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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.

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