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Uncover the hidden value in your gym’s marketing data
June 10, 2021 •

The world, and the fitness industry within it, is data-rich. From gym CRM software to website analytics, loyalty programs to social media, gym marketing campaigns to exercisers’ own wearables – and far more besides – we already have enormous quantities of data in our businesses. And that volume doubles every 18 months.

It’s important to note, however, that not all data is equal. Not all data has the same power to transform your business. 

Let’s take a look at what data actually is, where you’re likely to find it in your business, in what state it must be to be useful, where the most valuable insights potentially lie, and how we get at them.

What counts as data?

The first thing to note is, data isn’t always digital. It isn’t just about the information stored in your gym software – your CRM or club management system, for example. Data can also be offline; indeed, in many fitness operations, certain data only exists in paper form.

It might be member contracts, PT evaluations, liability waiver forms… and sometimes it’s OK to stay in paper format. Waiver forms, for example, which are statutory but which hold little value beyond their immediate purpose.

In many cases, however, rich data is being captured – in gym sales processes, PT interactions and gym marketing conversations, for example – but not making it out of the staff member’s notepad. This is a missed opportunity, as it could be transformational in the delivery of member experience.

Let’s take a look at some of the different types of data that exist within your business.

Structured data

Structured data includes things like spreadsheet files and SQL databases, which is the data model most often used in gym CRM software such as your club management system. 

With SQL, each data item fits into columns and rows so it can be easily sorted and searched. By allowing every field to be accessed separately or together, this data model provides a powerful platform to quickly bring together information from various locations for analysis.

Examples of structured data include your CMS, access control, website visitor analytics, class bookings, fee payment, exercise equipment, member wearables data and membership sign-up.

Structured data is where we find the most value at present. It is here the tools most organisations currently use are applied to build business intelligence, gain actionable insights and produce results within fitness operations. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of those tools – that invisible presence that facilitates our everyday life, from giving us a drive time and ETA at our destination, to recommending an artist we might like on Spotify. It also has huge application in gym businesses, from boosting gym sales to enhancing fitness marketing to improving member retention – as you can read here.

Unstructured data

Unstructured data is data that does not have a recognisable structure, and it accounts for more than 80 per cent of the data in any organisation. It also grows at 55-65 per cent a year.

As such, it cannot be ignored. Indeed, it is when we add structured and unstructured data together that we get to that hallowed entity: Big Data. 

Examples of unstructured data abound in the area of gym marketing – social media, email comms (where the body text follows no set format), internet reviews, customer surveys, webchat and so on – as well as things like CCTV, phone call recordings and member assessment/induction forms.

Excitingly, it is in the area of unstructured data that we’ve seen vast leaps forward over the past decade, allowing us to gain far more value from the data in our businesses. 

Specifically, AI algorithms – when left to their own devices to investigate and present interesting findings – can extract value from these piles of unstructured data, finding patterns even an expert human might never have predicted. In turn, this powers a treasure trove of new insights around customer behaviours and predicted behaviour. 

This functionality hasn’t yet been applied in the fitness sector, but it’s something we’re already exploring at Keepme. Ideal customer profiles are one opportunity, whereby our AI tools could take existing data, cluster customers around every variable and develop brand new target segments for our gym marketing campaigns.

In-between data

In between structured and unstructured data lies, perhaps unsurprisingly, semi-structured data, with one great example being customer surveys such as the Net Promoter Score©

The structured element comes from the primary purpose of the survey, which often involves ‘on a scale of 1–10’ type questions. This score forms the majority of the analysis and is generally the one followed by business leadership. 

However, we believe there’s more value to be extracted from the unstructured aspect – that is, when you ask the customer: “Why did you give us that score?” 

The customer’s resulting free-form text is gold, providing context, detail and often insights that you’d never get from the 1–10 score alone. Yet many gyms miss out on this as they lack the manpower to wade through all the responses. This is where AI comes in. 

With AI, every comment that comes back to you is passed through language sentiment analysis. Regardless of what language is used (including Emoji which, go figure, is viewed as a language in itself), each comment is assessed and given a positive, negative or neutral score. 

A human could do that, you say? They could, given time. But even if we ignore the fact that every person comes with a built-in bias around what they want to see, or how they feel on the day of the task, how would they deal with the following?

“Great staff, great location, but the changing rooms require restoration.”

Overall a positive? Does the negative mean it’s neutral? 

In fact, it needs to be broken down, with the comment scored across three distinct areas: staff, location, and changing rooms. AI can do this, allowing you to then look up core aspects of the business, see how they’re perceived by members, and understand the overall sentiment of the feedback for that specific area of the business. 

When you also apply age and gender filters, you can then paint a picture of what’s important to each group, how they perceive certain factors in the business, and how they describe them. 

Courtesy of AI, the simple customer survey becomes a turbo-charged gym marketing tool that doesn’t just give you a headline score on how you’re doing with customers. It also shows where you’re powerful and where not so strong, along with additional pointers on which parts of the business to emphasise to which target audiences – whether that’s in your gym member retention programs or your gym sales campaigns.

Data gifts from members

Utopia for a fitness operator is when you can gain an insight into the member’s activities away from the club. There’s a world of difference between a member who’s stopped coming because they’ve decided the gym isn’t for them, versus a member who’s taking advantage of the good weather to do runs or bike rides in the park – a difference you need to understand to create relevant gym member retention strategies.

Then there are the (retention-boosting) personalisation opportunities that come up for grabs when – just as an example – you know a member’s current fitness level or average cardiovascular load. 

The good news is that this valuable data is already being collected. The challenge is that our members are managing it. Without them sharing it, we’re missing out on possibly the most useful data of all. 

Apple Health, Google Fit, Apple Watch, Whoop, Myzone… all of these are sources of member data. These tools are increasingly not just for on-site use, but also worn 24/7 to help guide and inform their user on their current condition. This is incredibly rich data that could power everything from retention algorithms to recommendation engines, providing hyper-personalised engagements for your customers. 

Now is the time to start understanding who’s using what, and why they choose to use it. 

Public data

The quantity of public data available varies from country to country, and its usage even more so. However, where permitted, the integration of public data with the data within your business can produce a rich seam of value. 

The US is a market that’s awash with public data, and little control around how that data can be used. From salaries to purchases, political affiliations to hobbies, all of this and more is available and used daily by marketing automation and ad platforms. 

An excellent example from a fitness perspective is a service we’ve witnessed that powers member lead generation. Merging public data with your ideal member profile, they can ‘find’ ideal potential members for you to target with your gym marketing.  

What if my data is imperfect? 

So, you’ve now identified your data sources and you’re considering bringing in AI to unlock the latent potential in that data. 

One of the most common questions we hear when businesses look to work with their data is: what if my data is imperfect? Our answer is always the same: imperfect for what? 

With almost every data project, it’s inevitable that the data will not be optimal unless it was collected specifically for the purpose or project you’re now trying to implement. In the future, that sort of specificity may become possible, even the norm, across the board. For now, however, we’re taking what we have and applying the new tools and methodologies to the data – and regardless of data condition, it results in giant leaps forward. 

That’s because – with the advent of AI, Business Intelligence (BI) and Big Data – it’s now entirely possible to improve the datasets that already exist within companies. Here’s an example of a recent piece of work we were involved in.

Pre-data cleanse

Data duration: 3 years

Member records: 12,659

Complete Records: 0

Duplicate Records: 2,187

Membership Types: 63

Post-data cleanse

Data duration: 3 years

Member records: 11,201

Complete Records: 11,019

Duplicate Records: 0

Membership Types: 7

Quality over quantity

You’ll note this example was based on three years, and this is another question we’re often asked: how much data is needed? 

It depends on the outcome you’re looking to deliver, of course, but our advice is this: it’s better to have 12 months of comprehensive, clean-ish data than three years of rubbish. Interpolation can be achieved from a small clean data set to make up for lack of duration. 

Advances in methodologies have helped here, driving a decrease in the quantity of data required. For example, in 2019, Keepme needed three years of member data to provide the Keepme Member Retention Score. By January 2021, only one year was required.

Find your unique identifiers

An important point to note is this: however complete your data, if you cannot link that data to the individual member (or, indeed, prospect) through a unique identifier such as a membership number, it’s unlikely to be of any use. 

Those customer feedback screens that allow you to choose the face and rate the service are a good example. They may be great at giving you a high-level customer service view, but the data is pretty useless beyond that. 

However, don’t overthink this. A unique identifier can be flexible. Let’s say you’ve been using Mailchimp for all your gym marketing email campaigns. This is potentially valuable data, and the actions of the recipient (did they open, click, share, unsubscribe etc) can be linked through the email address. Mobile phone numbers are also used, along with home addresses – though the latter less so because of multi-residency. 

You already have the data you need

One final word of encouragement: your data capture may not always have been purposeful or intentional, done mainly through necessity and not always comprehensively. However, we can confidently say the data already exists in your business to improve and refine your offering in a multitude of ways.

Indeed, from our conversations with more than 100 club operators around the world in the last 18 months, without exception the data they needed to transform their businesses was already there – from personalisation of the member journey to improved gym sales, increased secondary revenues to better targeted products, services and gym marketing ideas. 

You just need to know where to look. This blog should have provided some insight, but of course, we’re on-hand to help you take a deeper dive. Because ultimately, if you’re working with an external supplier, it is their responsibility to determine whether you have the data needed to complete the project.

You’re signing up for the delivery of business value that’s powered by your data. Your responsibility is to provide the data (and some $ for the service); their responsibility is to provide the value. We’re here to take on that responsibility, digging deep into your data to uncover insights that can transform your business.

Learn more about the invaluable data that exists in your business. Register for a free copy of our white paper – Everything You Need to Know About Data & AI – here.

gym-app

The secret to your gym’s survival in a digital world
May 20, 2021 •

Fitness operators still cling to their bricks and mortar facilities. This in spite of all the evidence, from numerous other industries, that shows how much of a millstone physical infrastructures can be. Not to mention the fact that, as admirably demonstrated throughout long stints of lockdown recently, fitness can survive and thrive with no bricks and mortar infrastructure whatsoever.

Already now, and even more so in the future, consumers will be able to build their own product from a smorgasbord of options – options that, uncoupled from physical buildings, are flexible enough to adapt to their evolving requirements.

That isn’t to say gyms will cease to exist: they represent a valuable part of the wellness ecosystem. But in this time of digital evolution, there’s a need to look at how clubs can benefit from these changes to not only secure their future, but positively prosper.

The thread that ties all of this together is data: it’s the fuel for enhanced service offerings, engagement, personalisation, product customisation and all-round improvement in meeting customer requirements.

You already have the data you need

Club operators are often berated for their data collection efforts. Admittedly, capture may not always be purposeful or intentional, done mainly through necessity and not always comprehensively. Nevertheless, know this: the data already exists in your business to improve and refine your offering.

Indeed, from our conversations with more than 100 club operators around the world over the last 18 months, without exception the data they needed to reposition for the new reality of fitness was already within their businesses.

If you’re still hesitating, concerned about the completeness or condition of your data, please be assured: you would be amazed at what can be done with incomplete datasets. It’s now entirely possible to clean and enhance them, filling gaps and making them fit for purpose.

Specifically, when combined with the latest tools – and particularly AI (artificial intelligence) – your existing customer data can provide a level of insight that, in many cases, makes it blindingly obvious where improvements can be made and opportunities taken. The insights are right there in the data. They always have been, but now it doesn’t require a staff of data scientists or business intelligence folk to get to them.

What’s more, the latest generation of tools pushes past the one-size-fits-all approach, paying no attention whatsoever to human opinion. Instead, they simply request you feed them data, tell them what you want to know, then leave them to do the rest.

With the massive leaps in processing power and the huge improvements in available tools, these capabilities can be deployed by any fitness operator in little time to uncover important new insights and revenue opportunities.

But above and beyond even these opportunities, there is a new product to be built – one that, by leveraging the existing asset gyms have in their mobile app, moves operators towards becoming the hub at the heart of consumers’ personal wellness ecosystems.

Turbo-charge your gym app

Most operators provide a mobile app, but evolution has been slow: many only started out on this journey because somebody else had one. Now, experiencing low levels of member use, clubs are trying to find ways to gain traction and engagement.

Note that forcing members’ hands, making certain actions only possible via the app, is not the answer; it is never smart to limit customer choice in this way. To drive use of your gym app, you must increase value and, at the same time, position your brand in a place of authority.

Let’s bring this to life and imagine a scenario in which, in addition to providing me with a place to train and a community to train with, my gym was also my guide when I wasn’t on-site. Let’s put aside whether I would pay for such a service (most people surely would) – can you imagine the increased depth to, and importance placed on, my relationship with my gym? It would be one big moat for a competitor to try and bridge, as the comparison would no longer be purely on the basis of facilities and cost. There would now be a whole new involvement – one I will be less likely to want to give up and migrate across from.

Some may think that’s too daunting to even consider, but bear this in mind before you dismiss it: this is a likely delivery by somebody in the not-too-distant future. If you want to build a competitive advantage, you need to look at what can be achieved.

Consider this option. Apple Health and Google Fit both provide users with access to their health data via Application Programming Interface (API). This means an app developer can request the user’s permission to access some or all of their data for the purpose of providing a service. Let’s leave ClassPass, mindfulness and nutritional integrations for a future discussion. Simply equipped with this health data, an operator would be able to engage with a member at a whole new level: suggested content, class recommendations, encouragement and achievement awards, increased personalisation of the personal training service, all integrated within its existing gym app.

Can you imagine the boost this would provide to member retention? No longer about class scheduling or virtual membership/club access cards, all of a sudden your gym app becomes a tool for the member journey – one that can be easily extended with calendar integrations, third-party content and so on.

Such a strategy would deliver for all parties: it would move your operation beyond pure bricks and mortar and, crucially, would do so in a way consumers will accept as being in keeping with their expectations of a gym.

On initial inspection an intimidating challenge, in reality this process boils down to three areas: permission to access data granted by customer; consolidation of data to produce insights; and interpretation and recommendations.

To explore these three points in detail – and to understand how your gym can deliver a customised service to the member via the tech they already have to hand almost 24/7 – download our white paper, The Fitness Future: Rules of Engagement.

personalisation

Every gym can personalise the member experience. Here’s how.
February 18, 2021 •

Personalisation challenges

In a world where personalisation is a key agenda point for every consumer-facing business, gyms have a problem: when it comes to their product, they are currently capable of little customisation, instead relying on brand messaging and aspirational imagery to differentiate and connect to people’s goals. 

This in the face of myriad digital solutions that deliver against the wellness agenda in a specific, measurable, personalised way. 

Even where operators are capturing data – including insight into customers’ goals and requirements – it tends to be limited in scope and rarely used for the purpose of product personalisation. Rather, it is predominantly focused on gyms’ own operational needs, with little consideration for the other variables that encompass fitness and wellness. 

Personal interaction in a gym environment is, currently, mostly found in the delivery of additional services such as personal training – and even here, it all too often falls short. 

Impersonal training

Let’s paint a realistic picture of the typical personal training experience right now. 

Every week, I attend to be guided and motivated towards the achievement of my goals. The expectation is that my trainer is aware of these goals, and that (s)he tailors sessions appropriately. But even if we suggest that is the case – and ask yourself honestly how often the intensity of each session actually varies – it only represents a small part of the overall story.

I attend these weekly sessions in a variety of conditions: I may arrive on a Monday following a very physical weekend, or I may arrive on a Friday having had a stressful week of work, with limited sleep. 

To benefit my body and mind and move me towards my outcomes, the session needs to account for this. Not doing so will be detrimental and most likely move me away from my goal. 

Conversely, imagine the positive impact on trust and credibility if, on my arrival, my trainer were to congratulate me on an active week and outline a session for that day that focused on recovery. Even better if that were all followed, at the end, by some guidance on what to do away from the gym before our next appointment, as well as encouraging me to get some sleep.

A digital ‘day in the life’

It certainly won’t be long before the current (im)personal training scenario is ousted by consumers and replaced with a digital alternative. Consider this (very feasible) day in the life of a digital wellness consumer, which illustrates the power of personalisation.

On waking, my app congratulates me on meeting my sleep requirements following an active previous day. It prompts me to hydrate and suggests I start my meditation routine by selecting which programme I wish to use from its library.

My recovery score lets me know what level of exertion I should attempt today, including my non-gym activity. It is noted that I’m on a 16:8 intermittent fasting protocol and, through its integration with my Lumen tool, my app suggests optimal nutritional macros for the day, at the same time setting a notification to alert me when my intermittent fast is completed. 

With access to my schedule and a knowledge of my optimal workout requirements today, I’m given a recommendation to train between 2.30pm and 4.30pm. My location suggests I’m currently on a business trip, so options are presented to me using my ClassPass membership. Three providers are identified within 400m of my expected location at that time, with the selected sessions appropriate for my target exertion level. One click and I’m booked in. 

On completion of my workout, I’m prompted to take on appropriate hydration and a suggested post-workout snack, all in line with the knowledge that I will be having my evening meal at 7.00pm to meet my fasting deadline. It is also suggested that I be in bed by 10.00pm, to meet my recovery requirements from today. 

I’m presented with an overview of my activity for the day, my behaviours, and how all of this has combined to impact my progress. A summary of tomorrow’s plan is presented, along with a progress update on my month to date. As bedtime approaches, I’m presented with a suitable soundtrack to assist my sleep.

Draw the spokes together

As a gym operator, you may be daunted by the prospect of creating and delivering such a 360°, 24/7, 365 journey. But in fact, you don’t have to. Rather, you should determine and zero in on the part(s) of the journey you can and should control – read more here

Importantly, though, this should not hold you back from acting as a ‘hub’ to add value across the full ecosystem: educating members on the importance and impact of other spokes in the wellness wheel, analysing and interpreting data from across the ecosystem, offering tailored advice and content, supplementing with trainer-led reviews and progress benchmarking… 

All of a sudden, you own the ability to influence someone’s (ecosystem-wide) outcomes through the delivery of comprehensive guidance and measurement, with a high degree of personalisation. All of a sudden, your gym becomes a critical part of that person’s life. 

Wheels, and whether to reinvent them

One key consideration in establishing this ‘hub’ status is to determine where you stand alone and where dovetailing and integrating with others’ content will allow you to better play your part in the overall ecosystem.

When building a technology proposition for delivery through somebody else’s ecosystem – such as Apple’s – you must do so with the intention firstly to leverage their infrastructure to reduce customer friction, and secondly to take advantage of the expectation an Apple product brings. Take the time to understand what that means to design and delivery.

When designing your own parts of the ecosystem, do so with the customer experience at the centre of your thinking. What is the overall experience you’re looking to deliver to the member? What part of their life are you looking to improve, and how will their experience of interacting with your product – whether bricks and mortar or digital – deliver that? 

In doing so, you will increase the depth of relationship and be able to expand it, whether in the shape of extended services or simply longer-term relationships.

Learn more about personalisation in our white paper

For more insight into how gyms can survive and thrive in the fitness future, download our FREE white paper: The Fitness Future: Rules of Engagement.

COVID-19 recovery plan

How data can underpin a robust COVID-19 recovery plan
January 15, 2021 •

Who knows what the next few months holds for the fitness industry? One thing’s certain; operators will need a vigorous COVID-19 recovery plan.

Only by having total transparency on everything, from where membership sales leads have come from and which source has the stronger conversion rates, to retention management and which members are most at risk of leaving, will operators be able to successfully reinvigorate their fitness marketing strategies, re-forecast spend and realign ROI accordingly.

Having access to Keepme during my time as a Director of Sales and Operations at Soho Gyms would have made a world of difference to my fitness marketing strategies, my retention management campaigns and my gym sales teams’ time management. Your team is your most valuable asset but can also be an expensive challenge. I managed a big sales team and had to log into three different platforms to track sales and membership data in order to present and share it. Keepme would have allowed me to do everything from one platform as well as better identify team training and development needs, and where support was needed.

Even before the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, it was a well-known fact within our sector that it’s more expensive to attract new members than it is to retain loyal ones. Having the ability to view successful campaigns at a glance enables more effective sales and marketing planning, which for many right now is more crucial than ever.

Whether it’s a post-lockdown correspondence or a new year retention drive, the Keepme system can automatically reach out, engaging with every single member at club level, regionally or nationally – it’s quick, effective and built in within Keepme’s engagement suite Connect, making communications swift and accessible. From there, managers and leadership teams can track which members have opened the communication, see how many leads land within sales or visit frequency from existing members, then create automations based on how engaged the membership base is.

Fundamentally, Keepme’s Machine Learning offers operators clear, concise and real-time insights into prospect and member behaviours. It identifies where early intervention may be required to either close a sale or save a member.

The truly accurate 360˚ view afforded by Keepme will support fitness businesses building a COVID-19 recovery plan for a post-pandemic future. With a clear picture of leads > sales > conversions > membership plans > member engagements > retention > revenue projections and team performance, operators can inspect and streamline time management; whilst praising performance and addressing areas for development. Only with this level of insight can operators translate member actions into hyper-personalised engagements to reduce attrition, increase secondary spend and, ultimately, raise operational revenue. 

The operators who stay afloat as we look to rebuild will be those who use their data to its best advantage, and make every member count.

About the author

Amanda Hart is Director of Customer Success at Keepme and formerly Director of Sales and Operations at Soho Gyms.

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