The past year the industry has seen a dramatic shift in the perception of fitness technology and the need for clubs to achieve digital transformation to benefit their business and their members. In a 2021 study, over 74.5% of surveyed operators said they plan to make technology investments in their fitness or health facilities by the following year.
Fast forward to 2022, and a follow-up study shows progress toward those ambitions has fallen short: 95% of respondents say they still have work ahead to digitalize their offering, and 77% state they have done little or nothing to digitalize their club. So, operators want to digitalize their clubs and services but don’t actually implement their plans.
What is preventing operators from tackling their digitalization goals? Here are the main reasons:
Lack of Knowledge
The profile of a club operator is rapidly shifting. Previously, a sports scientific background and workout knowledge were paramount. With many ex-trainers becoming club founders and operators, the future profile is more resembling that of a chief technology officer or a tech company CEO. Operators are facing a sharp learning curve to understand the ins and outs of tech platforms, formulate a tech strategy and implement it in their clubs.
Lack of Resources
With inflation, a supply chain crisis and increasing competition, costs are going up. Many clubs were already operating with low margins before the economic downturn and are struggling to stay afloat. Funding their digitalization plans has been challenging, subsequently stalling the implementation of their ambitions.
Lack of Trust
We’ve seen many trends come and go in this industry. Each time, you were told this is the holy grail, the silver bullet, the game-changer. But not all of these trends have delivered on their promise and trust has eroded. With many suppliers hopping on the buzzword bandwagon of connected, smart and integrated, operators are often left with uneasy feelings about where to place their bets. The confluence of the above has led many clubs into a sort of emotional stalemate. To help you get moving again, here are some questions you should answer to help weed out the hucksters and identify solid tech partnerships to grow your business.
- Are They Real Partners? Many providers will try and wow you with endless features and functionalities. But will they be a strategic partner accompanying your club from goal setting to concept development, implementation, launch and post-launch support? If they don’t check all those boxes, beware, there is a lot of effort being offloaded to you.
- Built for You or Built for Them? A good partner will listen to you before proposing. How often have you been stuck in a conversation where you feel the sales team is trying to reconfigure your business around their solutions, not vice versa? A good tech provider will enable you, not try to force you into a rigid solution. And watch out for single vendor solutions. They might promise you convenience, but they limit your options to design your club around a technology platform that supports your business model.
- Do They Understand ROI? Stop looking at solutions in terms of cost and try to evaluate them by ROI. A good provider can connect their business value with your economics so you clearly understand what the upfront cost is, what operational costs look like and when you will start benefiting from the solution on a financial level. If the conversation gets vague when you start talking money, consider it a red flag.
These are just a few starting points to help you build confidence in evaluating potential tech partners. One thing is clear. Other club owners are not sleeping and instead are seizing the opportunity to get a head start on their competition in the digital transformation race.
Are you ready to join them?