Wearables & Data: The ‘Smart’ Gym Is Here

What will the latest advances in mobile applications (apps), streaming, and wearables mean for the way members track their progress?

Leveraging the right technology in your (small, medium or big) fitness business can put more customers more in control of their health and fitness, and provide personal trainers (and their managers) with increased efficiency.

In the gym membership of the future, researchers and industry commentators suggest the following will become standard:

  • Remote coaching.
  • Streaming workouts at home.
  • Highly targeted recommendations from wearable data.

There are already a number personal trainers and businesses offering these services, but they are not standard across the industry – yet.

According to Mintel, a market research firm, in 2017 around four million fitness trackers had been sold in the UK alone, up by 18% on 2016. According to Statista and eMarketer reports, in the US one in six consumers currently owns a wearable – up to 1 in 3 in the 18 to 34 year old population.

According to some industry commentators, wearables have made the ‘average’ person more interested in hitting fitness targets.

From a business perspective:

  • Features/Benefits:
    • Selling remote-coaching packages that include offerings such as:
      • Trainer text check-ins; and
      • Access to the member’s full week of activity both in and out of the club.
    • Consumers/members may be getting a lot of data from their wearables, but they may not know what to do with it or even how to extract and conceptualise it.
    • Staff can be the ‘go to’ people who will let consumers/members know what all that data means.
    • Members will begin to feel more personally engaged with their gym (which could lead to increased retention).
    • Group exercise areas could be recording workouts for people to stream at home at their leisure.
    • This could also draw in consumers who may be wary of gyms.
    • Wearables could enable businesses to lure non-conventional consumers, for example, dog walkers.
      • This group may not desire the physical presence of a personal trainer but could accept the online presence of a personal trainer, for example.
    • With apps, it takes less time to monitor a large number of consumers based on the way data is presented to the trainer.
      • Members can be sorted by age, name, scores, or last point of contact, for example.
    • ‘Smart’ weight machines that store members’ previous routines and take into account their biometrics may encourage them to add a few pounds of resistance to prevent a plateau, for example.
    • Gamification of workouts and exercise is coming to the fore.
      • Competitions between members, friends and/or co-workers is becoming more commonplace.
  • Advice & Guidance:
    • Data may show that a member is starting to do more of their cardio training outside and, perhaps, their trainer could bring them in suggesting they get back to their strength/resistance training routine.
    • Pulling consumers back into the gym while also valuing what they are doing elsewhere.
    • G2 Crowd, a Chicago-based research business, suggests that professional advice and accountability are still a major draw for consumers serious about improvement.
    • Trainers can look at their member’s data with a view to suggesting improvements etc.
    • Trainers can more easily view their members as individuals, which can aid retention.
  • Platforms/Products:
    • NudgeCoach, which is white labelled for each gym that uses it, lets a trainer monitor 200 people with an hour and a half of work a week.
    • FitCloudConnect can collect back-end data about who is doing what classes at what time of day.
    • Life Fitness teamed up with VirZOOM, a maker of virtual-reality (VR) games, to retrofit upright and recumbent bikes with virtual reality technology.
      • They have hosted competitions at select fitness facilities.
      • Games include multiplayer games like traditional cycling, horse racing, F1 racing, tank battles, and even flying on the back of a Pegasus.
  • Costs:
    • Basic costs around integrating options is in the setup of the health-coaching platform, which should include messaging capabilities.
    • Streaming options are relatively inexpensive.
    • New equipment comes out at such speed now, and their buying cycles might be increasing for hard good products (that is where a lot of the cost is going to come from), that it can be difficult to see which ones to invest in first.
    • VR is becoming smaller, lighter, easier to wear, and cheaper.
  • Return of investment (ROI):
    • Facilitating more consumers in the facility who would not normally be comfortable in that setting.
    • Experiencing a class at home could intrigue some consumers into coming into the physical club, eventually.
    • Maintaining consumers who may be at risk of cancellation.
    • Increasing consumer engagement.
    • Selling wearables, or at least offering the consumer/member a chance for their trainer to access its data, could be a huge revenue generator.
  • Future Tech:
    • In addition to smartening up physical clubs for members, efficiency-boosting tech for club operators also is here with more on the horizon.
    • For example, already, some broken machines, a common consumer complaint, diagnose their own problems, and equipment integrated with cloud-based software sends out an alert and prompts a swift call to the right vendor for a replacement part or scheduled maintenance.
    • Another common complaint, key cards, will give way to other check-in systems, such as fingerprint or facial-recognition check-in software, leading to fewer people passing themselves off as a friend to use the club.
    • INTEL has an overview of what these and other options might look like.

Things to consider:

  • Consumers experiences outside of the physical gym area need to evolve so they can take advantage of a mobile, cloud-based, and in-gym combination membership.
  • Wearables, and the data they collect, is about developing a relationship, not pushing consumers out of the gym!
  • It is a gateway, and different to just uploading a video to YouTube.
  • Technology can give physical gyms context. It does not replace the quality of a trainer but will use machines as an asset – resulting in fewer injuries.
  • More people are becoming more interested in being proactive in ways to be healthier and, although the common place to go for that is still a physical gym, technology can provide several ways to bolster the ways consumers can feel they are being well cared for.
  • The gym experience has been on a plateau for a while and, overall, the customer experience has not changed a whole lot.
  • If consumer felt like their gym had context about who they are and what they do and could provide them with affordable resources to use to accomplish their goals, there could be higher levels of gym loyalty.
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