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You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Bryan O’Rourke, an industry expert, about technology trends.
What technologies should health clubs be paying attention to?
BO: Mobile, wearables and cloud-based member systems are three key technologies that clubs should be paying close attention to. Mobile app platforms are crucial in a world where a large percentage of members are using smartphones, and not just any old app will do. Mobile apps should enable a variety of functions like payment, scheduling and SMS features. Netpulse is a great mobile app service provider that delivers robust features and integrates with other services such as ABC Financial, among others.
Wearable technologies are a more difficult arena. First, the term wearables is really a misnomer. The trend is truly around sensors. The challenge for clubs is the wide variety of wearables available, inconsistent measurement reliability and varying platforms. Turn-key systems like MYZONE provide a solution that is more reliable and enables tracking activity inside and outside the facility. Members are looking for integrated functions with wearables and smartphones.
Finally, cloud-based operating systems are essential. They cost less than legacy systems and can deliver valuable capabilities. Collecting robust data on members and being able to process payment in a variety of ways is going to become more important. The ability to segment members, market more effectively and manage the business from an enterprise perspective will help operators focus on what is important for their customers.
Why do you think clubs have historically been late adopters of technology?
BO: All industries are behind the curve at various times when it comes to adoption. Whole Foods, which most would think is a leading grocery brand, has failed to adopt digital strategies. Their stock has fallen significantly in the past year as a result, because they have not adopted digital marketing, mobile applications and other digital approaches for their customers.
Given the rate of technological change, it is difficult for any business to determine what the right decisions are pertaining to adoption. Adopting too soon can result in efforts that do not work, while waiting to adopt can lead to missed opportunities.
In future years, how do you predict technology will impact the industry?
BO: The over-arching impact will be an expansion of the marketplace. The percentage of people using health clubs has remained relatively flat for years. Fear and intimidation are big reasons behind why more people do not join. Digital fitness experiences can offer people the chance to begin a fitness journey, without becoming a member of a club to start. The ability for consumers to have a variety of digital fitness experiences will grow general interest, and pave the way for more demand for what clubs offer.
A second significant trend will be the proliferation of new service models. Of particular importance will be the leaders most adept at delivering integrated digital and brick-and-mortar fitness experiences. Omni-channel delivery is key, as consumers want fitness on their terms.