Does Peloton have an untouchable lead over competitors?

Over at Thinknum, a recent article looks at Peloton’s competitors, if they can catch Peloton, and what the future of connected fitness looks like going forward.

When the AI fitness equipment company went public in 2019, Peloton knew it was only a matter of time before people were opting out of crowded gyms for at-home workouts. Its business was fated on this presumption. And then, as if it was designed in a lab (kidding), the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and fitness enthusiasts didn’t have a choice.

Peloton really was designed for COVID-19, but I don’t think people are planning on rushing back to the gym anytime soon. Even after the pandemic has passed, I think people have realized that working out at home is much of a convenient experience. There is no commute, shared restrooms, crowded hallways, etc.

“Wow, I was confident that my Peloton bike would be a great investment, but it’s even better than I thought. The more you ride, the cheaper the up-front cost seems…Way cheaper in the long run, and more convenient, than paying for spin classes at a studio or gym,” one review from last month reads. “When I bought my bike in January 2020, little did I know that Coronavirus was coming and we would all be stuck in our homes!”

But Peloton shouldn’t get too comfortable. The novelty seems to have worn off on social media. Facebook mentions peaked at 97,400 in March, but have since plummeted 73%.

I don’t know that simply looking at Facebook mentions is a clear way to judge if their brand is growing. I imagine a lot of people were asking questions about potential purchases, and now that are simply enjoying the bikes.

Even more worrisome for the company is its competition, which is ample now. AI fitness companies like Echelon, Hydrow, and Tonal are popping up and looking to turn our homes into personal gyms. While these brands haven’t caught up to Peloton’s speedy ascent, they’ve certainly gained traction in quarantine.

Echelon has Peloton beat on product variety. The company offers an “Echelon Reflect” AI mirror, the “Connect” bike, and a rowing machine. It’s still a somewhat small operation, but it’s growing fast. Facebook mentions and page likes spiked with the start of quarantine in March. 

I like Echelon‘s approach with their use of the iPad, but I am concerned about their ability to scale up with users over time. With Peloton seeing a massive sales spike during the pandemic, that is even more of someone’s potential social graph that is on Peloton. A lot of the value in connected fitness is being able to connect with your friends. If your friends are already on Peloton, you’ll likely move that way as well.

The main thing Echelon has going for it right now is that it’s cheaper. Peloton isn’t unaware of this price umbrella, though. They hinted earlier this year about a cheaper bike coming soon. Time will tell if Echelon gobbles up the low-end market while Peloton takes the high end, or if Peloton can offer lower entry price

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