By Contributing Author on June 1, 2016
The fitness industry is changing. The growing use of smartphones gives club operators a unique opportunity to engage with members via mobile apps. This new communication channel offers solutions to challenges that the fitness industry has long faced.
Three such challenges include identifying and driving new leads, nurturing leads into members and then successfully onboarding new members into your club. Mobile technology streamlines these challenges by automating many of the processes involved and eliminating resource-intensive steps.
Digital Conversion for the Fitness Industry.
Brick-and-mortar companies like Starbucks and Dominos have long been using mobile technology to extend the reach of their physical footprints by allowing customers to place orders or track their loyalty card from the convenience of their smartphones. Now emerging mobile technologies in the fitness industry allow operators to offer similar conveniences to their members such as club rewards, in-app referrals and digital guest passes, all from their club’s mobile app. This advanced mobile functionality not only keeps your members engaged, but also makes identifying and converting new leads at scale a seamless process.
The Future of Member Acquisition.
It all begins with mobile rewards. By integrating your club’s loyalty program with a mobile app, members can automatically earn reward points for actions like checking into the club, completing a workout and of course, referring a friend. Members can spend these points on prizes like club apparel or free personal training. This kind of program is great for building member loyalty and incentivizes a key behavior that earns you money — making referrals.
The current referral process for many clubs is an old-fashioned slog of paperwork that drives many prospects to quit halfway through. With mobile referrals members can easily refer their friends and family by simply tapping who they want to invite to the club from their smartphone’s contact list. New referrals are then sent a text-message with a mobile guest pass that they can use from their smartphone. The prospect can then check-in to the club with their mobile guest pass and can sign up as a member right from their smartphone as well.
Once they convert, the new member is again incentivized by your club’s rewards program to refer their friends for more points, creating a viral loop of referrals for the club. The beauty of doing this in your club’s app is that it all happens automatically, with minimal effort from staff.
Clubs that have already been using mobile technology for member acquisition have seen astounding results. In a recent pilot, over 2,000 referrals were submitted between 10 club locations in one month. For some locations, this was a 300 percent increase in monthly referrals.
When it comes to attracting members, the old way of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” no longer works. As more clubs move forward with mobile technology to more efficiently acquire members, it will become increasingly expensive for those left behind to grow their membership. To stay relevant clubs must adapt. The cost of not changing is too high.
John Ford is the president of Netpulse
IMAGE BY SHUTTERSTOCK
Technology is everywhere, making our lives easier and streamlining every service. For example, Amazon recently launched the Amazon Dash Button, which is a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite products, from toilet paper to Red Bull, with the press of a button.
Chances are, your club is full of various types of technology. And while it may seem like a struggle to stay up to date with the newest high-tech developments, according to Travis Shannon, the vice president of information at Leisure Sports, there might be several pieces of technology already in your club that are being underused.
Shannon highlights a few pieces of technology that are commonly underutilized or improperly used within health clubs.
CMS — “The very basis of what our facilities use, the club management systems, are woefully underutilized by our facilities,” said Shannon. “There are a lot of wonderful features and modules that the club management systems have built in to make our lives easier in managing our facilities that we don’t often use to their fullest. The other thing we need to be careful in that area, whether it is underutilized or improperly utilized, is data. Garbage in equals garbage out, so make sure that the data you put into the system is clean and good and you are not trying to work around some perceived deficiencies in the system. Ensuring that you work within the confines of the system will inevitably make it easier to use the software as it is intended.”
Customer Relationship Management — “A lot of us use it mainly as a sales tool and those systems are effective,” explained Shannon. “It is very useful for managing your pipeline and learning about prospects, but I think where we as an industry would be much better served is using that truly as relationship management for a member over time. Are we understanding where they are in their life? Is there an adjustment that needs to be made to their membership? Do they need to take some time off, then come back? That way we are cultivating a deeper understanding of them and having that within a system that feeds directly back into enhancing the member experience over time.”
Wearables — “Any new technology that is the thing of the day inevitably gets underutilized or used improperly,” he said. “Now that we are tracking all of this data, where I see people fail with this is they get their members wearables, they get them to start tracking their workouts, and then what? That is where it starts to break down. If you don’t actually drive some sort of action of behavior change with the technology, whether it is something you use internally or something like wearable information, then you are not fully utilizing it and it might potentially detract from the experience.”
Smart Scheduling — “In terms of employee management and labor management, that type of technology tends to be underutilized,” added Shannon. “We are actively pursuing better technology to manage schedules and ensure that we are properly staffed and that we are held accountable for our employees in terms of making sure they are hitting their hours for part-time and full-time. So that is another area that is ripe for improvement in our industry.”
Tablets — “One of the other shifts we have seen is we are making rather frequent purchases of tablets now for use within the facility,” he said. “We are moving away from desktop based or workstation based interaction with club management systems or scheduling and moving to tablets. So for example doing class check-ins via tablet so we have real-time information as to who is enrolled. I would also see that being used with personal training, helping to manage sessions on the floor and again also giving information about clients to the trainers via that methodology, rather than relying on
“House of Cards” character Frank Underwood, who is portrayed by Kevin Spacey, uses the WaterRower to manage the stress of his sometimes underhanded political life in Washington, DC.
The WaterRower and the emerging use of rowing machines by fitness enthusiasts and health clubs was put in the spotlight by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal report correlated the WaterRower’s recent rise in sales with its repeat appearances on the popular Netflix drama “House of Cards.” Frank Underwood, who is portrayed by Kevin Spacey, uses the WaterRower to manage the stress of his sometimes underhanded political life in Washington, DC.
The Wall Street Journal story noted that WaterRower’s factory in Warren, Rhode Island, has tripled its production capacity in five years to more than 1,000 machines per week. The use of WaterRower and Concept2 machines in various club settings, including Orangetheory Fitness, Equinox and CrossFit, was profiled in the report.
Here is a key stat from the story:
“More than 10 million people used a rowing machine at least once in 2015 in the United States, a 3 percent increase from the year before, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.”
I looked back at the recently released Physical Activity Council’s 2016 Participation Report to see if additional data was available on rowing machine usage. The Participation Report tracks sports, fitness and recreation participation the United States, and the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) is part of the group that released the report.
Although the Participation Report did not include rowing machine usage or water rowing in its methodology, the spike in rowing machine sales is not all that surprising when looking at other data contained in the report.
Fitness sports recorded the highest participation rate among Millennials (66.7 percent) and Generation X (66.2 percent), according to the Participation Report. The Participation Report also noted fitness- and activity-related spending is trending more conservative over the last three years. Spending on sports and recreation equipment ranked fourth on the overall spending list despite the conservative trend – one position ahead of gym membership/ fee spending.
The SFIA and the Participation Report statistics become more insightful when looking at the ‘House of Cards’ demographics. The show’s viewership is young and wealthy: the primary age range for show viewers is 18 to 35 and the income spikes showed a range of $75,000 to $124,000 per year, according to data from SpotRight, marketing strategy firm.
Millennials and Generation Xers are statistically the most likely to participate in a physical fitness activity and to invest in sports and recreation equipment. These age groups also intersect with the primary “House of Cards” demographic with disposable income. Since some health clubs are looking to capitalize on the boutique programming trend, it’s not too surprising to see the surge in “obscure” rowing machine sales, as the Wall Street Journal calls it. A rowing machine for personal home use is by most standards a significant investment, but there appears to be a market.
Last year I wrote a story about the launch of Gronk Fitness Products. New England Patriots star tight end (and Millennial) Rob Gronkowski is the face of the brand, which offers a Gronk-branded WaterRower as part of its product line. The Gronk WaterRower sells for $1,905, the entry-level WaterRower model sells for $945 and the entry-level Concept2 model sells for $900, according to each brand’s website.
A friend of mine and his family were big into the river rowing scene when I was growing up in Minnesota. Although I was unable to match their passion and financial commitment, they introduced me to the sport, and I always wanted to participate in it somehow. I discovered the rowing machine when I first started frequenting clubs about six years ago and came across one on a business trip. I didn’t see a rowing machine in a club outside of that location for almost three years. Today, there are two rowing machines sandwiched in the free weights area of the low-membership fee recreation center I currently frequent. It makes me wonder if rowing machines are or will be the next big craze in the boutique fitness movement.
What do you think?
Are you using rowers to differentiate your health club? Are you running rowing machine-based exercise classes? Are members asking you for a rowing machine (or more machines) at your club? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
Keep it real and relevant! Your blog is a serious competitive advantage – use it.
What’s in it for you?
Creating great blog content has multiple benefits for your gym or fitness business. The Blog Content eBook highlights four of them and provides tips on how to create that great content to get the below results:
- Increase your search engine visibilitySearch engines crawl for content that is relevant and recent. Your blog is the perfect opportunity to create content that meets both of those criteria. Attention-grabbing content nets results and gets more eyeballs on your blog, site, and content via search.
- Put out a 24/7 welcome matYou, and your business, are probably not open 24 hours a day – but your website and blog can be. Have great content available for new and current clients whenever they choose to visit.
Add credibility to your business by showing off the company you keep. Let people know what trainers, gurus, news sites, and more you visit and follow for news by sharing great content from those providers on your blog. Being a great blogger isn’t about just showcasing your own voice and words – elevate your brand with content others will want to read and share, bringing others to your blog as well.
- Create a brand personality & own itYour blog should be the heart & soul of your brand, as well as your social media efforts. Make sure that you’re creating content that people want to share, comment on, retweet, and more. Having a brand identity through your messaging will allow people to relate to a personality you’ve created for your business.
- Blogging pays offFrequent posting creates more traffic for your business. Studies show that blogs have 55% more visitors. Isn’t that as good a reason as any to start writing? The more people walking through that virtual “front door” via your blog, the more people you can convert into clients and members.
Competition comes from all places in the health club industry.
Low-price clubs, boutique gyms, mobile applications and even church-based fitness offerings have put pressure on mainstream clubs to better adapt to consumer desires in recent years. Health clubs struggling with competition can take two paths to brand differentiation, Ray Algar told a Club Industry webinar audience on Thursday. The free webinar, “The Two Pathways of the Fitness Industry: Are You on the Right Course for Success?” sponsored by Precor, will be available for on-demand viewing in the coming days.
Algar, the managing director of U.K.-based strategic fitness industry research firm Oxygen Consulting, profiled the evolution of the fitness consumer mindset during the last 12 years. The consumer has changed from a “go to the gym” mentality as the primary method to improve physical health to evaluating all other potential choices in the marketplace, Algar said.
“I don’t think we now can assume we have a monopoly over how consumers become more active,” Algar said. “They have a lot more choices available to them. One route is to interact with the health club industry.”
Algar’s presentation detailed the consumer choices in the marketplace and examined U.K.-based Fitness First, digital platform ParkRun and SoulCycle as case studies. He showed how low-cost clubs and boutique fitness gyms have thrived in recent years through a comparative strategic analysis of common operational factors. The industry is splitting into two paths: one where consumers are offered a self service type of experience and the other where they are offered a supported experience, Algar said.
“The low-cost gym brands believe in operational efficiency,” Algar said. “I think with the supported brands, they believe in what I would characterize as service intimacy. This is where we really need to understand why members are here, and if we want to get them from a certain point, we have to be a core part of making that happen.”
The common theme and connection with both potential paths is strategic clarity, Algar noted.
“There is a conviction in the everyday mission,” Algar said. “There is a consistency about what the business does, what it does not do and when it decides to do something, it executes to a very, very high level every single day.”
To show our appreciation for the industry leaders who support IHRSA’s efforts to Grow, Promote, and Protect the industry, IHRSA has launched the “ILC Spotlight series.” We hope this series will help you get to know more about our industry’s leaders, what they’ve learned along the way, and how they view leadership.