Digital Fitness Accelerated in 2020 – Now What?

Today’s health club members demand more from their workout experience, and forward-thinking club operators will need to take a more holistic approach to deliver a personalized and memorable experience. (Photo courtesy ABC Fitness Solutions.)

(Editor's Note: This sponsored story is part of Club Industry's report, "Fitness Industry Trends to Watch in 2021," which can be downloaded for free by going here.)

The pre-pandemic tailwinds that accelerated digital fitness are the same trends now driving members’ expectations. Clubs recognized long ago that operating without club management and billing technology would not produce the results members wanted. Forward-thinking clubs created offerings to meet the demand for digital exercise and found themselves ahead in 2020. The competition is catching up and addressing more holistic services through digital, including habit and nutrition coaching. What’s next? In 2021, a comprehensive approach to digitally delivering unique value is a necessity. 

Hit the Reset Button 

When you first thought about adding digital to your club as a value-add or a new paid package, you likely started with the member journey and experience. Members are savvy to digital-only fitness through options from Apple Fitness+ and Peloton to free YouTube videos. Expectations in 2021 are far higher than previous years. 

Consider if your additions reflect your brand and have made a difference to member loyalty. Do your members respond to personalized interactions and accountability? Should you focus on in-club tech and adding value for your personal training team? Your competitors also are assessing this, and you need to stand out. 

The Year of Force Multipliers 

Members crave a personalized experience, which hinges on a staff hyperaware of member needs. This is tough when staff turnover is at 50-70 percent, with the pandemic pushing many above that average. Your team is working with less bandwidth, while members have more fitness options. Are your digital options a force multiplier helping every team member be more effective? 

Your members believe in health and wellness, and community breeds engagement and accountability. Contrast this with their experience with their at-home stationary bike or an on-demand fitness class. Consider ways you can connect with them throughout their fitness journey and which digital programs deliver fitness and boost motivation. Whether through hosted challenges in an app, nutrition tips or an e-mail after a virtual group class, you are limited only by your creativity.   

Keep Adding Tech? 

If you are delivering value to members but putting hours of work on your front desk and back office to manage, maintain, secure and reconcile data from a handful of disparate software solutions, you’re creating undue strain on your club. 

The good news? Software ecosystems continually increase their level of sophistication and integration, but not all are created equal. Forward-thinking club operators will take a more holistic view of their technology stack’s impact on the bottom line and their ability to deliver an incredible member experience. 

To meet evolved member demands in 2021 and beyond, clubs must:  

  • Consider which digital engagement solutions truly bring value to members 
  • Learn how and where to implement technology to maximize staff effectiveness 
  • Look critically at the technology ecosystem to find efficient solutions 

Above all, be a core part of members’ daily fitness journeys from the moment they wake up. Drive this with a branded mobile fitness app, tied to consumer wearables and devices, to give members daily motivation to be active, inspire healthy food choices and influence positive behavioral change. Imagine if a club member wakes up, and the first thing their Apple Watch (with your brand!) tells them is: "Remember to have that first glass of water." This builds an emotional connection to your brand. Embrace optionality—beyond the ways you are a part of your members’ choices today, consider how to influence when and through what channels they engage with those choices.  


Sharad Mohan is the co-founder and managing director of Trainerize powered by ABC and the driving force behind its mission to make fitness accessible. As part of the ABC Fitness Solutions team, Mohan helps fitness businesses leverage technology to stay relevant in the digital age and engage people in new ways using mobile and wearable devices. Connect with Mohan and stay up to speed with fitness industry innovation. 


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