Evolve or Get Left Behind

Let’s fast forward to the year 2020. As the growth of apps and technology explodes, classic brick-and-mortar businesses, like health clubs, get increased pressure to evolve or get left behind. There have been huge leaps forward in club technology in the past year alone: Social media is mainstream, mobile is rapidly on the rise and more than 25 percent of health club members are sporting a wearable device.

Make no mistake ­— technology trends will be game changing for the industry. New business models will emerge, and operators that are energized to innovate will become big winners.

Let’s take a look at the five major changes fitness clubs will go through in the next few years and what a successful club could look like in 2020.

The Business Model: Services like virtual training have become increasingly popular in recent years, and today’s health clubs are starting to expand their digital presence as a result. Going forward we’ll see more gyms offering a digital and physical hybrid of training features and amenities, as technology will become a pillar in the business model. Consumers will have options to purchase services on an “a la carte” basis, perhaps maintaining their ability to go workout in a club, but receiving personal training virtually through the club’s mobile app.

The Personalization: The key to enhanced personalization is the availability of data. As we use more smart devices (wearables, apps, etc.), we are producing a tremendous volume of data. This data can be used by clubs to create highly personalized experiences, tailored to the specific tastes and preferences of a member. By 2020, we should expect new tools that give club operators easy access to this mountain of data, making it actionable for better business decisions and customized member experiences.

The Wearables: Wearables are now growing at a 35 percent annual compounding rate. That means by 2020, nearly 200 million units will be shipped. The smartest club operators have already begun integrating wearables into their programs, leveraging their mobile app to connect the tracked workouts that happen outside of the club through fitness challenges and rewards programs.

In 2020, nearly every successful club will have it’s own app that integrates with the variety of other technologies that members and staff utilize on a day-to-day basis.

The Internet of Things: We’re all familiar with the often tedious process of regularly replacing cardio equipment, dealing with malfunctions and replacing parts. This often results in the club having to put an “out of order” sign on a machine, annoying members and reducing the availability of machines on the floor. With these machines joining The Internet of Things with online connections, they can begin to automatically communicate with club management and the manufacturer, identifying opportunities for asset optimization as well as preventative maintenance.

The Optimization: All of the new technology and data available gives club operators an exciting opportunity to fine-tune and optimize their business. Sensor technology can deliver precise, real-time metrics on how many members are in the club at once, using which machines and attending which classes. This can be combined with innovative business models like pay-as-you-go pricing to market unique offers that fill the right classes at the right times. Pricing will become dynamic and customized based on the data we have about the consumer or other variables like month or season.

Greg Skloot is the vice president of growth at Netpulse in San Francisco, California. He can be reached at gskloot@netpulse.com or visit netpulse.com.

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