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(Editors' Note: This article is part of Club Industry's report, "Technology's Role in the Future of the Fitness Industry," which can be downloaded for free by going here.)
It’s clear we are in a period of rapid technological advancement in the fitness industry. New technology is rapidly changing how consumers pursue fitness and health and how clubs offer fitness. Although this new wave of fitness technology can seem splintered in its focus or application, it’s almost all centered around one main component: data.
Today, data collection is accomplished with unparalleled ease. The question isn’t when is a member’s data collected but rather when is it not collected.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software integrates with partner softwares to unify member data, seamlessly update staff with important changes to a membership or training agreement, and track member check-ins.
Wearables such as Fitbit, Apple Watch and the Samsung Gear Fit provide unprecedented levels of raw data. Daily steps, heart rate, calories burned and even changes in altitude are easily calculated and quantified for the wearer. This corner of the fitness market is only getting bigger as the technology breaks free of the wrist. Smart clothing embedded with data-collecting sensors are already available in a variety of forms. Soon, health club members will be wearing shirts that gauge muscle exertion, workout bras logging breathing rhythms and even sleepwear that emits infrared to reduce inflammation and aid recovery.
Even gym equipment is getting smarter. A number of tech companies are developing cloud-connected fitness machines. Smart equipment will be able to track a member’s progression from one machine to the next, providing a comprehensive view of their workout.
As tech grows in fitness, CRM software will become all the more important as a unified collection point for the flow of member information. CRMs organize and analyze incoming data and empower club staff to interact with members in more focused and valuable ways, such as tracking inactivity or early alerts to billing discrepancies.
Wearables offer greater accountability for members. Rather than simply believing they hit or came close to a goal set by their trainer, members now have hard numbers that can confirm exactly where they are. In group classes, some clubs display real-time wearable data on room screens as a way to motivate attendees and spark some friendly competition.
Trainers can combine data from smart equipment and wearables to form a holistic view of their clients. What parts of the workout led to a spike or a slowdown in heart rate? How long did the client spend on any given machine? This is a powerful tool to evaluate what’s working and what’s hindering progress.
Finding the Balance
Data presents huge potential rewards to clubs but also a new responsibility to properly manage this information. Data security is at the forefront of a cultural conversation about privacy in the modern world. To ease member apprehension, club owners should institute a policy of transparency and compliance in terms of data usage.
Transparency means remaining open and honest about data-collection practices. Membership contracts and training agreements should plainly outline what information the club will collect and how it will be used. Members will be far less suspicious of data collection if they understand how it is adding value to their overall club experience.
Club operators should strive not only to comply with governmental regulations on data but also the individual wishes of members. If gym operators ensure a member can opt out of certain aspects of data collection easily, then they reduce their risk of alienating membership or inviting litigation.
The Importance of Being Human
Tech innovations bring exciting new dimensions to the fitness industry, but what they don’t change is that this is still a person-to-person business. All the data in the world is useless if there isn’t a great team harnessing it to benefit members. Any great technology gym should be an even better people gym.
Kevin Talley is the digital content coordinator for Club OS. He has worked with club owners and staff teaching them to maximize the impact of the Club OS software in their businesses. He currently works to produce valuable content for the fitness industry. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (888) 812-2158.