Introduction

In the UAE, people are concerned about their fitness and they consider the sports and fitness industry an essential part of their life. Global Cigna 360 latest report of the Wellbeing survey once again has announced the UAE’s second consecutive year in fitness and wellbeing. This is how, why we should analyze the change in customer perception towards better health and wellness influences product design in the sports and fitness industry. Considering the level of concern, people have become aware of different aspects of wellbeing and health. Many people have proper knowledge about the sports and fitness products that they want to ensure a better and healthier life. Therefore, (Arabian Business, 2018).
The activity of being fit is increasing day by day in UAE, because today in the modern era, being fit means you must exercise on some extraordinary machinery. So, it has a significant impact on the design of the services and products. This requires the organizations working in the sports and fitness industry to become more aware of the customers’ changing needs and investigate which products and services they require. Therefore, the sports and fitness organizations are required to conduct an in-depth investigation of the expectations of the customers, their subjective norms, their perceptions, their attitude, and perceived behavior when deciding the purchase sports and fitness products and services (Zhang & Li, 2014).
Customer perception, in general, plays a central role in product development and marketing professionals. Customer perception changes over time and is affected by several factors including the pricing, service quality, customer service, and the utility that the product is providing to the customer. Furthermore, impacted by the value and ethics of the product and the reputation of the product in the market. However, with the increase in information flow, the knowledge of the customers regarding different products has improved (Canhoto, & Arp, 2017).
The customers have become more knowledgeable about their needs, which has resulted in altering the specifications of the products and services that are being offered in the market. These generic products and services can be made unique by adding the value of the extra features such as performance or quality enhancement, So the final version of the product in this context includes the augmented properties that offer the customer more tangible benefits and that best meet the customers’ needs and customers’ requirements (Nam & Lee, 2017). In every industry, the perception of the customer changes with time, and with increased awareness and knowledge, the perception and demand for the product and services vary significantly. The same is the case with the UAE sports and fitness industry. In the UAE, the desire of the customers has changed with related means of health and well-being. Within the UAE, the perception of the customers has changed greatly concerning the concept of health and wellbeing. People have become more conscious about their health and able to Know to improve quality Health. Sports and fitness are not only essential as a source of physical well-being, but it is also essential as a source of psychological well-being. (Lagrosen & Lagrosen, 2007).
So, from above all justification, it has become very essential to analyze the customer perception of fitness and well-being, and the impact of customer perception on the sports industry. The literature is very limited which we found on the influence of customer perception of health and wellbeing and its impact on product design and service. Same in the case within the UEA, also, very limited literature is available in the UAE region concerning the impact of customer perception on the product and service design of the sports and fitness industry. Considering the limitation of the research work on this area, it was necessary to investigate the said topic. This study can add value to the already available literature and might help to understand the perception of the customer about fitness and wellness.
Consequently, it will help to understand marketing and product service strategy regarding customer perception, so this dissertation would be proved important for MBA. In this era of a customer-targeted market, research on consumer behaviors has immense importance. It helps in understanding the behavior of users and arranging the focus as per the research to enhance profitability. The dissertation can aid the sports industries as well the sporting event organizers to target specific behavior of customers leading to presenting the research as more useful and effective.

Aim and Objectives

This study aims to analyze the influence of customer perception of health and wellbeing and its impact on the product and service design in the fitness and sports industry.

Objectives:

1: To analyze the importance of customer perception in the development of products and services.
2: To investigate the customer’s perception of health and wellbeing in the UAE region
3: To examine the extent to which customer perception has an impact on the design and service of the sports and fitness industry.
4: To know if fitness and support industries pay attention to customers’ perceptions.
5: To find out, Marketing and product service strategy concerning customer’s perception

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

Key arguments from the literature review

Discussion and Arguments

Customer perception plays a significant role in designing any product or service. It helps in tailoring the product design and manufacture to their needs. As customers are the focus of a business. Customers also have become much more conscious about their need for the products and services that they need to keep themselves active and healthy. The change in perception of the customer regarding wellness and health has been changing over time. This has caused a change in the product and service requirements amongst the customers. Avourdiadou and Theodorakis (2014) discussed customer perception is the lifeblood of any organization. The customer is the boss and meeting their needs and demands is the prime responsibility of any organization. Designing products and services as per the needs of the customers is the prime priority of every organization (Avourdiadou & Theodorakis, 2014) Nam and Lee said customer perception in the current century has been predicted to overtake the precedence over the traditional competitive advantage features of the market such as usability, feature, and pricing. Therefore, for companies, it has become necessary to take into consideration customer perception and their related experiences. Ignoring customers’ perceptions might bring the company the risk of failing in the market (Nam & Lee, 2017).

Service strategy and the customer perception

García-Fernández et al., (2018) researched the relationship between service strategy and customer perception. The researchers concluded that all services which a company offers to their consumers are designed generally according to the need and demands of the customers. In several cases, it has been observed that the product and service development strategy usually depends upon two main goals which include keeping the product line and the new product and service in line with the overall objective of the organization and its marketing philosophy. It also depends upon establishing such a system that can evaluate the performance of the product. The evaluation of a successful product depends upon several factors which include customer response, market acceptance, sales, profit, and the current competition of product in the market (García-Fernández, et al., 2018). Nam and Lee (2017) shed light on the aspects of the progress of products and services. They argued that it depends on such criteria that help in putting together a strategy that can help in determining whether a product needs to be discontinued, continued, or modified. The development analysis, therefore, should include the guidelines for the services and the products that are likely to be introduced in the market (Nam & Lee, 2017). The research on the respective topic as per the marketing standards allows the researchers, statisticians, scholars, and companies to improve their strategies. The maintenance of customers costs more than the attraction and acquisition of new customers.

Customer’s perception of health and wellbeing

Customer’s perception of health and wellbeing in the UAE region Vremy-Miller ( 2017) said, in the UAE region, it has been noticed a growing interest amongst the UAE residents to send a healthy and more active lifestyle that can offer a better quality of life to the customers. This made the demand for personal training sessions, gym memberships, and other sports and fitness services. In the UAE region, factors such as more awareness about living a healthy life, perfect look, and being active have also contributed to an increase in social media content related to fitness and health. Therefore, people in the UAE region are showing much interest to seek the help of experts and professionals (Remy-Miller, 2017).
According to Gericke (2019), fitness and sports are innovative and challenging times for the health and fitness industry as the people in that era are very clear about the advantages of leading a healthy lifestyle. People generally make good decisions when it comes to the question of health as food consumption, selecting a sports activity, or selecting a product and service that can help them to remain active and fit (Gericke, 2019). Khaleej times said in the past five years, TV and social media have increased the content based on fitness and well-being in quantity for promoting the concept of proper nutrition and training. Therefore, people are much excited to follow the path of the experts whom they like the most. Almenhali (2019) said in his one module that the continuous demand in fitness and wellbeing centers has outdated the one size fits all approach of the gyms that were designed on the traditional products and service models. Therefore, for the sports and fitness industry of UAE, it has become increasingly necessary to design its products and services on one pillar that is customer perceptions (Almenhali, 2019)

Factors affecting customer perception

Enough research has been conducted in this sector which highlights different factors affecting customers’ choices. These factors encompass social, economic, personal, and environmental factors. Khraim (2018) discusses the effect of these factors on the customer’s behaviors leading to an effect on the sports industry. Customer perception, in general, plays a central role in product development and marketing professionals. Customer Perception changes with time and is affected by several factors, i.e. pricing, service quality, customer service, and the utility that the product is providing to the customer(Khraim, 2018). Furthermore, impacted by the value and ethics of the product and the reputation of the product in the market. However, with the increase in information flow, the knowledge of the customers regarding different products has improved. Therefore, the effect of marketing on the perception of customers regarding the purchase of goods surpasses the factors affecting their choices. Reference groups, friends, and family impact the choice of purchase of an individual to a great extent(Anderson, Narus, and Van Rossum, 2006).
The brand image impacts the choice of a person regardless of the item. In the sports and fitness industry, the brand image hikes as the quality of the products change a lot with the price. Here the debate of quality vs price comes in. CounterfeiCounterfeit products are not allowed, and the sellers are charged for the sale of fake products. However, the market for counterfeit products does not fail. According to a recent survey, more than 25 million counterfeit products are seized by the authorities annually in the UAE. The quality of products matters to consumers. The impact of buying a counterfeit sports product is negative for the sports industry. Khraim (2018) conducted a quantitative survey-based study with a focus on the effect of status, and process. Reference groups and consumption on user’s behavior while purchasing counterfeit sports products. The researcher focused on two of the most famous sports retailers in the UAE, Rebook and GO Sports. After a detailed descriptive and statistical analysis, it was concluded that reference groups and prices influence the attitude of consumers while buying fake sports products in the UAE. The consumption status was found to be insignificant. The rise of counterfeit products in the sports industry creates a bad image and a sense of disloyalty among consumers (Khraim, 2018).
The art of identifying different environmental and individualistic factors greatly influences the success of marketing in the sports industry. Despite limited control over these factors, researchers have tried to model the effect of certain factors on consumers’ behavior which ultimately affects their purchasing choices within the sports industry. Survey-descriptive research by Abdolmaleki, Mirzazadeh, and Alidoust Ghahfarokhhi (2016) presented a socio-cultural model of sports consumer behavior. Based on almost 400 people, the model concluded that “social class with the relative weight of 0.391 is the most important component”. The model consisted of evaluating the effect of social factors, which encompass, social class, idea leaders, family, and references group. Social factors seem to be the most important driving factor in influencing consumer behavior in the sports industry (Abdolmaleki, Mirzazadeh, and Alidoust Ghahfarokhhi, 2016).

Demographics and Consumer Behaviors

The living style of the UAE residents is luxurious. The lifestyle defines the preferences of the consumers. The high-end brands are essential for the maintenance of the image of living. Therefore, it affects the purchasing behavior in the sports industry. Women influence more than 70 percent of the purchase in Dubai while the purchase of sports products by women is minimal. Diversity is considered to be a good thing, but it can be a challenge for this supermarket chain. The people in UAE come from different continents. Some are from Asia while some are from Europe. The sports industry makes the effort to import various products from all over the world to meet the demands of their very diverse customers (Anderson, Narus, and Van Rossum, 2006).
A customer’s natural origin may greatly affect the type of products that he/she would like to see in the market. Residents of the region prefer international brands over the national brands of any products including sports products. However, some of the national brands such as Emirates merchandise have been among the top suppliers of sports products in the region as well as globally (O’Connell, 2011). The rise of sports goods has increased with the rise of the popularity of cricket and football. These factors impact consumers’ attitudes toward the sports industry. Consumers and the audience of the sports industry are directly linked to the factors affecting the choices of the customers, the understanding of the nature of consumer behavior, and their decision. In addition to the social, lifestyle, and demographics, the impact of psychological attitude where the audience’s activities matter (Anderson, Narus, and Van Rossum, 2006).

Impact on the Sports and Fitness Industry

Anderson (2019) argued that customer perceptions have changed and with the increased interest of the customers in sports and fitness, the UAE fitness and sports market outlook has also changed. This increase in the market has opened many opportunities for the people in the market. Within the UAE region, many organized fitness service centrifuges are expected to increase. As per the estimate, such outlets are expected to grow from 1400 outlets by 2022 due to the penetration of the existing sports and fitness players such as Gold Gyms, Fitness First, and Lifeline wellness (Anderson, 2019). According to Anderson (2019), It is experienced that the industry of fitness and sports are not able to sell easily the product and services which are easy for them to design or which they don’t consider customer Perception. The old players in the market, keeping into consideration the current surge in the needs and demands of the customers are further penetrating the areas such as meditations, salons, massages, and wellness centers (Anderson, 2019).
According to Almenhali (2019), the sports industry is also learning and increasing fitness special classes in the next upcoming two years. For example, demand for Pilates and Zumba, martial arts, and cross-fit have also increased and are expected to experience a further rise in the next coming years. Same as the fitness industry overall, the UEA region is also getting the gist and increasing numbers of exercise classes for people of different ages, both males and females. In this surge in the demands and needs of the customers, the new and old market players are increasingly experiencing the challenge to meet the changing customer needs especially in the environment where the customers have a growing number of health and fitness options. This trend of increasing new entrants in the business is making the shift away from the gyms and techniques that were traditionally in practice. In the meantime, the industries are in need to provide the product and services keeping in mind the desire of customers, their needs, perceptions, and customers expectations (Al Menhali, 2019).

References
Abdolmaleki, H., Mirzazadeh, Z. and Alidoust Ghahfarokhhi, E., 2016. The role played by socio-cultural factors in sports consumer behavior. Annals of Applied Sport Science, 4(3), pp.17-25.
Al Menhali, A.A.A., 2019. Embedding sustainable strategies for competitive advantage in the UAE sports sector.
Avourdiadou, S., and Theodorakis, N.D., 2014. The development of loyalty among novice and experienced customers of sports and fitness centers. Sport Management Review, 17(4), pp.419-431.
Anderson, J.C., Narus, J.A. and Van Rossum, W., 2006. Customer value propositions in business markets. Harvard business review, 84(3), p.90.
Canhoto, A. & Arp, S., 2017. Exploring the factors that support the adoption and sustained use of health and fitness wearables. Journal of Marketing Management, 33(1-2), pp. 32-60.
García-Fernández, J., Gálvez-Ruíz, P., Fernández-Gavira, J., Vélez-Colón, L., Pitts, B. and Bernal-García, A., 2018. The effects of service convenience and perceived quality on perceived value, satisfaction, and loyalty in low-cost fitness centres. Sport Management Review, 21(3), pp.250-262.
Gericke, A., 2019. Sports sponsorship as a community engagement tool: Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge (Doctoral dissertation, University of Pretoria).
Khraim, H.S., 2018. The Influence of Price, Status Consumption, and Reference Groups on Consumer Attitude to Purchase Counterfeit Sports Products in UAE. Irish Business Journal, 11(1), p.1.
Lagrosen, S., and Lagrosen, Y., 2007. Exploring service quality in the health and fitness industry. Managing Service Quality: An International Journal.
Nam, C., Dong, H., and Lee, Y.A., 2017. Factors influencing consumers’ purchase intention of green sportswear. Fashion and Textiles, 4(1), p.2.
O’Connell, J.F., 2011. The rise of the Arabian Gulf carriers: An insight into the business model of Emirates Airline. Journal of Air Transport Management, 17(6), pp.339-346.

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