‘The best workout in the world’—How Barry’s went digital with Twilio

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Dim red lights, blaring music, and heart-pumping moves—if you’ve never experienced a Barry’s workout, you might mistake its famous “Red Room” studio for a nightclub.

Founded in 1998, the Los Angeles-based fitness brand has over 80 studios stretching from West Hollywood to London and Singapore. And while Barry’s bills itself as “the best workout in the world,” what sets the brand apart is the relationship it fosters with clients through a strong sense of community and premium customer service.

So, when COVID-19 struck in 2020, shutting studio doors practically overnight, Barry’s quickly realized it needed to adapt and digitize its customer experience in order to survive. Like many of its fitness industry peers, the company first transitioned to Zoom-based workouts—which they dubbed “Barry’s at Home”—in response to the early lockdowns and capacity limits enforced on fitness studios. But as the pandemic stretched on and the popularity of virtual fitness showed no signs of slowing down, Barry’s knew it needed a more permanent, branded digital presence beyond what most video streaming platforms could offer.

Faced with the suboptimal latency and participant limits of other video vendors, the Barry’s team chose to build its new virtual fitness space using Twilio Programmable Video—and in August of 2021, Barry’s X was born.

From the Red Room, to the living room

Barry’s initial digital offering had significant gaps; customer data was disconnected across its portfolio of brands and digital products, and the team was unable to tie together users across digital experiences. Jenna Hauca, Vice President of Digital and Head of Barry’s X, explained these challenges: “With Zoom, we essentially had handcuffs on, because you can’t do any customizations and the platform is what it is. With camera functionality, for instance, there aren’t many options—obviously you can do camera on, or camera off—and we wanted to add more unique functionalities.”

The live streaming component of Barry’s X—powered by Twilio’s Video API—is meticulously branded and designed to closely mirror the brick and mortar Barry’s experience, enabling class participants to virtually interact with each other and their instructors during class. Alongside an extensive library of upbeat music, the platform includes a custom camera filter that mimics the studio’s signature red lighting, recreating the feeling of being in one of Barry’s Red Rooms in-person.

Ensuring clients get the most of their workouts can be challenging outside the walls of a studio, where instructors are able to give one-on-one attention and guidance on how to correctly perform exercises. The Barry’s team knew that equipping instructors with a reliable, high-quality video platform would be essential to building a rapport with clients, and a key part of bringing the Barry’s magic to life through digital.

With Barry’s X, instructors can see each participant and provide individualized feedback directly. Participants can choose how they engage in class—for example, they can opt to only allow the instructor to see them on camera. “We heard from clients that they’re really eager for the instructor to see them and to give them form corrections, but they don’t necessarily want Dave in Nebraska to watch them squat thrusting, so they have the option to keep that private,” Hauca said.

“Our clients really appreciate being seen; they want to be seen, they want to be called out,” she added. “And that’s something that made two-way video—or the ‘see-and-be-seen’ feature, as we’re calling it—extremely critical to the success of our digital platform. Twilio has provided us with scalable and fully customizable video conferencing APIs that serve as the building blocks for our branded customer facing experience. We have full autonomy to build and customize on the front-end without needing to build the underlying technology.”

“Twilio has provided us with scalable and fully customizable video conferencing APIs that serve as the building blocks for our branded customer facing experience. We have full autonomy to build and customize on the front-end without needing to build the underlying technology.”

Jenna Hauca Vice President of Digital and Head

Game-changing growth

To accompany its virtual platform, Barry’s has set up multiple live production studios in major markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City. Instructors stream live classes from the studios, which are fully equipped with large TV screens and lighting technology to recreate the look and feel of an in-person class.

Since launching the new set-up, Hauca said the Barry’s team has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from clients and instructors alike.

With Twilio’s reliable and scalable video API behind Barry’s X, the team plans to open new production studio locations to accommodate more time zones and provide clients with more scheduling options.

Besides giving clients a chance to work out from home, the new platform allows Barry’s to reach new clients who don’t live near a physical Barry’s gym, explains Hauca. “It’s actually helped inform our development plans, and where studios could be in demand,” she said. “I think as we build this product and ramp it up, it’s going to become more and more a source of analytics and data in terms of other markets that we can tap into.”

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