• 7 – 10 April 2022
  • Exhibition Centre Cologne

22 November 2021, by Andreas Bechler

Leveraging Wearables properly in Fitness Clubs

Everybody knows them, many sportspeople use them but fitness clubs themselves still rarely deploy them. Learn how they can be established in your club. 

Wearables are increasingly visible in everyday life. In the COVID year 2020 alone 445 millions units were sold worldwide. Experts even forecast this number to rise to 632 million by 2024. This message has also hit home with the fitness industry. In the ACSM Fitness Trends such devices as fitness trackers, smartwatches, heart rate monitors and GPS trackers repeatedly ranked in the top positions. So people have the required know-how to use this exciting technology.  

However, despite this awareness the use of these devices in fitness clubs is still primarily customer driven. As a rule, customers bring their own devices, use them independently and have to interpret the generated data by themselves. Fitness clubs and trainers do not fit in the picture although the benefits for both sides should be evident.  

Why are wearables attractive for fitness clubs? 

The beauty of wearables is that there is something in it for any relevant stakeholder in the club business at the end of the day: the customer, the trainer and also the club / club owner.  Let’s look at the benefits together.

 

Customer Benefits

Considering customer benefits, motivation is the primordial concept. Training at a club may for some customers not be as motivating as for fitness professionals. Here tracking can be the remedy. On the one hand, it allows customers to follow their training outcome live. Calories burnt during the training are just one of the possible visualisations for showing customers their outcome live. However, tracking also makes for markedly improved evaluation possibilities in order to make training results clear to customers.  

Benefits for fitness trainers

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure“. This quote comes from Suchland of PRIME TIME fitness, which incidentally is a great best-practice example of the successful deployment of wearables at clubs.  It gets right to the core of the problem that all trainers face. Fitness club trainers cannot accompany customers round the clock. And their training outside the club is all the harder for them to assess.  

Wearables fill this gap allowing trainers to take part in the unaccompanied training inside and outside the club to a certain extent. This way the trainer is able to far better assess the fitness state as well as potential improvements achieved by training and to correspondingly consider these for planning further training. The quality of support increases.  

 

Benefits for club owners

An increased quality of service naturally also delights club owners and is also reflected in relevant KPIs.  The provider Myzone, for example, speaks of 24% longer training times and 33% more frequent club visits, which positively impacts added revenue and referral rates, at the end of the day. An absolute dream from the operator’s point of view. 

You could even say it is a win-win situation looking at these three relevant groups. As with most things though, proper implementation is needed to really turn this positive starting situation into a success.  

Andreas M. Bechler is an author, consultant, lecturer and podcaster in the fitness sector. In addition, Andreas is the spokesman of the “Arbeitskreise Fitnessbranche des VSD – Verband für Sportökonomie und Sportmanagement e.V.” (Working Parties Fitness Industry of VSD – Association of Sports Economy and Sports Management). You can contact Andreas via LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreasmbechler/

What should be considered for establishing this at your own fitness club?

Despite all the benefits described it is clear, of course, that these advantages cannot be leveraged if the devices are not integrated into everyday club operations in a meaningful way. This is why some general questions will now be addressed that should be taken into account by anyone who wants to implement this at their clubs. 

 

Question 1: What would I actually like to measure? 

Before giving thought to the type of wearables that might be of relevance for your own club, you should first take a look at internal procedures. What data would make sense for improved training support with a view to your own service concept? Your instructors will definitely think of some data that would considerably help them in supporting your club members. But you should not overdo it either. Especially in times of heightened awareness about data protection you are well advised to follow the maxim: “As much as necessary, as little as possible”.

 

This information now allows operators to approach the various vendors for initial talks. It pays off to discuss their respective concepts in detail and to ask for all relevant information. On the basis of initial “sounding out” like this, preferred vendors can be selected for consideration.

 

Question 2: How do I embed a wearable in my existing service concept?  

Another key question is compatibility with your existing concept as well as the associated processes and systems. As a rule, fitness clubs should already have a fully functional service/support concept. This should be used as a guidance. Never try to change your concept with a view to adapting it to the wearable to be used. This often leads to compromises on the service concept, a fact that regular customers hate to see resulting in a lack of acceptance right at the start. You should always stay true to yourself and your own concept.  

 

Question 3: How do I train my employees in the use of wearables and the data they generate? 

Once you have opted for a system and defined its use as part of your service concept, you have to prepare staff accordingly for them to deploy it at your own club. This endeavour requires a well-founded training concept designed to teach employees to properly process the data now available. Even though many trainers have been theoretically confronted with this data during their training data availability in everyday club operations still is an exception. This is why both initial and regular training of employees in handling this data is imperative for both existing and new club staff. This part should not be underestimated because if employees are unable to correctly interpret training data club members will not benefit from it either – the whole exercise would be completely pointless.  

 

Question 4: How do I encourage my members to use wearables? 

In the final analysis, club members must not be overlooked either. It takes a variety of measures on the technical, practical and emotional level to convince them of wearing these devices. This may be the last but probably also the most important step for introducing wearables in your club.

In technical terms members have to be convinced with good arguments why the use of wearables makes sense for them personally. To this end it is helpful to know about the motives that users themselves give for wearable use: documentation of training success, monitoring of body functions, personalisation of training and maintaining health. It is worth building your arguments around customers’ motives and providing your staff with that line of argument.  

In practical terms it should, of course, be made as easy as possible for customers to use the corresponding wearables at the club every day. This applies to handling as such but also to the associated training instructions. It makes little sense to instruct a club member to exercise at a specific heart rate. Here a different form of visualisation might be helpful for members to comply. The aforementioned best-practice example of the PRIME TIME fitness clubs has opted for colour coding. Members can always see in which colour range (coordinated with the heart rate) they are exercising on TV monitors put up in the entire club.  Depending on the desired training outcome they are instructed to only move in certain ranges while staying clear of other ranges if possible.  

On the last, emotional level members are to be motivated permanently so that the said benefits can really kick in. This already proves difficult for fitness training as such – something that every fitness professional has painfully experienced in their daily business more than once. Interesting models can be found in gamification. A scoring system that converts the work-out done into an outcome that can later be benchmarked against friends, acquaintances and colleagues, can prove a major motivation for club members. Or sweepstakes that allow members to win a wide variety of prizes for the scores obtained for their work-outs can incentivise members to complete the last few minutes on the treadmill in order to not fall behind in the ranking. The sky is the limit for emotional motivation measures here.  

 

Technical aspects also have to be catered to 

In addition to these fundamental questions there is also a series of technical issues. You probably have to define interfaces between the wearables and any existing training control software. Maybe you already have a customer loyalty tool which the results of the wearable can be fed into.  To avoid going beyond the scope of this article, these technical details will be excluded here for the benefit of a more functional approach. Nonetheless, they are equally important. It therefore makes sense to entrust either one staff member with the corresponding technical know-how or a third party with the required expertise with the implementation of such a project at your club. This technical component should not be underestimated either.  

 

Verdict

Wearables can – subject to proper deployment – give the club, trainer and members a push. This requires proper planning and clear processes that successfully integrate these devices into the given club routine. Once you have succeeded in doing this and convinced both employees and members of the benefits of this modern technology, you can create genuine added value for your club members and, due to the low use in fitness clubs, even stand out from your local market competitors with a real USP.  

 

 

About Hashtag Fitnessindustrie

“Hashtag Fitnessindustrie” is a podcast on the German fitness industry covering all its facets and actors. It aims to promote knowledge transfer between interviewees and listeners for the benefit of the industry as a whole. Current trends and developments are just as much part of this podcast as are basic, strategic questions arising in the daily business of fitness service providers. For more information go to: https://hashtag-fitnessindustrie.de