For more than a decade now, Mindbody has been the go-to choice for fitness studio and gym owners to manage their business. Mindbody's focus on fitness as a vertical combined with the early mover advantage has made it a renowned brand in the fitness industry.

But in 2019, things are different...

Technology has made deep inroads into every customer's life, therefore completely changing how customers interact with a business. Every customer, new or existing, now engages with a business online and mobile-first.

To help the businesses succeed in this new world, their software tools have also become more powerful and easy to use.

But unfortunately, that's not the case with Mindbody. The fitness businesses that use Mindbody today, all struggle with its complexity. Moreover, Mindbody does little to help them succeed directly in the mobile-first world and has built its marketplace to take advantage of the customer's preference to book via mobile app.

Here's how I discovered the challenges fitness studios were facing with Mindbody, and why it made me quit my investment banking job:

From facing bullies to a fitness enthusiast

Answer to why I jumped on the first chance to work with the fitness businesses comes from my personal journey.

While growing up, I was a typical ectomorph. A short, lean and meek child who always appeared two years behind his class.

My dad had a transferable job and our family moved to a new place every two or three years. So since my early childhood, I had to change schools frequently. I have attended international schools in metropolitans as well as state-run schools in villages.

Through this constant change of schools and surroundings, I struggled with academics and sports. I had no long-standing friendships and my shy nature didn't help in forging new ones quickly.

So unlike other kids, I had to try to fit in. To find a playing group, to find a lunch friend or to just have hangout buddies. But every time I became a familiar face to the kids around, it was again the time to move on. To a new city, new school and new people.

Now being this physically weak, shy, and an unfamiliar guy at every new place I went - made me a soft target for bullies. I had to deal with getting abused, thrashed and harassed. I was beaten after school, my stuff was stolen, and my cycle was thrown into the drain - with me on it. When it got too bad, I turned to my parents and elder sister for help but for how would they look after me?

I wanted things to change.

First thing was my circumstances. And it changed when I got through the engineering college. For the first time in my life, I was going to be in one place, around the same people for at least four years. And everyone was going to be new like me in the beginning.

The second thing was me. I wanted to change how I looked and felt. I wanted to feel and appear stronger. And for this, I joined my neighborhood gym. But what followed was not just a few pounds of muscles over my bones but a newfound self-confidence. A new personality and perspective to take to the world.

With no surprises, my life changed. I never had to face bullying again and my passion for fitness grew with one pushup and one crunch at a time.

Learning the value of a fitness business

Now looking back, one simple decision to join the neighborhood gym completely changed my life. It changed who I thought I was and what I could become.

I also realized that while we go to a fitness club to look and feel better, it's the mental fitness that changes the course of our life.

What happened with me was not rare by any measure. In the past decade, I met several others with a similar story. So many times that while it delighted me, it used to hardly surprise me.

And this is the value every fitness business brings to the world. Even in its smallest form, it helps at least one other individual live a better life. And with one person at a time, every fitness business is helping to make this world a healthier and a happier place.

Now as a believer of this impact which a fitness business has over its community, I nurtured the desire to open my own studio someday. But what came next into my life, made me rethink how I could contribute.

Review that started it all

After a decade of being a fitness enthusiast and a part-time personal trainer in between, I got my first real experience of running a fitness business. My close friend and a long-time workout partner had decided to set up his own fitness club. And even though I was working in investment banking at the time, I jumped on the chance to work with him.

I took charge of setting up sales and marketing. And in no time, I found myself online with a list of features in my hand, looking for the perfect fitness studio software.

In the beginning, the studio/gym management software market appeared to be a very competitive space with tons of options. But after several demos, I figured there were just a few products which were rich in both - features and quality.

Undoubtedly, amongst those few was Mindbody. The oldest software provider in this space. Mindbody was not exclusively meant for fitness studios and catered to the entire wellness industry including salons and spas with one product.

But their lack of specialization didn't deter me from making them my top choice because of two simple reasons:
1. They crossed off all the features on my list
2. Almost 60,000 wellness business cannot be wrong (or what I didn't think of - lacked a better alternative)

Merchant Maverick reviews

But before going ahead with Mindbody, I decided to do my final research. And that's when low ratings on the first page of Google caught my eye:

Merchant Maverick reviews software for small businesses

Almost every review on Merchant Maverick was one-star. In the beginning, this one review stood out:

As I scrolled further I learned that everyone had the same issue with Mindbody. It was time-consuming, expensive and difficult to use their product.

Read mindbody reviews

But the product design was not the only issue with Mindbody. A difficult product can be adopted with the help of great customer support. But as it turned out, Mindbody's customer service wasn't great either:

Moreover, Mindbody's complexity was discouraging businesses from extracting the right value out of their software. And it's hard to blame owners/managers for this as their expertise lies in customers service and not technology.

Reddit reviews

Now in search of more honest reviews, I landed on Reddit. But the story on Reddit was no different. The most upvoted comment on Reddit was about the lack of a better alternative.

Meanwhile, the customer of one yoga studio thought that the only plausible reason behind so many businesses using Mindbody must be that it is free!

The complaints against the user interface and experience didn't seem like a huge problem to fix for a billion-dollar enterprise.

But unfortunately, the problem was with how every feature was designed in their system, step by step. Like this one user summarised it on reddit:

"To me it’s not the bugs it’s really just how unintuitive the whole platform is and how inconvenient it is for new guests to sign up online."

Not ready for the mobile first world

Now even though bad user experience and the steep learning curve was a big disappointment, it still wasn't my biggest issue with Mindbody. The biggest issue was the mobile experience for the customers.

Customers use a website portal to book classes, buy a membership plan and to see upcoming bookings at the studio. But this was how the website portal of the popular fitness franchise Barre3, using Mindbody, looked on customer's mobile:

Website portal of Barre3 when booking from mobile

Simply put. It was unusable.

In 2019, you are only going to drive customers away by using this website portal. Think about it, you work hard on marketing and sales follow-ups just to see them drop out on the final stage of conversion.

Another option was to integrate widgets for class schedule, appointment slots, and memberships separately to your website. This seemed to be fine, but why not make an already existing website portal mobile-responsive? And also save us the trouble of integrations, let alone involving a developer.

Mindbody app is bad for retention

Mindbody offers branded mobile apps in its ultimate plan, but if you're not willing to spend at least $349/month, then your customers are forced to book via the Mindbody app.

Now the Mindbody app is direct to customer marketplace, similar to Classpass, on which the customers can discover and book classes near them.

When your customers use this app to book your services, their home page is filled with classes and offers from the competing businesses. Because of this even your most loyal customers can sign up for your competitor.

This is unfair because you pay Mindbody a monthly subscription fee to help you get closer to your customers, not your competitors.

Also finally, when your customers are all but forced to book via the Mindbody app, its flashy designs do not translate into a good experience:

Time for a change

Over the years Mindbody has invested heavily in marketing to make itself a well-known brand in the fitness industry.

But in the voice of its own customers, it has failed to keep up with the times. It is a complex tool which offers a poor experience to the business and its customers.

When I discovered this and the lack of a better alternative to Mindbody, it felt like an opportunity to work in the industry I have long cherished.

So I quit my investment banking job and found some of the best designers and developers in the world to help me build StudioYou. Modern all-in-one software which helps fitness businesses succeed in the mobile-first world.

And that's how instead of opening a fitness studio someday, I found my calling in helping fitness businesses around the world to reach more people and be more profitable.


Are you a fitness studio owner?
Do you want to convert 60% more customers from social media and website?
Do you want a great booking experience for your members?
Do you want to save time without using complex management tools?

If the answer to any of those question is yes, then we have built StudioYou for you.

StudioYou is easy-to-use and all-in-one software that will help you do everything from acquiring new customers to retaining them. Moreover, it offers everything out of the box, without any paid integrations.

So go ahead and signup, and let me know what you think:

Try studioyou for free

If you have any suggestions or ideas on how we can work together - talk to me at vistar@getstudioyou.com