To API or not to API, that is the question. Or is it? Because in all honesty, when it comes to your gym software, an API – Application Programming Interface – is a no-brainer.
If you’re still asking yourself whether or not your various pieces of club management software need an API – or if you’re not quite sure how APIs work – this blog is a must-read.
The days before API
Let’s look back to the days before APIs were invented and imagine you had an application – a piece of gym software – that needed attendance data to do its magic.
In that case, you’d have had to run a report and then download that data in a .CSV file, or use a report writer to export it. Either way, it was a pretty labor-intensive task, as was uploading the attendance data into your destination application – assuming that particular piece of gym software would even accept such an upload.
Assuming you were successful, you’d then come up against the next challenge: the fact you’d inevitably 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.
Custom interfaces between the different elements of your CRM could alternatively be built, but these were clunky, not to mention expensive and time-consuming to build.
Unlock the data in your gym software systems
The advent of the API solved all of this.
Of course, ‘API’ is a term 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.
It’s probably easiest if you picture an API as a doorway into an application – one that’s been created specifically to give 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 to the third-party app (aka the API Documentation) that will show you where in the application you need to go to retrieve the information you require. You can then build a direct integration with your app – an integration you might like to think of as a ‘pipe’ that’s connected to the correct part(s) of the third-party application. This pipe ensures a timely, consistent delivery of the data you require directly from the third-party application and into your own.
Once established, your application is then able to call for the data it needs – attendance, for example, just to continue the storyline from above – automatically, at whatever frequency it needs to achieve its task. All without any further human involvement.
Optimize the data throughout your CRM
That’s not all, either. 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.
For example, let’s say we use a club membership software API to extract member data and send it into an application like AI gym software Keepme. Keepme might then use 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 club membership software 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 visualize 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.
APIs: Turning your data into business gold
Ideally, then, every one of the applications you use in your business should have an API. Let’s continue with Keepme as a great example of why this is beneficial to your business.
Keepme’s AI gym software exists as a prediction machine for your business, providing you with highly accurate forecasts across the board.
- What your member retention will be for the coming six months
- Which specific members will leave you in six months’ time
- What your gym sales will be for the coming quarter
- What your membership will be at the end of the year
- Which classes drive the highest gym membership retention
And so on… and on… and on. If you have the relevant historical data, Keepme can use it to project forward and accurately predict future performance within the same metric.
But to do this effectively, it needs two things. First, it needs to bring together data from every corner of your gym’s CRM, to maximize the data pool from which it identifies patterns and makes predictions.
Second, to ensure those predictions are as accurate as possible, it needs to be able to pull this data in 24/7, without the need for any human intervention, so it’s always working with live information.
That’s why it’s so important to have an API for every piece of CRM in your club, allowing data to continually flow through open doors to wherever it needs to be. (And, as mentioned previously, back out again once optimized, ensuring every part of your gym software ecosystem is running on the best possible data.)
It is this constant, efficient stream – courtesy of the various APIs – that allows your data to become the business gold it can and should be.
In short, any application that requires data from another will work exponentially better with an API.
Why all the best gym software has an API
Understandably, then, we strongly advise every operator to insist on an API for every piece of gym software they integrate into their operation – and why we also recommend an audit of your current tools’ data capabilities.
List your core business tools – your club management software, for example, and your 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. Ask specifically: “When is an API scheduled on the roadmap for delivery?”
Believe it or not, there are pieces of gym software 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.
(Incidentally, 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.)
Certainly, for future gym software 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.
Find out more about AI, APIs and the powerful way they combine to boost performance across your gym business. Book a Keepme demo now.