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The Power of Extensibility: How APIs Can Separate You from the Pack Photo by Pro-Stock Studio/Getty Images Plus.

The Power of Extensibility: How APIs Can Separate You from the Pack

Application programming interfaces offer more value to your health club business than you may think.

The fitness industry has entered the age of interconnectivity. No one software vendor will meet the features your members demand and the systems your business needs to enhance the member experience. Undoubtedly, you have heard your technology teams talk about application programming interfaces, more commonly referred to as APIs? What should APIs do, and how do they set you apart?

APIs are tools made available by software vendors to enable integration between their applications and third-party systems. The value of APIs lies in the fact that they allow for seamless access to data as well as interoperability of features between what might otherwise be disparate systems.

Today, APIs have become a reflection of gyms’ digital presence in the eyes of consumers. More and more, your customers expect access to their information across products they utilize for their overall fitness and wellness management. These include systems often used inside your four walls ( i.e. MyZone and cardio equipment console login) and those they use outside ( i.e. Apple Healthkit and Peloton).

From a business perspective, the value of APIs is even more clear. Historically, waiting for one vendor to develop, test and deploy features has been challenging. We have all dealt with the promises of roadmap deliverables that never materialize. Conversely, APIs allow for faster innovation and shorter time to market allowing you to more easily adapt to trends or business functions that your business demands. With APIs, barriers to change are reduced and more people can contribute to an organization’s success. APIs offer two-fold benefits: the company can create better products and it can stand out from the competition.

So what’s the catch? Most software vendors in the fitness industry claim to have integration capabilities, but there are some “gotchas” that you should be on the lookout for.

First, make sure you understand the differences among integration tools. API has become a ubiquitous word that is often tossed around. As a general rule, an API is a real-time integration between products. Conversely, you may opt to use data extracts for integration that does not necessarily need to be real time. A use case for the former would be converting a prospect from your lead management system to your billing system. For the latter, an example would be an upload of the general ledger from your billing system to your accounting system.

Second, ensure that you understand any fees that you may need to pay for API access. The reality is that any communication on a vendor’s systems has a cost associated with it, and the quality of the code that is written to support integration may have an adverse effect on system performance. As a result, some vendors have introduced metering to ensure that they are able to support third-party integrations. These costs can get out of hand.

According to Forbes: “How a business wins or loses is increasingly dependent on how well they connect to external party apps, devices and services.”

This is why, no matter how big or small or simple or complex, it is likely time to explore the value that system integrations and APIs can have for your business.