Taking on Technology Trends
Technology is all around us and is ever-changing. Because of this, it is vital as health club operators to stay in the know of current technology trends, one of those being club management software (CMS).
Travis Shannon, the former senior vice president of technology and finance for Leisure Sports and a technology consultant, has seen simplicity as one major trend.
“Years of development in club management systems have often left products or processes that are disjointed or inefficient,” said Shannon. “While there is a continual cry for new features from CMS solutions, there is also a desire for simplicity — making the products easier to understand and use. Can we streamline the technology to a point where it is transparent in the interaction between an employee and a member? Better yet, can the technology be simple enough to enhance the business and drive value?”
One way to make technology in your club simpler is by working with tech partners on open application programming interfaces (APIs).
Shannon said API integration allows companies to better align their technology to their business needs. “Open APIs will allow customer-driven change in the industry that could help further technology innovation across the board for fitness companies,” he explained.
Rick Caro, the president and owner of Management Vision Inc., agreed with Shannon and stressed how open APIs can improve the member experience.
“Right now, there are so many publicly available APIs that we want to be able to have a platform that can bridge all of those,” said Caro. “This is so the member who is onsite and the member who might want to do things at home while connected to the club have the ability to do that. Technology needs to be user-friendly and meet the needs of the member, and in order to do that you need to have a very robust software concept that really encourages API integrations at all levels.”
In fact, having user-friendly technology is more important now than ever due to COVID-19.
Caro said the coronavirus pandemic has been a motivator for the industry to propel its technology forward. The industry needs to think about more than just online classes. Clubs should also consider how to incorporate touch-free check-ins and how to make reservations available so members can reserve their time slot in the gym, for example.
“This is going to lead to an opportunity to have people plan ahead, and then have the club conform to the new rules in terms of attendance, distancing and being able to reopen at the right time,” said Caro.
Shannon agreed COVID-19 has sped up the trend of clubs creating digital content to enhance their membership offering. “Engaging digital content that reflects your club’s brand is proving essential to keeping in touch with the member base and hopefully bringing members back into the club post-shutdown,” said Shannon. “Interactive technology such as Zoom helps further enhance the digital connection with members in many ways plain digital content does not.”
Enhancing member interaction has been a common technology trend, even before the impact of COVID-19, both in increasing engagement but also in ease of use. Shannon said this trend is seen in integrating wearable technology, apps and websites to the member experience. “The overall goal is to keep in touch with members inside the club as well as outside, and make the experience stickier,” he explained.
One way to ensure you are keeping in touch with members inside your club is by embracing new technology. One new technology Caro recommends adding to your club is facial recognition.
“This allows us to understand what members do in the club after they get past the front desk so we can be more meaningful in terms of assisting them to have a fuller experience,” said Caro.
Having this technology allows your facility to track faces through the club. If a member goes inactive, you can talk to them about what they were doing at the club and woo them back. This technology not only makes for a great re-engagement tool, it also helps your members feel more valued and appreciated.
When deciding what technology trends to follow, keep in mind your members’ opinions matter. According to Shannon, members judge the technology from a club not based on other clubs, but on the technology they use from other businesses, such as when shopping for retail online.
“Members hold us to a standard set by Amazon or Target,” said Shannon. “CMS solutions often provide member portals or apps that act as our member-facing technology. CMS providers must enhance these to meet the expectations of our members.”
Caro echoed Shannon’s point. The goal of the fitness industry should be to meet the needs with its own technology that is equal to what members are currently using in their lives outside of the club. “Right now, in many cases, members would claim that what they’re using is better than what we are providing in the clubs,” he explained. “So, our challenge is to get up to speed so they can see us as their equal.”
Regardless if your club adds new technology, follows a new trend or just adds a few new features to your CMS, it is important all your actions improve the overall experience for your members.
“The best thing we can do is think about how to make things simpler and easier for the members,” said Caro.