How to increase gym revenue: Dive in to your data!
August 12, 2021 •
If you’re looking at how to increase gym revenue, look no further than the mass of data that already exists in your business.
Even now, this combined data is the lifeblood of your company, flowing through tools and people to produce insights, engagements and value. Within it is the history of every decision, every outcome and volumes of behavioural information. As such, your data holds intricate lessons for improvement, as well as detailed forecasts of your future.
Quite simply, data is business gold, and the insights and opportunities that can already be gleaned from unlocking it are exceptional.
For proof, look no further than Willows Health & Lifestyle in Australia. In the space of just 18 months (an 18-month period that notably included COVID-19 lockdown), AI helped Willows add a year to its average length of membership – and that’s just the headline, with other impressive results being reported all the time. The case study makes for fascinating reading and can be downloaded here.
Your gym software: Join the dots
To get to this point, however, we first need a mind-shift in how we view our data.
If we only view our different data sources as separate entities, separate ‘islands’ of data, we will dramatically limit the value we can extract from it. We can of course understand the data sources’ independent values to the business, which are embedded in the reasons why the data was collected in the first place. But that’s where the story will end.
If, on the other hand, we can expand our thinking beyond this – joining the dots between our data sources, connecting the islands of our various gym software solutions – we can maximise the value we’re extracting from our data.
When this happens – when one set of data is connected with other data sets or tools (combining the member list from your gym CRM software with your customer surveys, for example) – the value of the data multiplies. It may have been collected for one purpose, but when combined, it can be used for other purposes and its enhanced value leveraged. The insights that can be extracted from it then multiply and the opportunities to increase gym revenue grow.
Fill the gaps, tell a consistent story
It’s also the case that bringing sources together can make each data set more complete; there may be holes in the data from one application, but those same holes can be filled using the data that already exists in another system.
One interesting example would be missing class attendance data from the CMS. Armed with the CMS data, plus the site attendance data from the entry system, in most cases it can be determined whether or not the member attended a class based on time of entry, time of exit and any other ‘evidence’ within the data.
When all data sources come together, then, it can create transparency, eliminate doubt, increase confidence and understanding, and provide better foundations for business decisions.
Bottom line, it is this powerful bringing together of data – in new combinations that unlock new insights – that will show you how to increase gym revenue.
Know your toolkit
But to extract this value from your data, it needs to flow through the right tools; in fact, the application or tool is where the value actually lies. That’s because, while the data powers the tool, without the right tools in the first place you simply can’t turn your data into knowledge and insight.
The number of tools available to your business is growing rapidly, along with the volume of available data. Already well established in the fitness sector are tools that bring together the collection and usage of data, so one system performs multiple tasks: CMS setting up a member record, charging information and sending out newsletters based on communication preferences, for example.
Other common scenarios you’ll see involve operators extracting data from one tool to use in another – a task that’s become infinitely easier thanks to data exchange standards (think .CSV files). An example of this would be the extraction of data from a CMS system for use in Mailchimp.
Tools that set data free
But even when extracted from one application via .CSV and placed into another – out of CMS and into Mailchimp, for example – your islands of data are still like separate nations. The ability to understand each other through common language is sufficient, but there’s no collaboration across national borders.
The good news is, this collaboration – this joining together of separate nations into a single country with a common language – is now possible thanks to the latest generation of tools.
At the top of that list is AI, which sets our data free to move beyond the boundaries of where it was formed. In doing so, it is capable of combining and evolving data to deliver a new level of value.
In fact, as a fitness operator, we have the opportunity to revolutionise our business approach (this use of ‘revolutionise’ no hyberbole). More specifically, the operators that capture value in their data, deploying it through AI, will be the ones with the highest retention rates, lowest acquisition costs and happiest customers. They will be the ones with the strongest insights into how to increase gym revenue.
How so? Because the understanding they have derived from the data – courtesy of their AI – will allow them to speak to their customers in an increasingly personal way, and each engagement will be more meaningful.
A new super-highway
But to maximise the impact of AI – or any application, for that matter – what you need is a structured, efficient method to get the data you require in the correct format, and at the right frequency. Generally, that’s far more frequently than is possible using a .CSV, for example.
This is where an API (Application Programming Interface) comes in – a term that’s used with such frequency these days that you no doubt already have a fair understanding of what it’s all about. For the sake of being thorough, though, we’ll offer a quick overview here.
Before APIs were invented, we were all limited in terms of the data we could extract from an application. We’d have to download all the data in a .CSV or use a report writer to export it (always assuming the data was even available, which all too often it was not). The process was very labour intensive and the data extracted would be out-of-date within minutes.
Custom interfaces could alternatively be built, but these were clunky, not to mention expensive and time-consuming to build.
The advent of the API solved all of this.
Picture an API as a doorway into an application – one that’s been created specifically to allow you access to the data within that application. When provided with an API key, you can open this door and be presented with a map (aka the API Documentation) that will show you where in the application you need to go to retrieve the information you require.
Armed with this knowledge, you can build a direct integration (picture it as connecting your ‘pipe’ to the correct parts of the third-party application) to ensure a timely, consistent delivery of the data you require directly into your own application – all without the need for further human intervention.
Let’s say you had an application that needed attendance data to do its magic. Without an API, this would require a staff member to run a report and then upload that report (assuming this was possible) to get the attendance data into your application. The next challenge: you would then be working with data that represented a snapshot from the moment in time when the report was run. Meanwhile, the live data would be changing every hour of every day; you would never be working off the most accurate, up-to-date data.
With an API integration, on the other hand, your new application is able to call for the attendance data automatically, at whatever frequency it needs to achieve its task. All without human involvement.
And that’s not all. Thanks to API technology, which makes data totally free to move, it’s now also possible to seamlessly send results back to the original application.
Just as one example, let’s say we use a CMS API to extract member data into an application like Keepme. Keepme then uses this member data to provide a score on the likelihood of a member staying or leaving; when calculated, this information is sent back to the CMS so it’s visible on the member record.
This is a huge value-add of the API: a two-way flow that allows all sources of data to be kept up-to-date – with all connected apps continually updating each other – and, indeed, enhanced as each new combination of data sources drives new insights.
To visualise how all this works, think of the API as a beautifully engineered, wide, two-way bridge that joins data and applications together. Then compare this to the rickety, one-way rope bridges we’ve had to deal with in the past (and often the present), whereby getting data out was enough of an effort that the idea of sending data back was never even considered.
Insist on an API
Ideally, then, every one of the applications you use within your business should have an API, so a quick audit of your current tools’ data capabilities is a useful undertaking.
List your core business tools, such as your gym CRM software, club management and entry systems. Do they have APIs available for them? If so, request a link to the API Developers’ Documentation, which you will be able to review/share when discussing new tools/AI projects in the future. This documentation should include a list of endpoints that indicate what parts of the application are accessible. A limited set of endpoints will limit use.
No API? Ask the provider when this will be available. (And don’t be fobbed off by proprietary data extraction/integration tools. These may be a possible stopgap until an API is available, but they’re very old-school, far from optimal, and most definitely still a short-term solution.)
Believe it or not, there are industry tools out there that have neither an API nor the ability to export your data via a .CSV. We’re not talking fringe providers, either; some of the biggest providers have tools that lack this capability. They may suggest they are legacy platforms, but if you find yourself owning one of these, it’s time to move on. Do not let your data be held prisoner, as the value lost could become significantly limiting over time.
Certainly, for future application purchases, we cannot recommend strongly enough that you insist on there being an API. If the answer is “it’s in the pipeline”, it’s a red flag. Push for more certainty, as without an API, you could find yourself severely limited in the new data age.
AI can tell you what to do. But you need to do it.
We’ve covered a lot of ground already, so let’s recap where we’ve got to so far.
- You’re looking at how to increase gym revenue, and we’ve established that the answer lies in your data.
- That data is, however, only valuable if you can get it out of wherever it’s stored.
- An API is the perfect answer: a structured, efficient method to get the data you require in the correct format, and at the right frequency.
- Once you have the data flowing, it’s time to unleash its power, bringing it together in new combinations that unlock new insights.
- AI is the tool that makes this possible, combining and evolving data sets to deliver new levels of value.
- Arguably, it is in the tool – the AI – that the real value lies. Your data powers the tool, but without the right tools in the first place, you simply can’t turn your data into knowledge and insight.
However, simply having AI in place isn’t, on its own, going to increase gym revenue for you. To extract that – or indeed any other – value, there must be a willingness on your part not only to dedicate the time to implement the platform, but to then engage with it. That includes potentially changing many of your workflows once armed with the new insights.
Do so and the results can be exceptional. However, only by acting on the insights your AI presents to you – whether they’re insights that could shape a new strategy to increase gym membership sales, that could help you design a new gym referral program, that throw a spotlight on how you might refine your fitness marketing strategies – will you move forward.
Put another way, the value is never in the insight itself. The value lies in the action that’s taken as a result of the insight.
You will need to play your part in achieving your business goals.
Read more about how to increase gym revenue using AI
Find out more about the power of data to increase gym revenue at your club: download our new white paper – Everything You Need to Know About Data & AI – for free.