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Apps Offer Clubs a Conduit to the Member-Centric Experience

Technology is playing an increasingly larger role in the member experience. Clubs need a versatile mobile app that prioritizes the member experience and solves basic administrative needs.

Mobile apps have made—and continue to make—an indelible imprint on people’s lives. In August, IHRSA’s CBI magazine will feature a piece that discusses their benefits on a number of levels. In that feature, we’ll discuss the impact apps have had and offer statistics that demonstrate how society across the board has come to depend on them. Here are a few of the key data points:

As the “frictionless” consumer experience—one typified by the use of technology to streamline customer interactions and foster engagement free of barriers—began to take hold, mobile apps were the tip of the spear in that movement. Back in 2019, prior to the onset of the pandemic, IHRSA asked the question: “Have we made health club customer service too frictionless?” At the time, we noted, “increasingly, the human touch points that bond consumers to brands are being lost.”

Enter COVID-19 and a complete shift in the paradigm. Frictionless turned to “touchless” and a club’s ability to recreate these experiences digitally and virtually became the difference between those who thrived and those who struggled when clubs shut down.

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The Changing Role of Apps

During the pandemic, clubs moved quickly to utilize technology, keeping members connected to their facilities via on-demand and streaming fitness and wellness programming, and communication through email, text, and apps. The goal was, to varying degrees, to virtually recreate the in-club experience and culture.

Now that facilities across the country—and, in many cases, throughout the world—have reopened, we’re experiencing an acknowledged industry shift toward inclusive wellness that members can experience in-club, or out of the club.

“As we become less about the in-club experience and more focused on meeting members’ expectations on their own terms, apps are the enabler for clubs to create a more member-centric experience,” notes Kelly Card, Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C) board member and chief engagement officer at ABC Fitness Solutions. “A club-based app works on several levels, including putting more control over the brand experience into clubs’ hands and, through that experience, driving loyalty between the member, the club and its community.”

To Card’s first point, she notes, “We traditionally thought about member experience as an in-club experience. We strategically laid out these beautiful clubs in a way to optimize the member experience. Then, the pandemic came, and we had to quickly make that in-club experience digital. We’ve been talking about the ‘omnichannel’ experience—delivering fitness and wellness anywhere and any way the member prefers—for years and now it’s happening. Done right, mobile apps have the potential to take all the programming and content that’s been developed and powerful functionality to give clubs the option of optimizing them to differentiate their brand to meet their members’ needs and desires, from touchless check-in and choosing, scheduling, and actually taking classes on their devices, to purchasing products and services and managing and upgrading their memberships.”

As far as loyalty and retention are concerned, a club-branded app that delivers what a member considers the best of the brand experience is simply more powerful than a standalone fitness and health app.

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“There’s a plethora of good fitness apps out there,” relates Card. “In fact, I download them to the point where I break my phone. They’re hyper-personalized and self-powered, but without the access to quality programming and full-featured options offered by a club, that standalone app can be a lonely place—there’s no community. It’s easy to quit an algorithm. As members increasingly utilize their club-branded apps to access all the features they offer, those facilities become their go-to health and fitness resources. Those apps eventually become the center of the member-centric experience.”

An App Engineered to the Member-Centric Experience

Recently, ABC Fitness Solutions launched ABC+, an app it refers to as, “a seamless, integrated mobile solution for clubs to deliver and monetize new, fully branded services to members while creating deeper relationships both in and outside of physical locations.”

Part of the app’s goal, says Card, is to bring a new level of connectivity to the member’s fitness journey inside and outside the gym and help gyms adapt to the evolving fitness landscape.

“ABC+ is a single point of access for consumers to interact with their club,” explains Card. “It authentically expands the club brand into multiple aspects of members’ lives, and helps clubs cater to health and wellness needs on a broader spectrum. Unlike traditional apps, ABC+ allows clubs to curate and deliver programming including live streaming and on-demand content, behavioral and nutritional coaching, and motivational challenges across smartphones and wearable devices, such as Apple Watch. ABC+ also allows members to self-manage their accounts and payments, check-ins, class bookings and purchase new services at will.”

ABC+ offers a wide range of member-centric features, including the ability to:

  • Find, book, edit or cancel classes and appointments

  • Purchase additional non-dues programs and services

  • Find the nearest location and view capacity at the club

  • Touchless check-in with a barcode

  • Access on-demand instructional videos created by the club or use ABC’s own library of over 1,000 exercises

  • Curate and deliver live streaming and third-party licensed content

  • Receive alerts and push notifications

  • Access habit and wellness coaching programs curated specifically for the member

  • Access nutritional logging, advice, and meal plans

  • Track workout progress

“The point,” says Card, “is that ABC+ gives members a powerful voice in creating the self-curated opportunities that drive their optimized experiences and result in increased loyalty to their clubs.”

To learn more about ABC+ and ABC Fitness Solutions, visit their website.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to IHRSA.org.