Location: Austin, Texas
Challenges: Video quality, scalability, and CPU utilization limiting the UX
Solution: Zoom Video SDK
Business benefits: Reliability, scalability, better UX design
With Zoom’s Video SDK, Tribe built a compelling online class platform for local fitness studios, clubs, and gyms.
Originally gaining popularity during the pandemic, at-home workouts are preferred by many. From a survey of U.S. adults conducted by Momentive in September 2022, 57% of U.S. adults exercise at home at least weekly, and 72% of weekly gym-goers also exercise at home on a weekly or daily basis. But as McKinsey has found from their own research, “50% of consumers said their at-home workouts were not intense enough, that their at-home fitness regimens were less consistent, and that they struggled to find motivation.”
Direct-to-consumer connected fitness offerings have changed people’s perceptions of how professional and interactive an at-home fitness class can be. But brick-and-mortar brands don’t have the in-house skills or budgets to recreate this type of experience. Regular video chat or video-on-demand options cannot replicate the sense of community and encouragement that draws people to in-person fitness and wellness classes.
Founded in 2020, Tribe set out to equip local fitness businesses with a platform that would level the playing field for their coaches compared with other at-home experiences available today.
With features like seamless video chat and high-quality streaming, wearable integration, leaderboards, timelines, and the ability to integrate live and on-demand content into a single experience, Tribe brings interactivity and gamification to your at-home workout.
Empowering local creators to win
Local fitness studios and gyms have a secret superpower – community. Members know each other and their coaches from in-person classes. Local fitness creators can create compelling and differentiated experiences for at-home classes by leaning into their communities. But that requires a platform that brings the energy, motivation, and accountability of in-person boutique classes into homes. Tribe is that platform.
“At Tribe, we recognized that many of the features in direct-to-consumer connected fitness platforms are the same,” said Justin Marston, Tribe’s CEO and founder. “Timelines, metrics, wearables, leaderboards, programs, challenges, badges – each company was reinventing the same set. And that was the inspiration for building the first Omnichannel Fitness Platform.”
Today, Tribe supports Bluetooth heart rate straps as well as smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, Garmin, and devices running Wear OS. The platform also allows connectivity to custom fitness hardware with different sensors, similar to the direct-to-consumer fitness companies. That data gets created as integrated overlays in a high-quality member experience – on a smartphone, laptop, or casted to a TV. Tribe also supports two-way video, both live and on-demand, to give the feeling of a live class.
Production and operations requires high-quality video
In designing for boutique fitness and wellness, Tribe unifies live and on-demand content creation and management in a single platform, improving studio workflow and reducing costs. Tribe moves seamlessly from video chat, livestreaming, and on-demand video technologies depending on what the end user is doing. Tribe also has monitor screens specifically designed for coaches, empowering them with the right data to have meaningful moments with members. “Reliability is critical for digital operations at studios,” commented Rizza Manzano, GM at Tribe. “Imagine that all your members are ready in their yoga gear and the software goes down, this would be an epic failure.”
Video challenges affect the end user experience
Tribe was working with one of the major cloud service providers for WebRTC, an open-source video chat technology. Video quality and reliability were both challenges, but the greatest limitation was technical constraints on the end user experience in the mobile apps.
“We wanted to have a fluid scrolling experience in the mobile apps where a member could see everyone else in a class,” said Mohd Irfan, Technical Lead for Tribe. “We found that all the WebRTC services limited us to having four member videos on the screen at once, and they were CPU intensive. So what we wanted just wasn’t possible with our former provider.”
“We came across Zoom’s Video SDK in May 2022, and by June we had started prototyping with it,” commented Vinamra Mittal, Head of Engineering at Tribe. “It was quickly obvious that Zoom’s technology was superior to WebRTC – in video quality, robustness, and in CPU usage. With Zoom, we could get to the end-user experience that our customers wanted – fluid scrolling through all participants in the class, immediately leveling up that sense of community.”
“Some of the great differences in working with Zoom have been the quality of the developer documentation and the proactivity of their developer support,” Irfan said. “Whenever I got stuck, they were there to help, but for the most part it was just straight ahead as a swap out for what we had. Zoom’s lead developer advocate for Video SDK, Tommy Gaessler, was extremely helpful in providing technical guidance during our development.”
Better apps for creators, more business for Tribe
Tribe supports branding or white labeling its apps in the brand of its customers – from local independent studios up to international brick-and-mortar fitness brands with thousands of locations around the world.
Tribe’s apps are now more compelling for local fitness creators, bringing an even more premium experience to online classes. “When we demo Tribe’s apps powered by Zoom to studio owners and gyms today, we can tell they’re more impressed with the app experience than they were with embedded WebRTC,” said Ranessa Santos, Head of Operations and Tribe co-founder. “We’re so happy that our engineering team took the decision to port to Zoom Video SDK.”
According to Justin, “At the end of the day, the Zoom Video SDK is a unique and powerful platform for embedding video chat into apps. I don’t know why anyone would pick something else.”