Why Every Health Club Should Embrace Technology

Commercial Fitness

Why Every Health Club Should Embrace Technology

As the fitness industry changes, integrating technology into your facility is becoming less and less optional. Members and prospects now expect certain digital features and services, and the presence or lack of these services can determine whether you get their business.

Here's how to transform your health club by embracing technological change.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at ihrsastore.com.

About the Speaker

Bryan O’Rourke is the Founder and CEO of Integrus LLC. He is also the Chief Strategic Officer and Principal for Fitness Marketing LLC and has served as Chairman of the Medical Fitness Association’s Education Committee. He is currently the President of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and is also a recognized speaker within the industry.

Why Every Health Club Needs to Embrace Technology

The Prevalence of Technology

It has become cliché to say, “Change is here!” The health and fitness industry is in the midst of a technological revolution, which can be attributed largely to the way clients consume fitness and health information.

In recent years, there has been a tremendous influx of new clubs, new brands and new forward-thinking entrepreneurs with fresh and innovative business ideas. They have reinvented old tools and outdated business models to make them new. This innovation has enabled massive expansion in the fitness marketplace and created a highly competitive environment, which rewards innovation and foresight with financial success.

The Era of New Ideas

New technological opportunities for growth within the fitness industry include everything from the way an individual tracks their progress, to entire networked facilities. This includes wearable technology, which tracks every step of an exerciser's fitness journey, and the "Internet of Things," where devices and software are connected seamlessly to enhance user experiences. Technology has encouraged ideas that dissolve ordinary boundaries, challenge us to unlearn what we know about the industry, and think differently about our businesses. It has led to disruptive new business models, such as Uber and Netflix.

How clients consume digital information is relevant to all industries, including fitness. Tailor your offerings to align with the way consumers use technology for their fitness. Successful approaches are about risk and reward. In order to excel, take risks. Globally, there are about 150 million users of brick and mortar fitness facilities. The reality is these facilities are becoming less prominent due to technological conveniences. The industry is geared towards pure digital offerings or a digital hybridization.

Increasing and expanding consumer choice represents one of the greatest challenges of the fitness industry. The market is hyper-competitive and digital competitors offer convenience at a low price. Current business models are becoming irrelevant. Consider your facility and its offerings from the perspective of the consumer. Technology enables a better user experience by providing convenience at the consumer’s discretion, whenever and wherever they need it. This creates opportunities for entrepreneurs who are forward thinking in their quest to provide the best overall customer experience.

Don’t Fight the Tide – Swim with It!

Take into account the way consumers interact with brands. For hugely successful brands like Apple, Disney, and Google, embracing the digital trend represents a point of differentiation. They have become innovators by employing technology, encouraging strong performance, and bolstering their digital marketing and social media campaigns.

When embracing the era of new ideas, fitness clubs should have digital strategies in place that are customer-centric and enhance current operational structures. Customers want touchless luxury, including high levels of service and convenience. Innovative digital integration within your club can drive success, profit and user experiences. Wearables are still a nascent fitness technology and are sometimes misunderstood.

Twenty percent of the American population has used or is using some form of wearable fitness technology. Some wearables have been around for a long time, such as pedometers. Wearables fall within the Internet of Things – software and devices that connect together to create a more comprehensive experience for their users.

Groundbreaking Trends

As Scott Galloway puts it, “A common thread among retailers who outperform their peers is deft integration of online and offline channels.” This is equally true for the health and fitness industry.

The overall goal when making use of technology and digital integration services is to create a better user experience for your current and prospective members. The industry will grow exponentially by engaging and expanding audiences through apps, wearables, and personalization. By understanding the customer’s journey via collected data, you can begin to create personal experiences on a higher level. Technology supports retention efforts through engagement, which fosters loyalty.

Monetization – Virtual Coaching & Digital Services

Virtual training and coaching, as well as other digital fitness trends, can be monetized to create an additional revenue stream. Virtual training built directly into equipment is becoming common with many cardio equipment manufacturers. Gamification and feedback systems are commonplace. They encourage competition and goal setting, which helps create fun, unique user experiences.

Don't get left behind as the industry changes. To succeed, you need to understand the innovation business model, be creative in your programming and services, and identify unmet customer needs. Invest in technology and digital strategies, and this effort can and will drive monetary success for your fitness business.