New member magnet on the club horizon
© FACEFORCE GmbH ELIAS conveys a feel for real training effects with VR.
At the past FIBO trade show five enterprises received the FIBO Innovation & Trend Award. Our page shows you the people behind the award winners. A member of this “award-winning club” is FACEFORCE GmbH. With the help of ELIAS it undertakes a virtual journey into the human body, revealing the effects of health-oriented training thereby creating an all new possibility for recruiting members.
Asking someone their reasons for showing interest in training can be rather awkward. After all, the answer is often clear at first sight – be this excess weight or body posture that already appears painful just to look at it. In future, you will be spared such situations. You can confidently leave the job of convincing prospective customers why training makes sense to your new colleague. His name is ELIAS and he is kind enough to ask neither for a day nor a weekend off. And if you’re worried about him taking your job. Don’t you worry – he needs you.
The idea: do away with mantra-type sales talks
“The challenge in closing a deal at a health club is to convince the customer to pay some money AND invest time and effort on top of that,” explains Pascal Braun. The former regional manager of three clubs knows what he’s talking about. It is up to the salesperson to bring home the benefits of all that work. Supporting them in this endeavour was the basic idea of Pascal and his business partner Dominik Weirich. Potential customers should not only hear what happens in muscle training but actually feel it hands-on. “Along the lines of the animation series ‘Once upon a time … Life’ we developed an interactive journey through the human body that makes the adaptation processes caused by training understandable,” explains the Master of Fitness Economy. Potential new members not only just sit opposite the salesperson and just listen passively. Instead they put on VR goggles and actively control what is happening. And this experience has a name: ELIAS – short for ELectronic, Interactive Assistant.
The implementation: setting a virtual framework for wishful thinking
At FIBO 2017 Pascal and Dominik presented the first prototype, which they had developed together with 30 project-related employees since 2015. “Since we founded our company in 2013 we have developed into what is now the market leader for online marketing for premium health clubs. The ideal underlying ELIAS was to bridge the gap between lead generation by our online marketing and the sales process on site at the club,” says Pascal. It took some time for the virtual assistant to leave its Beta-stage behind. “The software was ready to go but back then the hardware was not sophisticated enough yet to exploit the full potential of ELIAS,” the 26-year old remembers. In other words, the VR experience only became more focused and, hence, more realistic over the years. However, the product is not finished – and never will be: “All our customers receive updates on a regular basis so they can benefit from their virtual consultant long term. ELIAS is like a process that is constantly adapted and developed further.”
The details: simply let Karl do the work
As soon as the interested party puts on the VR goggles they get to know Karl – a 3D Avatar. “ELIAS uses Karl as an example to show how training impacts the body. The avatar explains for example how the powerhouses of the muscle cells are activated and how – in conjunction with muscle build-up – this positively impacts weight loss,” explains the CFO. After a brief general introduction the customer can specify their own focal themes: available here are health, fitness, back pain and slimming. “As a rule, people choose one to two themes that Karl then deals with in detail. When back problems are selected he sits at the desk with poor posture and shows how this affects the disks in his back – and how you can protect yourself against this through targeted muscle training with an experienced PT,” he adds. The complete experience lasts about ten minutes where the real consultant does not have to do anything. Incidentally, the tool is not only helpful for canvassing members but also for member loyalty. ELIAS can now even be combined with in-house 3D body scanning technology. “The HOLOSCAN establishes before-and-after measurements for specific body parts such as waist and hips. These results can then be imported to ELIAS. The potential member is then presented with their own body in full size – before and after.”
The locations: wherever healthy training is concerned
“ELIAS is firmly integrated at 30 studios. At FIBO 2019 the starting pistol was fired for a customer in Switzerland who runs just under 50 facilities and has successfully implemented online marketing with us for years,” reports Pascal. In principle, this feature can be offered at any studio with spare space of roughly 2x2 metres. “Most people using the system stand still or move a few steps in the room,” says the fitness economist. Movements are reproduced here one to one. If the person kneels down the angle of vision adapts to the virtual world, meaning that motion sickness – i.e. nausea caused by speed differences between the real and virtual environment – is ruled out.
At present, ELIAS is also booked for company events outside the fitness and health industries to raise staff awareness about corporate health measures. Such activities are (still) booked upon demand but clearly point the way to future fields of application.
The cost question: less than a trainee’s monthly wage
When a 2-year contract is concluded ELIAS is available for a monthly licence fee of EUR 229. Add to this the hardware. “This customer journey requires a powerful processor with a powerful graphics card. Plus the goggles with the controller,” says Pascal. By cooperating with the manufacturers, FACEFORCE gets special terms that they pass on with no margin. “We don’t want to make any money on this but just make sure our software works perfectly,” reaffirms Pascal. Depending on the selected option, buyers need to cover hardware costs of EUR 2,400 or EUR 3,400 net. ELIAS can be booked via the website www.face-force.de and onboarding as a club team member takes a week. His human consultant colleagues are briefed by a video conference. Additionally, buyers receive a script, marketing materials and permanent support from the FACEFORCE Team, a phone call is enough.
The future: a move and many ambitious projects
“Where do we see ourselves in five years from now? Definitely in a different building,” stresses Pascal. The company will grow, success will follow. “We want to become market leaders in the digital field and be perceived as pioneers,” explains the lecturer in Social Media Marketing in the fitness and health industry. There is no resting on our laurels at winning the FIBO Innovation Award (just rejoicing at it), research is constantly on going. There is already a version completely in English, other languages can be realised in no time upon demand. One of the big visions is to provide ELIAS with Artificial Intelligence. We should probably arrange a date with Alexa for him…