With the daily pressures of work, family and social life, it can be hard for consumers to go to the gym. Mobile coaching apps allow members to take their fitness with them wherever they go.
“Mobile training apps are an amazing way to open up new markets or market segments for your business,” said Sharad Mohan, the CEO of Trainerize. “And there are many different ways to make a mobile training app part of your brick and mortar fitness club.”
The option to track workout progress anywhere is also a great way to enhance the member experience. “Mobile coaching has some strong advantages,” said Josh Cherry, the CEO and director of franchising at Delta Life Fitness. “You can really drive engagement and accountability with the right software, apps or platforms.”
The first key to success is setting up mobile coaching to be a complement to personal training. From there, you can use that technology to drive member engagement.
The most common misconception about mobile coaching — or any virtual fitness offering — is that it will render personal trainers and fitness instructors obsolete. This is not true. In fact, both personal training and mobile coaching can reach their fullest potential when working in conjunction.
“While there is definitely a time and place for a 100 percent hands-off or low-touch training experience, digital fitness apps are at their strongest when paired with knowledgeable and passionate fitness professionals,” said Mohan. “Think of them not as a replacement for human contact, but as a tool to reach, support and engage members. That’s how you’re going to build the strong relationships you want with your members.”
Trainers and instructors should use mobile coaching apps like any other piece of equipment — as a way to help members push harder during workouts and keep them motivated outside of the gym.
“Strong tracking and gamification will help scale accountability and member engagement outside the club,” said Cherry. “Figure out a way to track data, steps, water intake and sleep, and then build leaderboards around those activities and display them in the gym.”
Creative competitions using mobile coaching are extremely effective, said Cherry. “Give out awards monthly for the clients who take the most steps,” he added. “Make it fun, keep it competitive, display the data. Everyone loves leaderboards.”
Another critical step is getting buy-in from your staff on mobile coaching as a complement to their services — as some trainers might mistakenly pit mobile coaching’s convenience against personal training’s often-perceived intimidation factor and high cost.
“There is still a consumer mindset that believes personal training is a luxury service,” said Mohan. “To break down that misconception and open your members’ minds to the merits of online training, you need to have your entire team on board and trained on marketing and selling this new kind of training. Train them on when and how to upsell, as well as explaining the ins and outs of how the service works.”
“Keep it simple and systematized,” said Cherry. “Like everything else in our clubs, if you make it too complicated or lack simple systems to make sure every client is engaged the same way, it is hard to control or keep up with.”
Mobile coaching technology should make workouts simple and fun — that’s the best way to engage members. And it helps if they’re used to the apps early on.
“Introduce members to the app from Day 1, as part of their membership,” suggested Mohan. “This gets them familiar with the platform and immediately opens up a new communication channel you can use to reach and engage your members.”
According to Mohan, free trials help build familiarity. “Provide members with a free one or two-week online training plan to give them a taste of personal training and introduce them to the idea of doing it online,” he said. “This starts your members off on the right foot and gives them a strong reason to keep coming back to your facility and consider purchasing personalized services.”
And it never hurts to add a built-in community for the members in the program. “You could also try adding a group to the app for new club members as a way to build a digital community and make your members feel more welcomed and supported,” added Mohan.
For all its usefulness, however, integrating mobile coaching doesn’t come without its challenges. As it’s relatively new to the industry, a common obstacle is simply getting club staff members used to the technology.
“One of the biggest challenges we’ve seen is getting the entire staff of fitness professionals up-to-speed on the software and consistent in how they’re using it,” said Mohan.
Delta Life has experienced this same challenge. “Consistency is tough,” said Cherry. “The challenge is getting your staff to focus on staying on top of technology — which really only helps back-end metrics such as retention — if they are struggling to hit front-end metrics such as shows and conversions.”
An easy way to snuff out this problem is educating your staff on how the apps work before rolling it out to members. It might even help to have your staff walk through the technology as you’re learning it yourself.
But once your staff learn the ins and outs of mobile coaching, it still might not come as easily to some older members.
“Another challenge is perhaps the way different generations use technology and mobile apps altogether,” said Mohan. “You can overcome this challenge by adapting the way you use the app with older clients.”
Ultimately, it may just come down to making things simple. “Try making their experience less complex by focusing mainly on the workouts instead of also adding groups, or start them off with in-person training before transitioning to online training,” said Mohan.
When you simplify mobile coaching, and make it engaging and fun for members, it will greatly enhance the member experience.