Leisure Management - Getting upgraded
The pandemic brought business as we knew it to a standstill. But not for long. Software
companies were quick to provide solutions to help clubs adapt and now these are here
to stay. Suppliers tell HCM how the pandemic is changing the industry for the better
The pandemic forced numerous brands to fast forward their digital/on-demand programs.
The biggest opportunity the pandemic created – if I could describe it like this – was the mindset of ‘what have you got to lose’ for health clubs. The one thing I have always read is that ‘it’s better to fail than to never try’. Even when you fail, you learn.
The pandemic forced the hand of a lot of operators who thought their members would not like booking online, or would not be comfortable booking their swimming lanes or classes. Certain brands had already made their mind up that their membership base would not be comfortable using apps. The key is, you don’t really know until you try.
Brands would say members preferred interacting with staff. While that may be true on some level, for customers, managing their gym use online proved far more convenient. What brands discovered was that member satisfaction increased. Members were now in control of when they could book certain activities, book swimming lanes and be almost guaranteed a great experience as clubs would use their software to control the capacity.
Think about how you watch TV, you choose what you want when you want – very much the Netflix generation – convenient and simple. As a business we saw a huge demand for more options online. It showed that you do not lose the human interaction.
The pandemic forced the hand of a lot of
operators who had previously thought their
members would not like booking online
The pandemic has changed the way we act, the way we interact and more importantly, the way we engage in a virtual world and gym software has had to transition quickly to meet the need for a socially distanced experience.
In a world where there is still uncertainty, Core’s features flex to a business’s needs and we are now seeing new, flexible memberships, such as pay-as-you-go, as well as an increase in data streaming to ensure marketing is closely aligned to the user experience.
There has also been a noticeable uplift in features that enable a fully contactless experience, such as fast track entry and access control for hygiene safety and the ability to track and trace members who utilise the facilities.
The ability to complete medical consultations prior to arrival and the use of digital signatures support this contactless experience.
uplift in features
that enable a
Software has evolved to extend more support to members / photo: Premier Software
In the past 18 months we’ve seen an overall 25 per cent increase in on-demand content being consumed. Live online classes have been essential to maintain member engagements throughout lockdowns.
However, we’re seeing a consistent decrease in the number of weekly live classes being streamed (down to 6 per cent of weekly classes held globally). This indicates that operators see the importance of complementing their in-person experience with on-demand content that members can consume at their own convenience.
Operationally, the pandemic has heightened the importance of capacity management solutions and no-touch check-in tools. We’ve also seen a shift in how operators are looking for alternative ways to engage and ultimately other ways to monetise their member base, for example, personal training and membership add-ons such as nutrition.
We’re seeing a consistent
decrease in the number of weekly
live classes being streamed
No touch check-in is a feature of Glofox
/ photo: Glofox
Digital solutions have become the main differentiator in the market. Operators now need to successfully integrate a digital offer and deliver an out-of-club experience on a par with an in-club experience.
Access to branded, community-focused fitness content any time, anywhere is the new baseline in consumer expectation and as operators have started to generate revenue again, an ability to instantly access operational and financial performance data has been critical to business recovery.
The right software solution enables the extension of brand reach beyond the physical walls of a facility to keep members connected directly to a brand’s support, culture, services and community at just the touch of a button. This extended, wraparound provision helps operators justify membership fees despite physical access restrictions, maintaining a valuable income stream.
Meanwhile, the wider introduction of digital functionalities such as live streaming, virtual PT sessions, online marketplaces, personalised messaging via a dedicated in-app channel, all ensure members stay connected, unrestricted by location and are an absolute must-have for any gym, studio or operator.
The right software
solution enables the
extension of brand reach
beyond the physical
walls of a facility
Offering digital services helps clubs to better justify their member fees / photo: Fisikal
One of the biggest shifts across the population over the last 18 months is the adoption of technology with a further focus on self-service and agility. The positive news is that the fitness industry has definitely followed this path.
Like everyone, I’ve been able to reflect on my personal priorities, carbon footprint and how I spend my spare time. Dual or hybrid membership and streaming solutions are clearly part of the future now that most gym-goers have been able to create a home setup. My team has been able to adapt quickly, allowing our partners to offer streaming services.
Moving forward, I can also see that health and wellbeing, community and direct connections with loved ones will be bigger than ever.
Dual or hybrid
clearly part of
the future now
Technology can foster more direct connections / photo: XN LEISURE
An exciting shift is at the heart of more hybrid approaches to fitness that seamlessly blend the physical and the digital.
One notable change in this area is in the use of online video workouts. Fitness providers can give their clients the flexibility to work out when, where and how they want. This improves engagement and positively impacts retention.
Another evolution has been towards a more enhanced holistic health offering. Where before a fitness business would focus on physical training, with the support of technology, clubs can now relatively easily add services such as meditation, sleep tracking and nutrition coaching, all integrated into one seamless mobile app experience.
The final advancement is around the approach to wearable technology, which has become integral to our gym experiences. Wearables can now be easily synced with club fitness apps, enabling instructors to provide far more personalised training and content. Being able to easily monitor a client’s health provides a far more complete perspective, informing realistic goals and the strategies to reach them.
There’s been an evolution
towards a more enhanced
holistic health offering, with
the support of technology
Wellness tracking complements workouts / photo: Virtuagym
The digital transformation that we see currently taking place in the fitness industry is an acceleration of existing trends.
We’ve observed that clubs that dropped contact-based access control and fully committed to using the mobile app for contactless entry saw member engagement go up to 100 per cent, resulting in more streamlined customer communication through push notifications.
By adopting this feature, clubs’ important messages are not only being delivered but also read by their members at higher rates.
When operating during the pandemic, one hurdle the industry had to overcome was efficient contact tracing. The ability to run a contact tracing report that can pull data of all members who have been at the facility with someone who tested positive was a must.
As the industry continues to face restrictions, mass freeze and capacity management allow owners to quickly react, freezing all memberships at once or remotely restricting both class and facility capacity.
Digital transformation is consumer-led and we need to meet, if not exceed, customer expectations for seamless and convenient interactions.
We’re excited to see the direction digital transformation takes the fitness industry and to support our customers as they evolve their digital offerings and use of software.
Digital transformation is
consumer-led and we need
to exceed customer
expectations for seamless
Communicating via an app can greatly boost customer engagement
Evolution Wellness Solutions
The pandemic hit shortly after work began on building mobile apps for our clients, Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First, dramatically changing the game. Suddenly, having a user mobile app to facilitate a safe return to the gym became critical.
Having a very robust platform such as Circuit allowed us to significantly fast-track the development build for these apps, catering to pandemic-related needs such as class bookings and gym floor access, and providing information such as which clubs were affected by lockdowns.
Instead of having to manage different platforms for different purposes across the value chain, we were able to leverage the benefits of our single interface to effectively support end-to-end membership administration and management.
Because Circuit has been built for scale, besides ensuring the digital hygiene factors were in place for a new operating model for clubs, we were also able to rapidly deploy third party services, enabling members to connect to new digital experiences via the apps, such as virtual classes and virtual PT.
We’ve created a one stop shop platform for our clients and their members, both in-person and online, and brought all the data into one central place, allowing all teams – whether in-club or part of the support function – to understand behaviours and personalise communications and services to members’ needs.
Fast forwarding, we want to further build on our omnichannel communications, keeping all types of users connected.
We’re able to rapidly deploy third party
services, enabling members to connect
to new digital experiences via apps
During a stressful 18-months, Quoox customers have understood the need for a cohesive approach towards content delivery, with our member microsite, Fitness Hub, providing a central place where members could access all their wellbeing services.
While many facilities found themselves needing to subscribe to multiple software products, Quoox’s unified approach, along with our clients having their own curated Fitflix video channel and Xrcize on-demand programs as part of our core platform, provided a smooth transition for members between different methods of program consumption.
Recent times should have caused pause for every provider in our industry, along with a renewed evaluation of our collective purpose and responsibilities. For Quoox, this has included revising our core product pricing to make it accessible to all – providing tools and resources to help our customers thrive – and a longer-term commitment to the environment, with the planting of a giant sequoia grove in Abergavenny, Wales.
We are proud of the resilience that our clients have shown through their hard work and stamina in traversing a difficult time, and it is now that they will start to reap the rewards for their efforts.
We’ve revised our core product pricing to make it accessible to all
A giant sequoia grove is a new Quoox initiative for the environment / photo: quoox
The pandemic accelerated the evolution of technology and digitalisation in our industry. The momentum towards a much more digitalised and connected workout environment was already building – COVID-19 just forced us to move more quickly.
We found that even studios and clubs that hesitated to provide online offerings in the beginning, quickly appreciated the fact we integrated solutions to provide virtual classes and keep revenue streams flowing.
Also, it became state-of-the-art to offer flexible workout opportunities – whether in the gym, at home or on the go. The usage of our MySports app, which gives operators the chance to provide their members with individual on-demand workouts, increased dramatically during the lockdown and will stay popular in the future. The app as the digital extension of gyms also serves as an additional communication channel to build a community and loyal member base.
We also noticed a change in members’ booking and purchasing behaviour. They now tend to prefer self-service opportunities and digital membership signings via the website or app. This is why a professional online presence that stands out is increasing in importance. Especially because gyms nowadays need to compete in a market that also includes players such as Apple, Google and Peleton with their fitness offerings.
In order to support our customers with this challenge, we developed easy-to-implement, professional and completely customisable landing pages that are fully integrated with our gym management software and make lead generation and online conversions easier than ever.
Members now tend to prefer self-service
opportunities and digital membership
signings via the website or app
|Originally published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 11