Connect or be connected: Key Take-Aways of the FitTech Summit: FIBO Edition talk about digitizing gyms inner workings
Successful entrepreneurs and founders of the fitness industry discuss digitalization and hardware and how especially the Corona crisis has accelerated this process.
Introducing the panel:
- Natalia Karbasova: Founder and CEO of FitTech Company GmbH and host of this talk.
- Henrik Bengtsson: Head of Sony Advagym working for Sony in Sweden since 2012 and prior to that in the Telecom industry for several years.
- Stefan Schade: CEO and Co-Founder of Trackbar, a Start-Up founded one year ago that’s aim is to digitize equipment in the gyms.
- William Schlichter: CEO and Founder of Actinate GmbH. The company is digitalizing the training experiences and how members can interact with the gym.
- Frank van de Ven: Vice President International at Life Fitness. He is working in the industry for over 30 years and already saw a lot of different technologies coming in the industry.
“During Covid-19 gyms realized digitalization isn’t just a marketing gimmick, it can literally safe a business.” (W. Schlichter)
Natalia Karbasova opens the talk with the question on how the Corona crisis has change the way gyms think about digitizing their businesses. William Schlichter has a clear opinion on that: “They were forced to adapt. For us as a young company coming in and trying to talk with gyms about that we’re helping them to transform into digitalization, there was this huge wall in front of us,” he explains. “Now having to adapt to the circumstances, has showed them that there is a benefit and helped us reducing the hurdles a bit,” William continues. On top he is convinced that the gyms realized just implementing something isn’t enough: “The expectations of the users are huge. They’ve had Freeletics, Apple etc. Just creating a livestream isn’t enough.” Frank van de Ven joins William’s opinion: “While everyone talks about the ‘new normal’, I have to say, I don’ believe in the ‘new normal’. The various players in industry, the technology, the aggregators were already there before. It just needed a crisis to shake the people and them to realize they need to transform.” Stefan Schade and Trackbar are working with gyms and personal trainers: “When Covid-19 hit, gyms focused on videos and live streaming. This was not our topic but it opened the topic of digitalization in general in the gym. So, it also made life easier for us as well.” He explaines that not only gyms but also trainers had to find a new ways to interact. And Trackbar was one way for them: “Trackbar is attached to the barrels, weights or equipment that is used and records what the athlete is doing in the gym. Through this data the coach can change the workout plan and make interaction easier and faster,” says Stefan. Sony Advagym, according to Henrik Bengtsson has a similar business model. They place sensors on the machines and also in the free-weight area to digitize them: “The hardware tracks the activities in the gym and connects to a training app. Also the gym can plan their business better as the hardware tracks the machines all the time,” explains Henrik.
“I don’t believe that trainers are expensive. I think they are way underpaid.” (F. van de Ven)
According to Vice President Life Fitness, Frank van de Ven there basically is no added value when going to a gym, when there is no trainer: “Research shows that brand loyalty is driven by creating great experiences. And you can create great experiences through the trainers.” He continues: “If you look at the amount of trainers versus the amount of members, it’s almost impossible to ‘entertrain’ all members at the same time.” To tailor the experience of the individual people training in the gym, Frank is convinced trainers need technology for. William Schlichter’s company is working on the change process in the gyms. He says: “A trainer in a gym isn’t there to show you how an exercise works. A trainer should become a center of excellence, someone who has information about health. A trainer should become more a service point, someone that adds an additional value, binding the user to the gym.” Frank proposes: “Maybe we should change the word ‘trainer’. Maybe they are rather inspirator or motivator. Trainer sounds so technical. This is what you now have technology for.” Natalia concludes: “In this context the word personalization gets a new meaning. The human factor and technology have to work together.”
“I think the ‘digitalization’ is not really a good word. It’s possible to digitize in so many ways. But you need to decide on where to focus.” (H. Bentsson)
When talking about technologies in the gym, Frank van de Ven points out that it’s not enough to just jump on it. Gym owners need to know why they are doing that, what their member journey is, what their customer touchpoints are: “How do you get a thumbs up and how can technology help you with that.” Henrik Bentsson agrees: “You can have a good web page and member handling system and all that. The focus should be on the problem that people go to the gym with a good intention but eight weeks later they leave the gym again and never come back. This is a problem, gyms all over the world have: How do you keep your members longer.” Henrik quotes a study among 10.000 gym goes in the US from 2014 that names two parameters of success. “Number one is that people need to experience progress when they go to the gym and number two is that gyms should interact with their members.” He is convinced that technology can help with both factors and help creating an even more personalized experience. Stefan Schade agrees: “Technology enables the monitoring or our gym goers and so we can integrate the interaction with them on a personal level. We can make progress happen by interacting with the customer on a personal level, target them and serve their individual needs.” Frank sums up: “It’s about creating memorable interactions with the members. They need to be personalized to your goals. If you want to lose five kilos, the gym’s communication to you should be completely targeted to that goal.”
“Every home has a kitchen, but still people go to restaurant.” (F. van de Ven)
When it comes to technology, William Schlichter is convinced that it can be used as significant motivator to the gym members. Stefan agrees: “Technology can be used for the relationship between coach and member, but it can also be used between members and members.” Everyone in the panel agrees on that the community aspect in the fitness industry is big. “It’s all about the experience, about the people. In the US only 14% of households are using online services, before Covid-19 it were 10%. This is still very low and so much potential. If we increase the pie together then everyone has a benefit.” Henrik Bengtsson points out that especially because of Covid-19 people want to be healthier and live a longer life. “The gym is the facility, but it’s also its members, that’s especially what we learned when the facility wasn’t longer to use during the pandemic.” Frank agrees and points out that the well-being wellness fitness market is just way bigger than the club market. For him the gym is “a meeting point, workout place but also a place for healthy eating, cooking classes, dancing classes and so on”. William believes is also the reason why the gap between premium and low budget gyms will become wider: “The premium gyms will probably also go more into health. They will offer well-being, recovery, coaching and really offer a full guidance to an advanced personal health.”