Equinox Media launches a new fitness platform as the pandemic peaks
Lacked a digital content platform that could scale with the business
Had difficulty introducing new types of digital content to their marketing strategy
Content processes were inefficient — publishing was slow and difficult
Development was partially responsible for uploading and publishing content
A unified, headless solution makes creating, publishing and reusing content simple
An easy-to-use use editorial interface and governance capabilities allow content teams to create and publish content without engineer support
An API-first architecture supports the introduction of new tools and functionalities to help the brand scale
A stable, reliable content hub means Equinox only needs one CMS to power content across its brands
We’re super excited to have Contentful as a partner for the things they’re powering for us today as well as the things they’re going to power for us in the future.
When we evaluated CMSes, Contentful came out with a perfect score for all our teams. Contentful’s performance right out of the box was exactly what we wanted.
In January 2020, Equinox Media, a division of the famed Equinox Group fitness company, had ambitious plans for the launch of two new fitness products. The first, Variis, is a digital app that offers a wide selection of different fitness classes and training programs to monthly subscribers. The second is an at-home SoulCycle stationary bike that includes digital access to Equinox’s famed SoulCycle classes.
Both products were due to be introduced in March at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music-and-tech festival. From there, Equinox planned to roll out Variis through its fitness clubs, relying on trainers and club staff to get customers to download and register for the subscription service. By the end of 2020, Equinox planned to extend the marketing of Variis to the general public.
Covid-19 put the kibosh on these plans. SXSW was canceled, and soon after, Equinox fitness clubs and SoulCycle studios closed down to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
With a marketing plan that was so reliant on face-to-face contact at its clubs, Equinox Media quickly pivoted to an online-only marketing plan. The pivot was successful. By June, the company had successfully launched live SoulCycle classes for its at-home members and had also begun marketing its Variis subscriptions directly to consumers, at least six months ahead of the original marketing plan.
A CMS that eases pivot pains and eliminates workarounds
While Equinox Media successfully accelerated the Variis launch, the shift in timing and tactics placed a strain on both digital infrastructure and employees. Some of the biggest challenges centered on the CMS Equinox Media had in place to power digital content for its at-home SoulCycle bike. As the team tried to scale the system to power Variis, they ran into difficulties with APIs and caching. The engineering team built tools to overcome these issues and those plaguing the content team — developments that Brad Alan, Vice President of Engineering, termed “unfortunate,” as they took engineering time away from product development.
At first glance, Contentful was a logical alternative to power the Variis platform. Equinox Media was already using Contentful for its ecommerce site, its website, and its mobile app. Still, Alan and his team wanted to keep an open mind. They decided to evaluate other CMSes as well to ensure the one selected would flex to current and future needs. The ideal solution would scale as Variis expanded its offerings to more classes and introduced new instructors and brands. Most important of all, the new CMS had to be one that content creators would be happy to work in daily — something without internally built workarounds.
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Proof of concepts to test content solution contenders
The product and engineering teams had technical demands too. They sought a CMS with logical, easy-to-use APIs, strong performance, and reliable caching. Engineering also wanted to be able to build a data model that could evolve should Equinox Media expand the Variis platform in response to customer feedback and changing business needs.
The engineering team imported enough content into each CMS under evaluation to make fair performance comparisons. Then, the content team created new assets in each CMS to make sure they could build and manage them both comfortably and efficiently.
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By the end of the evaluation period, Contentful was the clear winner. “Everyone was very satisfied,” said Alan. “Lots of people were super excited about Contentful and how they’d worked in it. Performance right out of the box was exactly what we wanted — you could tell the difference immediately.”
A migration plan that doesn't hold back creativity or customer experience
With its CMS choice made, Equinox Media has a new challenge. “We’re going to attempt to change the engine while flying the plane,” said Alan. The team will migrate from the old CMS to Contentful while continuing to market Variis all the while adding new content to keep housebound customers happy and healthy through the pandemic.
While it’s a challenging task, Alan is confident the process will work. “We’re super excited to have Contentful as a partner for the things they're powering for us today as well as the things they're going to power for us in the future,” he added. “And we're really excited about where we're going to be able to go together.”
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