• 13 – 16 April 2023
  • Exhibition Centre Cologne

13 December 2021, by Andreas Bechler

Do I need my own App as a fitness club?

Having an App for your own fitness club? Easier today than one might think. But what needs to be considered and is it the right way for every club?

The pandemic has moved topics up the agenda for many club operators which they would probably have liked to put on the backburner. One such thing is a dedicated club App. As with so many things related to that big buzzword “digitalization”, an App also goes hand in hand with a certain degree of technical “literacy” that you have little time to acquire. The pandemic, however, has shown that the benefit can definitely outweigh the time invested. But does a custom-developed club App really always make sense? Are there any alternatives? Can having no club App be the right solution?


Your own App – not always the best option

When asked about an App for their own club, many club operators will initially think of an in-house developed App. The benefits are self-explanatory, I can determine how the App should be structured and which functions it should have. I can define design and other stylistic elements and have a great “sovereignty” about what I get in the end – all of this always within the limits of what is technically feasible.  


Developing or rather having your own App developed, which is probably the rule, is by no means cheap. You will probably not get away with less than EUR 5,000. and even this amount only covers the absolute basics. Considering requirements that are of enormous importance especially now such as booking training hours/courses via the App, integrated live streams or communication with the trainer via the App, the price quickly mounts due to these additional requirements. Beyond this, an App also needs to be updated on a regular basis, be debugged and probably live up to new requirements made by App Store providers. This is why a custom App easily proves unattractive especially for stand-alone and micro clubs because of its cost. 

White label Apps as an alternative

Especially in view of costs you should give some thought to possible alternatives. Since many fitness clubs logically have similar requirements of their App, there are, of course, also software providers that have pooled these needs making pre-fabricated solutions available. These are called White Label Apps.  


White label Apps are adapted to the branding of the commissioning company by the developers so that they fit the overall design of the company they represent. Depending on the developer you can also select the components of relevance to your own company from a range of different options. At the end of the day customers should not be able to see right away whether this is a white label App.


Needless to say, this option is less expensive than a proprietary App; many providers offer subscription models to make costs more manageable. Options with one-off payments are also possible but not really ideal because you are responsible yourself for any updates and maintenance and may have to bear extra costs accordingly again. During lockdown some providers even offered free use for testing.

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: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreasmbechler/

Drawbacks of white label Apps

You should, of course, not overlook the drawbacks of this option. The biggest problem here is that in terms of requirements you are “tied” to the possibilities that its developer grants you.  Once a feature has been programmed and released it is offered to all users of the white label solution. If too few companies used a specific feature, it would not make commercial sense for white label developers to develop it, and they would decide not to. Quality providers will, as a rule, listen to you and give a lot of thought to your improvement proposals, but if it is discarded you as a user of such a solution will have to put up with this decision. The only alternative would be a time and cost-intensive change of supplier. 


No App whatsoever - also a solution?

It almost seems like a statement from a different era but no App can in fact also be a solution. To establish whether this is so, studying your target group is key. Looking at statistics you will learn that App use declines as age goes up. Especially in the group of 50+ year-olds 72% state that they never use smartphone Apps.  For this target group App use is not necessarily the most customer-focused option.  


Seen in the long run, however, App usage should be rising in all target groups. This means it will also increase in importance among older target groups. So whether you want to play for time when establishing your club App or jump on the bandwagon early to immediately acquire some experience needs to be decided by each club operator individually. Over the short or long term, however, there will definitely be no way around it for clubs.  


Tips for establishing an App

Now you know about your two options available for implementing a club App in your fitness facility. Of course, there are still quite some obstacles in your way. To smooth your path I would now like to share some tips to take into consideration when realising an App.


1. Define the budget available 

A decisive factor for an App is the budget at your disposal. You should therefore decide how much you are prepared to pay for this from the outset. Here you have to stipulate not only the one-off initial investment but also the on-going amounts you are willing to pay. As stated above, an App does not only cause one-off costs for development or subscription but also running costs.  


2. Define your necessary requirements

Even before scouting the market for potential partners, you should lay down your requirements for an App. What does your club App have to deliver? Which functions should it have and which functions would be nice to have rather than must-haves? The compilation of these requirements is called a brief and will help you to select the right partner.  


3. For white label Apps: Look at the beta version 

One advantage of white label Apps is that they are “off the shelf” solutions. This means, it is possible to have a corresponding beta version demonstrated. A quality provider will not have a problem placing a demo-version at your disposal so that you can “play around” with it and try all relevant functions yourself. If the provider does not proactively offer this to you, ask him; after all, you want to know what you are in for.  


4. Ask you members to test the App

Whether you have decided in favour of your own club App or a white label solution, be sure to also get likely users of the App to test the solution before going live: your club members. Ask your members whether anyone wants to try out this App beforehand.  


These tips hopefully mean nothing now stands in the way of successful App implementation at your club. But always be aware: the App can streamline processes and increase service quality but it definitely does not replace quality support. Good support is still the be all and end all of a fitness club. Without providing quality support for your members as a basis an App is useless.  



Club Apps will assert themselves over the short or long term. There may be individual concepts out there that can really manage without them for the time being, but for the majority of fitness clubs there is no way around it. You do not always have to opt for a custom-programmed App to be used in your club. White label Apps can also be a low-cost solution for your club. In the final analysis, the requirements and the budget will primarily decide what is the right choice for you.  



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