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Turning competition into collaboration – how gyms can live with the mobile phone
April 8, 2021 •

As a gym operator, who is your biggest competitor? If Peloton comes to mind, or Apple Fitness+, or ClassPass, think again. Because the biggest threat of course comes from the mobile phone.

That isn’t new news: the mobile phone has been disrupting entrenched business models since the launch of the iPhone in 2007. But it is nevertheless this device – owned by the majority of the population – that provides the most options, the most flexibility and the most personal relationship with fitness consumers. And it isn’t going away. 

So what’s needed is a mindset shift – one that involves gyms looking beyond the threat of the phone to identify the channels it provides to actually fight back.

This isn’t just about the veritable gold of customer data captured by phones, either, or the opportunities to hyper-personalise based on this data. Mobiles can be harnessed to facilitate gyms’ own enhanced services, and new technology will boost these opportunities still further.

The transformative power of 5G 

With speeds 100 times that of 4G and network latency faster than human visual processing, 5G is a step change in capability that will bring many benefits. 

This always on, lightning-fast internet pipe will provide the capability for perfect streaming of ultra-high-definition content in 8k without the need for buffering, cabling or routers. It will mean consumers are guaranteed a high-quality experience wherever they choose to consume it – and this presents opportunities for operators both on- and off-site. 

On-site, a seamless digital experience will be possible, thanks in particular to the higher device density 5G will allow – essential when you consider that many customers now attend the gym with two devices: phone and smartwatch.

5G will allow for consistently-delivered services to the member off-site, too, with numerous options to further enhance the experience. Operators could, for example, draw in members’ instantly-available data using AI tools, generating hyper-personalised recommendations and guidance which, harnessing 5G’s real-time capability, could be delivered instantly and without the need for any human intervention: an app notification congratulating the member on an active day, for example, or suggesting they get more sleep that night. 

Whether 500 or 500,000 members, every day the club would be engaging these individuals with valuable content, extending and deepening the customer relationship.

Then there’s the fact that, through the confidence of delivery it brings, 5G will power new products and experiences including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). 

Big brands have already begun to dip a toe in AR waters. You may have seen IKEA’s mobile solution, for example, which allows you to choose an item from its range and then, using AR, view how it would look in your home through your mobile phone. Then there was Manchester City’s AR stadium tour, which allowed visitors to ‘sit next to’ and ‘interact with’ manager Pep Guardiola at the top table of a press conference. And that’s before we even start on the numerous brands that allow you to ‘try on’ shoes and make-up through AR features in their apps.

And the momentum will gather over the coming year: Apple’s phones already feature native AR capabilities, while 5G will allow the shackles of hardware to be removed, the heavy processing to be handed off to remote high-end servers, and the service to be delivered to the customer in real-time.

AR’s double vision

Within the fitness sector specifically, AR offers an excellent example of how and where mobile phones can be leveraged to benefit the club – particularly on-site. Let’s bring these opportunities to life.

A member walks onto the gym floor, phone in hand and Spotify in ears. The phone knows the current physiological condition its owner is in: it is aware they have slept well and that they are therefore in a position to exert themselves. 

The member holds up their mobile phone and, on the screen, sees an overlay of the workout being suggested for them. They follow the arrows to the first piece of equipment and, on arrival, are given the option to watch an instructional video. They can also choose to follow suggested output and repetitions. From optimal use of time to ensuring correct equipment usage – and with it exerciser safety – this enhancement to the workout could even, for customers wearing a smartwatch, include the ability to modify, in real-time, the suggested programme based on their body’s responses.

While our member goes about their AR-assisted workout, the trainers on the floor are benefiting from new insights being presented to them by their AR glasses (these are less obvious than the first generation of Google glasses and significantly more practical than pointing a phone towards members). 

The overlay on their lenses shows them the attrition risk of each member in the gym, helping them decide who to engage with first; a quick touch to the side of the frame brings up additional information on the member, to ensure each engagement is based on current and relevant information.

Class instructors benefit from the same overlay for their sessions, allowing them to prioritise shout-outs and ensure every engagement is valuable and delivered with context. 

Back on the floor, our trainer is alerted by a red light over a piece of equipment: a potential equipment failure. On the other side of the gym, another alert suggests an intervention with a member who isn’t using the equipment correctly.

Discreet, not obstructive, the AR for team members ensures they’re always aware of who’s on the floor and how they can engage to add value rather than interrupt. Meanwhile, our member feels they’ve had an optimal workout, completed confidently and with some new experiences thrown in. Plus the whole thing has been automatically recorded for them, so they can review their progress whenever they wish.

Collaborate, don’t compete

What is clear, then, is that while the mobile phone is the nightmare competitor – enjoying a nearly unbreakable consumer relationship, constant evolution from literally thousands of collaborators, and few capital constraints or geographical limitations – it also presents gyms with huge opportunities.

The key is not to try and compete; this is an unwinnable battle. Instead, if gyms accept their role alongside mobiles in the overall wellness ecosystem, they will unleash powerful, value-adding technology that can transform the member experience.

Find out more in our white paper, The Fitness Future: Rules of Engagement.

The future of fitness isn’t hybrid. It’s ecosystems.
February 10, 2021 •

The term ‘hybrid’ fitness has populated conversations across the sector ever since COVID-19 forced gyms closed and consumers online. And granted, the first step had to be for operators to look beyond the bricks and mortar of their physical facilities. But turning to hybrid fitness business models as the solution is limiting horizons and causing problems for the longer term. 

By definition consisting of two parts, a hybrid fitness model is in fact a huge simplification of what’s actually needed. It’s encouraging operators to think about their digital offering as an island – part of a dual on-site/digital model in which the digital offering is simply an extension of the physical experience. And that isn’t necessarily a good fit for the new marketplace.

First of all, given digital will only be a complement to, not a replacement for, the gym experience once all facilities are open again – there’s the good news – consumers are more likely to choose a digital offering that supplements their on-site activities with a variation, or indeed something completely different, rather than a digital version of the on-site product. If someone attends the gym for group cycling and strength training, for example, what they want from a digital subscription is stretching, yoga, meditation.

More important still, however, is the fact that the future of fitness is categorically not binary. Not hybrid. Value will only be unlocked for the consumer when all content, all experiences, indeed the entirety of a club’s offering are part of the customer’s personal wellness ecosystem. 

Consider, for example, how much more useful an app such as Strava is when integrated with Apple Health or Google Fit, with all your personal metrics updated automatically. Customers now have a more holistic view of what defines wellness, picking and choosing their products and services accordingly. In doing so, they build their own ecosystem, of which their gym is but one part.

Set hybrid fitness aside. Where do you fit in the wellness ecosystem?

The question for gym operators, then, is this: how much of a member’s wellness ecosystem can you really control? How much should you even try to control?

Stress, hydration, nutrition, activity levels, mental health. These are just some of the critical areas that, when optimal, translate to a healthy, happy human. Nearly always connected and near impossible to dial in perfectly all the time, nevertheless the management of these key areas will cumulatively result in the achievement of the customer’s wellness goals.

That makes it very tempting for gym and health club operators to try and deliver everything. To position themselves as the go-to for all things wellbeing. But in doing so, they are fighting a losing battle – not to mention undermining their credibility – because there are already myriad digital solutions that do it better, delivering against the broader wellness agenda in a specific, measurable, personalised way. 

And here’s the thing: it’s actually OK that, as an operator, you don’t control the entire wellness experience. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t play a part in the overall ecosystem – we’ll come to that shortly. It simply means you don’t have to try and control everything. It’s OK to be just one spoke in the wellness wheel.

Your challenge is firstly to determine which part(s) you can and should control, then make that crystal clear to consumers. Where do you fit in? What role(s) do/should you play in the ecosystem? Forget about the activity you deliver or the market segment in which you operate. What are the specific needs, perhaps not yet explored, that you are in fact better qualified than anyone else to meet?

Once you’ve identified this, work out how to own this – the elements of the journey you do or could have control over – to the best of your ability. 

Data empowers the customer 

Be aware that, even when you narrow your sights and focus on just a portion of the ecosystem, consumers will actively benchmark your price points against the possible alternatives – not based on a like-for-like comparison, but on perceived value of impact and results within the specific segment(s) of the overall wellness journey in which you operate. 

As a result, some will see gyms as unnecessary.

But this is something gyms must learn to accept as the market continues to evolve. Indeed, even among gym-goers, consumers are becoming increasingly aware that three visits to a gym each week is not going to guarantee their best selves. They understand that there are many variables involved, and that adversity in any of these areas will affect their outcomes. They know a gym visit is but one action within the overall picture. 

This knowledge is growing as education around sleep, hydration, mindfulness, nutrition and activity levels becomes mainstream. 

It is boosted further by the fact consumers carry around in their pockets, and on their wrists, capabilities of physiological measurement and information sources that five years ago you wouldn’t have seen outside of a professional sports team. Current mobile phones, wearables and the apps that support them have the capability to guide and measure, as well as motivate their owners with levels of data far beyond what a doctor gets to work with when doing diagnostics in a general practice, never mind a gym instructor. 

Operators therefore need to be comfortable not owning the customer’s wellness journey, accepting that they will only ever meet a portion of people’s overall wellbeing requirements. 

So, what part will you play?

A fitness operator could play a number of parts in someone’s future wellness journey, but broadly speaking there are two options. Both are important to the customer, though with different value propositions. One is also inherently more long-term in nature than the other.

The first is a resource provider: my gym provides me with the space, equipment and classes that will allow me to achieve a portion of my wellness requirements – mainly cardio and strength. Its ability to provide a variety of equipment, with the potential for guidance on how to use it, is valuable to me. When combined with a social aspect, a community, it represents a solid proposition for this part of my requirement.

However, all of this is product-focused. True, the need for fitness product is not reducing. In fact, it’s probably increasing. But focusing on product limits your appeal, your perceived value and your longevity in a market where fickle consumers are always looking for the next shiny thing. The thing that will deliver better results, faster. 

Meanwhile, there is another, second option: one that requires operators to change their emphasis from product to customer outcome. This is a fundamental change, but in making this leap, operators will increase trust, value, and inevitably the length of the relationship.

Add value to the ecosystem

Focusing on outcome means focusing on the ecosystem, understanding what contribution you as an operator can make to consumers’ overall wellness. And so we return to our previous observation: the fact that gyms can play a role in the broader wellness ecosystem without having to control or deliver all of it.

Indeed, delivering your part to the best of your ability will necessarily mean finding ways to add value to the whole ecosystem; it is only by doing this that you will secure your place. Allow us to explain. 

Operators have an opportunity to step out of the passive role they currently play when a member trains at a club, adding value to the journey – and to the whole ecosystem – by leveraging their understanding of the bigger picture. By joining the dots on behalf of the consumer.

Anyone with a smartphone has the capability to record and analyse an ever-increasing amount of physiological and environmental data points that affect wellness. Add a wearable and the combination provides a veritable laboratory of the human condition.  

In the early days, intentional action by the user was required to record activity. Now phones and wearables are full of sensors. From accelerometers that can automatically track your movement – and that when combined with a gyroscope can measure your sleep – to sensors that measure exertion through heart rate and the current saturation of oxygen in your blood, it’s possible to track more than 50 variables for review. 

However, many people are completely unaware of the treasure trove of health metrics they carry around with them in Apple Health and Google Fit. Even if they did know it was there, they would have no idea how to use that data, translating it into actions that would lead them towards their desired outcomes.

Because it takes expertise to make the all-important connections between datasets – connections that, in turn, amplify the value of each metric and deliver comprehensive insight at a personalised level. 

And this is where gyms have an opportunity to step in and join the dots. As an operator, you don’t have to deliver every spoke of the 360° experience, but your team should be able to educate on all spokes and help people draw them – and the data from them – together into a prescribed, personalised action plan. 

Become the hub

And gyms do, at least currently, have the credibility to do that. To the majority of consumers, their gym membership represents their most overt action in their quest for health. To some it may be a smaller part, but fitness operators nonetheless currently occupy a position of authority in a customer’s mind.

This should be seized upon while it remains the case. Even while acknowledging that gyms are just one of many possible contributors to our overall health, operators can absolutely step up and own the ‘hub’ positioning – something that transcends their physical, and even digital, offerings.

To achieve this, operators must establish a more comprehensive relationship with customers, whereby they take additional responsibility to educate on the importance and impact of other spokes. This relationship will extend their reach beyond their sites, as well as impacting how they engage members within those sites. It will endow operators with continuing authority and drive perceptions of considerable added value.

The long and short of it is this: somebody will own this relationship with the customer. And sure, the likes of Apple and Google, with their aggregator approach and technology bias, would seem strong favourites – but they currently do not hold that position of authority with the consumer. For now, at least, they are also limited to the consumers they have in their respective ecosystems. They seem happy to be the repository, encouraging an ecosystem of providers to work with the data to enhance the value and keep customers on their platforms.

All of which means there is still a window in which gyms can claim ‘hub’ status. Operators will need to secure access to the data that will drive behaviours and measurement. They will need to ensure team members are fully trained and equipped to analyse and interpret that data more robustly than even the most advanced app. But it’s absolutely possible. My app-based journey could, for example, be supplemented with tailored educational content, along with benchmarking my progress on my age and gender for motivation and gamification. It could be supplemented with trainer-led personal reviews, either in-person or virtually. 

All of a sudden, my gym owns the ability to influence my (ecosystem-wide) outcomes through the delivery of comprehensive guidance and measurement.

In doing so, the service becomes a critical part of my life. My relationship with my health club is transformed: no longer judged as a purely bricks-and-mortar product but rather an integral part of my every day – not to mention one that can command a higher price point, with higher loyalty and lifetime value. 

This is why operators must look beyond the horizon-limiting hybrid fitness business model to an ecosystem approach. Because while all this talk of knowing your place in the ecosystem, knowing what you represent to people and not striving to do more might seem counterintuitive, it is in fact the basis of loyal, profitable customer relationships. 

Read more in our white paper, The Fitness Future: Rules of Engagement.

emma-barry

Five tips for badass operators wanting to work smarter in 2021
December 18, 2020 •

Keepme is delighted to welcome Emma Barry, a global fitness authority and author of best-selling book, Building a Badass Boutique, as a guest blogger. Here, Emma provides her ultimate tips for fitness operators wanting to work smarter and evolve in 2021.

The world has changed and it’s never going back. We have been sent to our rooms to think long and hard about what we’ve done and to come back stronger, smarter and more accelerated.

The post-COVID future is “phygital”. In other words, we’ll all be using technology to build a bridge between the digital world with the physical world in order to provide a unique interactive experience.  

At the heart of each of these five business evolutions is one common thread – you must place your customer at the center of your ecosystem and obsess with what they care about.

1.     Renovate your foundations

Now is the perfect time to take the stairs down to the basement of your business and rattle your foundations. It’s time to Marie Kondo that shit! Decide what serves you in the new world and what doesn’t. Be ruthless in what you keep. Let the rest go, with love.

  • Brand – Purpose, Pain and Positioning.

Know why you exist, who you are and who you are not. Retool your business to provide elegant and comprehensive solutions for members. Position yourself powerfully in the market and against competitors to differentiate. Future proof your business by adding a digital expression of your brand to your ecosystem of goods and services.

  • Product – People, Programming, Place.

Content is King and consistency is Queen. Hire attitude over aptitude to enable you to create human bonds with members. Make sure your programming sits on science but delivers to the soul. Provide the backdrop for transformational change.

  • Systems – Processes, Plan, Pace.

How slick, intuitive and seamless are your processes? Have you automated the mundane? Have you upgraded, simplified and integrated new gym software to enable better data capture and analysis that makes meaningful contributions to the business. Use software designed for this sector to create frictionless experiences. The future is predictive. Are you data-led or relying on that old tech called gut feel? Only with data on your side can you balance excellence of execution against the speed of innovation. If you don’t already have the right software in place, Keepme’s intuitive platform makes for the perfect partner. It blends AI with operational tools and a unique automations engine to streamline the membership sales and retention management efforts of fitness operators, and ultimately increase revenue.

2.     Pave your new path to profit

If you are not in the business of making money, you are not in business. Whether your business has been in decline, growth or flatlining through the pandemic, the chess pieces have been moved. Human behavior has changed, expectations have shifted and priorities are being reordered. Do you have a clear line of sight for building revenue and membership sales in 2021? If not, get there.

3.     Create a minimum viable people and strategic plan

Do less, better. Right size your team and simplify your strategy to focus your business on its core activities. Some trends in organisational restructures include: less people doing more jobs, levels of hierarchy being erased, roles becoming more operational and less strategic.

4.     Bring sexy back

It’s time to double down on being human, create an agile, solutions-based culture and have fun. This is a marathon, not a sprint; we all need to be in for the long haul. Human spirit is the ultimate source of inspiration. Share, cheer and problem solve together. Rise up.

5.     Rain check

The advantage of times like now, where the majority of businesses are in survival mode, is that everyone has their head up their own assets – there’s nothing like a good pandemic to provide a “judgement free zone”. If you don’t love what you do or you can’t see the way through surviving to thriving, there’s no shame, no foul – this is your invitation to exit stage left, walk away, blame it on COVID and back a different horse.

About the author

Emma Barry is a global fitness authority who for 25 years has advised and advanced the innovative edge of health and fitness. A founding member of Les Mills International and former Director of luxury lifestyle brand Equinox, she is fluent in what happens next in health and fitness and in building teams around the world. Emma is a published author, sought after speaker for business forums, trends panels and women’s events, and serves on a number of boards and advisories.

Video: The future of digital in fitness with Ian Mullane and Simon Kemp
October 9, 2020 •

Check out the highlights from the UKActive Active Uprising session featuring Keepme’s founder and CEO, Ian Mullane, and global digital marketing thought leader and CEO of Kepios, Simon Kemp. 

In this insightful discussion, they reflect on how technological advances such as 5G are changing ways in which people consume fitness content, how member data will shape the offerings and services that operators provide, and much more. In short, it’s a conversation filled with forward-thinking statistics and trends for operators to be aware of.

To see how Keepme could help you uncover insights in your member data and drive revenue in your club, book a demo today.

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