Data, Data Everywhere: What Should Health Club Operators Do with It All?

2018 Motionsoft Technology Summit
The Marketing Transformation panel at this year's Motionsoft Technology Summit focused on how social media has become a mainstay in marketing. (Photo by Pamela Kufahl.)

As technology has become a vital element in the success of health clubs worldwide, operators are collecting an increasing amount of data on their members. The question is, what should be done with all that data to help members with their goals, to attract new members, to retain existing members and to increase club revenue?

Those were just some of the questions asked at this year’s Motionsoft Technology Summit, Oct. 3-5 in Washington, DC. The event attracted about 150 vendors and health club CIOs, CTOs, CEOs and other technology-focused individuals.

This year was the fifth year for the Motionsoft Technology Summit, which included mostly panels on topics such as how to drive revenue with connected technologies, how home-based fitness is affecting the industry and some of the data innovations in the industry. It also included presentations by three technology-oriented startups in the industry: Yombu, upace and easalytics.  

The event was put on by industry software company Motionsoft and was sponsored by Matrix, eGym, Myzone, Silicus, Styku, Listen360, Tinoq, Reunify, Wexer and InTouch Technology.

The focus of the event this year was on how clubs can leverage technology and optimize member engagement to extend their reach and influence, but many of the panelists and attendees came back to the question of what they should be doing with all the data they were collecting.

“We are data rich and knowledge poor,” Ryan Masanz, chief technology officer at Anytime Fitness, said in the “Technology Summit Roundtable,” referring to the industry as a whole. “I feel like that is where we often are.”

Overcoming the feeling of being drowned in data starts with knowing where you are going, according to Raj Sareen, CEO of Styku, who was one of the panelists on the “It’s Not About the Technology” panel.

“You are always going to have better outcomes if you know what you are looking for,” Sareen said. “You have to have your hypothesis.”

What to do with the data wasn’t the only thing on attendees’ minds. Other discussions revolved around how to better engage members. That may start with learning how to better personalize the experience for members, including how to prescribe and recommend workouts. To do this, the fitness industry can learn from outside industries, according to Jeff Helfgott, director of strategy and business development for Excel Fitness Holdings, a Planet Fitness franchise group.

Nike bought lists of runners who completed races and sent congratulatory emails to each after the completion of their races along with a recommendation of a shoe that might work for their next race, Helfgott said. Finding a way to be as personal with members and potential members is key to personalization and engagement. 

"Everyone wants personalization. Whoever can do that well will win," said Paul Bowman, CEO of Wexer, when presenting on another panel about home-based fitness.

The ability to simplify processes was also emphasized, including making online sign-ups and club check-ins more frictionless. Anytime Fitness, for example, is working on ways to reduce the friction of access to their often unstaffed clubs, Masanz of Anytime Fitness said.

“We still have fobs to access clubs, but that kind of seems silly,” Masanz said. “You could have an app that just opens the door for you.”

The panel that garnered a lot of questions and interaction was "Is Home-Based Fitness the New SoulCycle?" Home-based offerings such as Peloton have been made possible due to three things, according to Garrett Borunda, director of member technologies at 24 Hour Fitness. First, digital storage space has grown to the point that you can put a lot more technology and capacity in your pocket today than in the past. Second, digital speed has increased. And third, the ability for connectivity to get information from one place to another has grown. 

"We have to find the opportunities based on those technologies," Borunda said.

One of those opportunities may be streaming or on-demand fitness. Lauren Foundos, CEO of Forte, and Ann Marie Barbour, co-founder of SoulBody, offer streaming group X classes. Both were panelists on this panel and both cautioned club operators against fearing streaming classes on-demand. 

Studios today bring in 42 percent of the industry's revenue, Foundos said. By offering on-demand classes for at-home audiences, studios can reach beyond the 30 people in the studio, and multipurpose clubs need to see that offering streaming classes will help them reach beyond their walls, too, especially when economic conditions eventually cause people to cut their studio memberships.

The fear that streaming classes will decrease live group X class attendance is unfounded, Barbour said, adding that clubs that offer at-home streaming classes have a 12 percent increase in live group fitness attendance. The reason? It might be that the streaming classes give these people the confidence to finally walk into a group X class, Bowman of Wexer said.

"We are seeing that on-demand [fitness] is having an effect on the 80 percent [of people who are not members of health clubs]," Bowman said. "The key is moving them forward on confidence. Don't forget about the journey. the journey doesn't start with walking into the club. It can begin with digital."

The next Motionsoft Technology Summit is set for Sept. 16-18, 2019, in Washington, DC. 

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