invariably do sometimes), we empower our Support team not just to fix the issue at hand, but also to leverage the interaction to leave the Member feeling even more positively about the brand. This could range from a quick follow-up email a few days after resolution to occasionally surprising the Member with Peloton gear to recognize their patience and understanding. These small actions go a long way in sustaining brand advocacy.

There’s a perception that the boutique fitness tribal culture is an urban phenomenon. How is your growth and experience proving that wrong?

I don’t believe that boutique fitness tribal culture is an urban phenomenon at all. The small suburb of Milwaukee where I grew up, as an example, now has both an Orangetheory location and several Crossfit studios. People everywhere are being exposed to boutique fitness and the energy and accountability that often entails.

The underlying consumer truth is that people want to want to work out — but there are a lot of obstacles, including busy schedules, raising kids, limited spots in boutique fitness classes that stand in the way of making fitness a priority. Peloton allows for Members to ride not only at anytime, but from anywhere and with anyone, which means that at its core, Peloton breaks down geographical boundaries.

Just this week, a Member from Arizona wrote John and me to tell us that she and nine other Peloton Members from around the country just made a weekend trip to New York to meet each other – and their favorite instructors – in person. These ten Members did not know one another in real life; they met on the Leaderboard and in rider groups on Facebook. Under any other circumstances, these ten people never would have met. But, through Peloton, they have created their own virtual tribe to support one another and to hold one another accountable. Pretty incredible.

Your SXSW talk is about how “Fitness Is More Fun with Friends.” What are some of the challenges—or advantages—for Peloton in building its digital community? How do you keep people social and engaged?

We are consistently blown away by the power and positivity of our community. But we don’t force social engagement on our Members; rather, we watch how they engage organically, whether online or offline, then invest to help that engagement to flourish.

In our early days, one passionate Member created a closed Facebook group to talk all things Peloton. We loved what we saw and invested a full-time resource to help moderate the group and, over the past three years, it has grown to become a thriving digital community of over 75,000 of our most passionate Members sharing their personal stories, encouraging one another and, of course, coordinating group rides.

We also enable community engagement at the local level, whether by welcoming Member meetups at our 31 showrooms around the country or hosting events at our flagship NYC studio. What began as occasional Member-organized treks to New York have now evolved into Home Rider Invasion (HRI), an annual three-day celebration of the Peloton community hosted by our team. Last May, over 650 Members from 33 States descended upon New York to meet one another and, this year, the 1,000 spots to attend HRI sold out in just three hours.

This interview originally appeared on brandchannel.


Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth