The Four Business Outcomes You Should Consider Before Investing in New Health Club Technology

Woman on Mobile Phone in Gym
(Photo by Thinkstock.)

When your background revolves around technology, you may embrace the thrill of technology advancements but you don't often get so dazzled by them that you jump on every new gadget trend. At least that's the case with Adam Zeitsiff, CIO at Gold's Gym International, Dallas. Zeitsiff joined Gold's Gym in February 2016 after several years working for a variety of technology vendors in the fitness space.

Zeitsiff's vendor experience led him to be more thoughtful about new technology implementation than some health club operators might be. In fact, for him to invest in any new technology, that technology must offer at least two of these four outcomes: improve his club's operational efficiency; make his staff's jobs easier, more efficient and more engaging; increase an existing revenue stream or create a new revenue stream; and improve member experience and member engagement.  

"If it hits two of those four, then it's probably something you should be looking at as long as it's in your realm of affordability," Zeitsiff said. If it doesn't, then he recommends club operators wait until the technology is further along on the adoption curve instead of jumping on the bandwagon of change and disruption just for the sake of following the crowd.

Zeitsiff will share more of his insights about making smart health club technology investments when he presents his Club Industry Show session "Technology Train Wrecks: Tips on How to Avoid Making Bad Tech Investments" on Oct. 4 at the Hilton Chicago. The session is sponsored by Motionsoft. Zeitsiff is also speaking in the CIO roundtable at the Motionsoft Technology Summit Sept. 11-13 in Washington, DC.

So what type of technology might affect these areas for Gold's Gym and other club operators in the next two years? Virtual reality, artificial intelligence and mobile, digital fitness solutions, Zeitsiff said.     

"Of all those things, I think virtual reality is probably the furthest away because I'm not sure that we as operators really have our heads around—and this is the industry in general, not just Gold's—how virtual reality will work in our clubs, how are we going to make it effective, beyond just putting up a screen that shows various terrain when you're riding a bike," he said.

Artificial intelligence, however, is already making a difference and will continue to do so as it helps health club owners better understand members' buying trends and their attendance so health clubs can cater to those trends in a more automated and real-time fashion.

For digital fitness, or what Zeitsiff called "coach-in-your-pocket-type apps," he already sees businesses trying to disrupt in that space, so health club operators have to figure out how to leverage that technology instead of letting it disrupt their business.  

In the past five to seven years, technology has advanced to a point where it has also changed member acquisition and retention, Zeitsiff said. Growth in mobile technology has pushed acquisition of members toward mobile. Today, Gold's Gym has a mobile app partner that allows a Gold's Gym member to use an app to send a referral text to one of their friends, instantly giving that friend a seven-day VIP pass. That action adds the friend into the club management software so that if they come into the club to use the pass, they just show their bar code, check in and try out the club without having to speak to any person.

"If they love it, they can sign up," Zeitsiff said. "Their friend gets a referral credit and now these buddies are working out together. That wasn't available even five, six, seven years ago."

Member acquisition also has been enhanced as a result of digital advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

"Technology has made the advertising dollar stretch further, and that has really helped the acquisition side of things," he said.

Retention also has evolved due to technology, Zeitsiff said. Platforms now exist that assist health club operators in understanding the tendencies of their members, based upon capturing data about their attendance times, frequency, duration and their activities when inside the club.

"It can help you head off attrition at the pass, number one," Zeitsiff said. "Number two, technology has certainly helped engagement."

He points to push notification options on mobile phones as an example of ways to engage and retain members while also generating more revenue from them. Push notifications can let members know about a special going on that week or even that three spots opened up in the cycle class and they are being notified of this because they've attended cycle classes in the past and the app's beacon has alerted the club that the member is inside the facility at that time. Those beacons can also help the app alert a member walking by the smoothie bar that the club is offering a special on an item inside.

The risk is that operators may overdo the engagement with the member, Zeitsiff said.

"Obviously, the key there is to find that happy medium," he said. People dislike being bombarded with messages.

But Zeitsiff said that health clubs have a different kind of relationship with their members than many retail businesses do.

"It's more of a personal relationship," he said. "It's your body, it's your health, it's your fitness level, it's overcoming obstacles and achieving health outcomes. So as operators, if we don't take advantage of that too much, people will tolerate communication and engagement from us. And they will be thankful because it will give them some inherent benefit."

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