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As technology evolves, we will see a major shift in how fitness businesses run their day-to-day operations. Some changes may surprise you, some may scare you, and some may seem outright crazy, but the future is coming, and you’re going to want to be prepared. So start now, get ahead of the game and watch your future business thrive. Keep an eye on these four game changers:
1. Personalized experiences. Everybody loves to think that an experience is personalized to them. A personalized workout plan, a custom nutrition plan, a group class instructor who remembers their name every week. It all adds up to create a customer experience that sets your fitness business above your competitors' business. The idea that personalization is a must-have is going to be amplified as technology evolves. With more resources at their fingertips, consumers are expecting a highly personalized experience.
It used to be that you had to talk to someone face-to-face or see them in your gym every day to create a personal relationship. Now, you can know someone's name based off their sign-in code or keycode. You can see how many classes specific people have attended and send emails or text messages based on their actions within your gym. This is what we can do now, so in five to 10 years, you can expect to be showing up in people’s in-home appliances, workplace, cars and more. Even fitness machines will be much different in five years. We expect to see each machine personalize to a person with a simple code or face recognition. It will automatically add their rack weight and track progress from machine to machine. The ultimate personalized experience will touch every aspect of your gym.
2. Automation. The value of automation for fitness businesses has already been proven, but the power of automation will skyrocket within the next five years. Currently, you can automate follow-ups, marketing emails and more. Five years from now, you will see a major shift in the sales process in its entirety. We expect to see a major shift to online contracts that are automated at every level, automatic check-in processes that happen as someone simply walks in the door with a barcode or cell phone, and smart technology that tracks behaviors to create automatic marketing emails. Automation will play a major role in how your fitness business changes and becomes more efficient.
Another possibility is the increase of “bots” when it comes to customer service and other interactions. This type of automation also includes some personalization as the pieces of software offering this type of automated chatbot service will need to be incredibly adept at providing customized service. They’ll need to know who they’re talking to, what that person is having trouble with, their prior experience with your business and more. Right now, trying to use a bot to provide real-world customer service isn’t a reality. Yes, some companies are trying this, but it’s not yet at the level where fully automated customer service chatbots can provide the same level of personalization and customer service as a human.
3. Virtual reality. Would we really be talking about evolving technology if we didn’t mention virtual reality? Sure, it’s a buzzword right now, but it’s already making its way into the fitness industry. The value of virtual reality is in your fitness classes and selling your gym. You will see a big push for virtual classes, virtual personal training and virtual meal planning. Members will be able to carry their gym experience wherever they go. There is also a huge value opportunity in virtual reality tours of your gym. Just like Google 360, where you can see the inside of a gym, you could do the same thing with virtual reality, creating a visual sales process.
When we say virtual, that doesn’t necessarily mean from home either. What if you didn’t have a teacher for a class at the last minute? You could now use a virtual teacher in your gym, maybe even a celebrity. We strongly believe that consumers will still want to be in the gym, if not more than ever, so view this as an in-gym experience.
4. Personal touch. All of these things make your sales and marketing process smarter, but they mean nothing without an in-person, face-to-face touch. You may be able to automate the sales process and virtually run your group classes, but people will still want to come to the gym to work out. It’s rare that people have the money, space or ongoing inspiration for an in-home gym, and for now, technology can’t change that. Your entire business is going to revolve around the in-gym customer experience, making it the most personal and motivating environment that your members have seen.
This article was included in Club Industry’s 2018 report, “Forward Five Years: How the Fitness and Wellness Industry Will Change.” You can download the full report for free by going here.