According to a 2016 ACSM survey, the No.1 trend in fitness is wearable technology. Wearable technology is essentially a sensor built into a device that tracks physical activity to different degrees, typically communicated to a smartphone via Bluetooth — but it goes beyond that. Some technology tracks your sleep, others track how far you walk or how much concerted exercise you do. The initial question is: How do we turn this data into value for the user? The larger question is whether or not the commercial fitness industry can harness that value to create ROI?
Values: Wearables Provide Two Key Benefits
The first is “Gamification,” which is the use of game mechanics in a non-game scenario. Examples include goal setting, challenges, badges and status ranking. The way to enhance this power is to provide material reward or social amplification. Simply put, if the user performs a certain behavior, they are given an award of value or immediate public adulation. It is this immediacy of reward that plays into the habit cycle of Cue-Routine Reward.
From a club operator perspective, this can translate into more motivated members. They will visit more frequently and have a higher net promoter score, which also means they refer more friends, buy more product and stay longer. In one phrase: more lifetime value. That said, the challenge for operators is to engage their population in using their devices and incentivizing them with games. Games can include rewards for achieving levels, a “fun run like” challenge such as March Madness, or they can tap into a lottery scenario where the points earned can give the user tickets into a prize draw. These tactics all drive positive behavior across multiple populations.
A second key value proposition is diving deeper into insights of the member by having an understanding of key measures such as heart rate, calories consumed and burned, steps walked, hours slept, among others. It is the data that helps the trainers of our facilities to pass qualified comments. For example, they can use data to view heart rate recovery improvements, which is a lead indicator of a member’s fitness level. This insight helps the trainer show the member they are progressing or regressing, positioning the trainer as more insightful and more valuable.
Trainers just need to be careful when referencing metrics like sleep, as the question very quickly becomes, “Are you qualified to prescribe a solution to broken sleep?” If they are not qualified, they should stick to what they are qualified in. Heart rate and calorie counting are two prime examples. For those with the algorithms, value will extend to predictive analysis, which is understanding when clients are about to abort, and when others have a propensity to purchase more.
Whichever way you decide to take wearables, the key is to have a clear goal and a simple strategy that rolls out one phase at a time. Vendors with systems, marketing and ROI models are the best support.
Emmett Williams is the co-founder and president of the wearable technology brand MYZONE. He can be reached at 312.623.3759.