In a recent post I shared my thoughts on the Uber Effect disrupting Fitness Clubs: Fitness Clubs Digital Disruption.
A past colleague and friend, Tom Colleary, read that post and asked, “What’s Next?”
What’s Next? I suspect many of the old school fitness clubs will see their membership rates fall, hurting profits, negatively impacting customer experience and subsequently continue the cycle of lost revenue and market share.
I thought about AND took an experiential approach to answering the “What’s Next?” question.
I asked myself, “If I were a fitness club, what would I want?” I’d want to:
Attract new members
Grow revenue and profit
I workout at one of those fitness clubs I refer to as “old school,” XSport Fitness. During one of the many snow storms that swept the greater Washington DC area this winter, I made a visit to the club.
During this visit I watched with acute attention to everything happening in the club. From how people came in the front door to the check-in process to where members went first, second, third. I also watched how they engaged with XSport Fitness employees and each other — or not. On that snowy afternoon, the area schools and colleges were closed, so there were a lot of young people mixed in with the somewhat-old folks, like me.
As I got my workout in, I observed everything going on around me. I also took a few extra long trips to the water fountain to see what was happening in the pool, gym and studio rooms. Admittedly, I don’t frequent the spa and tanning beds, so I have no experience on that side of the club. As I worked out and meandered around, I thought about how the “old school” fitness clubs could leverage digital innovation to better compete with the disruption that ClassPass and all the workout studios are driving across the fitness industry.
Disrupt or be Disrupted.
On check-in everyone hands their keys across the front desk so that an employee can scan a tag with a barcode on it that is the member account number. Interesting concept, but flawed. If the member doesn’t have their keys with them for any of many logical reasons, they have to show a drivers license and wait as membership is validated in XSport’s system. And, the poor people behind the gal that forgot her keys have to wait! At peak times, the checkin line can get frustratingly long. But hey, the library still uses barcodes too!
Everyone coming through the door has their keys in one hand and their mobile phone in another. Literally, everyone has their phone with them. The one thing everyone has with them is a mobile phone! hmmmm
I did some light research.
Looking at XSport by the numbers:
200,000 website visits a month
2,909 Twitter Followers
309 YouTube Subscribers
47 Facebook page Likes this week
0 mobile phone apps
I expect many of the other fitness clubs in my “old school” list would have similar numbers, but I honestly didn’t check them all.
Now XSport tries to be a bit unique (and digital) in that it advertises something called ActivTrax as “our revolutionary web-based technology creates customized workouts designed around an individual’s fitness goals, experience, and strength, and unlike any other program, uses the equipment available at your health club.” Funny thing about ActivTrax and XSport’s self published statistics is that at 200,000 website visits a month, if all their visits were members using ActivTrax, only 57% of their members are logging in to ActivTrax once a month through their website link! I may have the math wrong, but I can’t get the dots to connect here.
ActivTrax isn’t tailored to drive a unique XSport member experience. It’s actually a 3rd party solution that isn’t integrated into XSport’s website and doesn’t appear to have a mobile application either.
I digress! Back to the experience itself — After all the manual set up of “modules” and some data entry, I am ready to manually log everything I eat and do — IN A WEBSITE PORTAL that isn’t even XSport’s and doesn’t come close to a similar experience as XSport’s website.
I’m not an ActivTrax user and won’t be. I don’t carry a laptop and browser with me to go work out and I don’t suspect many members do. Based on my experiment and the data, I’m guessing ActivTrax doesn’t get a lot of use.
I WANT my fitness club DIGITAL EXPERIENCE to be effortless, elegant and MOBILE.
I am not a highly demanding consumer, but there is indeed more that I want and that I think the Millennial’s might want too out of their XSport membership. (I know because I’ve asked my 18 and 16 year olds who are also members and their 14 year old sister is the next member of some lucky fitness club)
I think XSport Fitness, Lifetime Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Planet Fitness and even Equinox are missing a huge mobile opportunity. If they are working on it, they surely aren’t delivering it fast enough.
Minimum give me an application for my iPhone that:
Shows me the club locations available to me and uses the GPS capability of my phone
Serves as my membership card
Provides me the studio class schedule
Lets me check my membership
To even enter the digital age have that iPhone application let me:
Reserve a spot in a studio class
Get a friend a guest pass (referrals are generally good for growth)
Update my membership information
Review my account and visit history
To provide an outstanding customer experience that will drive retention, attract new members and grow revenues, have that iPhone application create an experience for me that lets me:
Set an appointment and pay for a massage, tanning and other spa servies
Be part of a social community at my club (location)
See who in my social group is at the club before I go and when I am there (location services again)
Share with my friends that I’m going to play basketball from 7-9 if anyone wants to join-in
Provide motivational workouts and even virtual trainers for those days I work out alone
Find me a workout buddy on those days, I want to be social and not work out alone
Connect me with members with like interests, new to the club or even new to the area
Book my personal training sessions and communicate with my trainer
Easily let me log my workouts and transfer workout information from at least the treadmills, stairclimbers and bikes
And lets get a little crazy here:
Advertising: That Advertising that is delivered to the HD TVs across the gym that is temporal during my visit, deliver it to my mobile device and make the advertising specific to my habits and interests. Drop me a coupon to the sports bar next door and tell me the Washington Capitals are playing!! Yes, even the fitness clubs can take advantage of data analytics to drive more revenue and the revenue of their affiliated advertisers.
Beacons: With beacon technology, the clubs could sense where I am in the gym and suggest workouts to me or even make me aware of new equipment, trainers or classes getting ready to start with room in them.
Okay lets go nuts:
Checkin: How about using the simple technology in my phone to check me in, without having to physically check in. The phone knows I am there, you can too via an enabled application.
Networking: Humans are innately social. Sure I go to the gym to workout and don’t like a lot of interruptions, but what if I needed a new dentist and I work out next to a good one every Tuesday night and I don’t even know it. That’s lost business for the dentist and a lost opportunity for me to upgrade my dentist. I know I know, I’m out of control now.
Net-net. I’m here and the Millenials are coming in force with their mobile phones. If I’m 46 and expect many of these capabilities via my phone integrated with my fitness club experience. What in the heck will the bar be for the digital millenials?
I do know this for sure. If someone puts a comparable fitness club in around the corner with a half decent mobile digital experience where the old Kmart used to be in Fairfax, my XSport stands to lose many a member and thus a lot of revenue.
I’d even likely pay a few bucks more a month for a digital customer experience, and that implies higher revenues for XSport.