How Cloud Computing Can Supercharge Health Club Revenue

Tips to maximize opportunities through digital technology and bring your health club business to the next level.

Being told you have your head in the clouds used to be a mild rebuke. These days to not be in the “cloud” is to be hopelessly out of the loop. If you run a business, not using the advantages of cloud computing can put you at a serious disadvantage.

You’re likely already familiar with what the cloud is even if you’re not certain of its inner workings. According to Microsoft’s definition, “cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and more—over the Internet.”

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For health club owners, the elements of the cloud that concern them include apps, smart sensors, servo motor actuators, mobile devices, digital services, the entire Internet, and, more broadly, the Internet of Things (IoT). According to some estimates, nearly 5.5 million “things” are being added to the IoT every day, and, by 2020, it’s estimated it will host some 25 billion of them.

Everybody and everything is plugging into the cloud these days. This is especially true for the fitness crowd. According to research group Flurry Analytics, the usage of health and fitness apps has grown 330% over the last three years. Over 75% of users opened their apps two times per week, and 33% opened them 10 times per week. Many of these apps are connected to wearables and equipment that are common in almost every club. Including yours.

For the health and fitness industry the message is clear: Your customers are in the cloud. And they want to stay there.

New Technology Solving Old Problems

The lessons learned from early experience with cloud computing is how easy it is to be overwhelmed. Best to keep this in mind: The cloud is a tool, not a destination.

Your membership still works out in the real world, physically interacting with equipment, your staff, and other members. It’s still about customer service.

“The most important thing about the cloud is not actually the technology—it’s the customer,” says Bryan O’Rourke, president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C). “It’s about how clubs are going to leverage it to enhance service. The better we can do that, the more customers we’ll get.”

The cloud gives you a wide spectrum of options in maximizing customer engagement. Cloud-related services can …

  • engage the interest of prospects and members;
  • mitigate workout boredom;
  • increase satisfaction and utilization;
  • improve results;
  • increase members’ spending;
  • have a positive effect on retention.

There’s nothing revolutionary about that list of goals. They’ve always been a focus of health clubs. But what’s new is that the cloud tears down the walls of your facility. Your members are everywhere, and so are you. Or at least, you should be.

“The most important thing about the cloud is not actually the technology—it’s the customer. It’s about how clubs are going to leverage it to enhance service. The better we can do that, the more customers we’ll get.”

Bryan O’Rourke, President

Fitness Industry Technology Council - Covington, LA

Paul Lockington, new products development manager for Orangetheory Fitness and FIT-C board member says that embracing technology and cloud services is no longer optional if you want to succeed in today’s marketplace.

“It comes down to a financial bottom line—if you don’t invest in technology, you have very little capability of communicating with your members, and you have very little capability of communicating with the equipment that you’re using in the clubs,” says Lockington. “And without those two communication links, you’re going to be hard-pressed to generate cash to pay the bills.”

“The cloud offers tools that both address problems and create new opportunities,” adds O’Rourke. “IHRSA clubs should be rethinking their business models and what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Becoming A ‘Smart’ Club

Consumers weren’t the only early adopters of cloud services before many clubs got the message. Equipment companies began hooking up to app technology and wearables years ago. And as more equipment firms join the IoT, you’re dealing with a lot of information. Not only are humans communicating 24/7, but your exercise machines are getting very chatty.

The upside of all this communication is not only an increase in customer engagement but improved operational efficiencies across the board. If you have the right digital program in place, you can:

  • Learn what equipment is being used and how often, so neglected machines can be replaced with high performers.
  • Program “virtual” exercise classes, a growing trend in fitness programming that members enjoy.
  • Improve class attendance and scheduling.
  • Have members download their instructor’s playlists and purchase apparel that their favorite instructor is wearing, along with other ancillary products.
  • Provide nutritional counseling and cross-promotional products.
  • Have your cardio equipment notify the club operator when maintenance or servicing is required.
  • Have members receive performance data sent directly to the user’s mobile fitness app from bikes, treadmills, ellipticals, and weight machines.
  • Improve personal trainer-client communications.
  • Track member traffic to engage with those whose habits have changed for the worse.
  • Enhance social media communication, while introducing rewards programs and other incentives.
  • Accumulate data analytics on all of these activities to increase retention and enhance non-dues revenue streams.

How to Make the Cloud Work for You

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What many clubs have learned in recent years was how difficult it can be to collect, curate, and monetize cloud-based data analytics and communication services. It’s much easier for boutique clubs, with their smaller clientele and narrower fitness mission. If you have a large club or manage a chain, you can’t be as nimble as a studio club. You need help.

Life Fitness, one of the prestige brands in the fitness industry, has always taken the lead in bringing cutting-edge technology to their products, and now they’ve taken on the cloud with their newly launched Halo Fitness Cloud services and products. Halo takes the headaches and complications out of cloud-based data analytics and communication systems for club operators.

This is a comprehensive cloud-based system that covers a lot of ground. With Halo Fitness Cloud:

  • Club members get personalized recommendations on the best apps or wearables to use to reach their goals, create workouts, track goals, schedule fitness classes, and communicate with their trainer.
  • Facility operators can track and take action on every aspect of their club, from managing facility and equipment maintenance to promoting training services and tracking when a member is at risk of canceling their membership.

After 45 years in the business, Life Fitness understands that the human element must be considered when integrating a comprehensive digital system into your club ecosystem.

“We believe in a hybrid of people plus technology, because personalized experiences don’t just come from machines,” says Jason Worthy, vice president of digital solutions at Life Fitness. “Halo Fitness Cloud will grow and evolve, and facilities that are part of the cloud will benefit from the tools and data that will bring them into the fitness of the future.”

That’s one of the advantages of this system: It’s alive, evolving, and growing as times change. The cloud doesn’t wait for anyone. You have to get up to speed, or your members will leave you behind.

To find out more about Halo Fitness Cloud, visit Life Fitness' website or send them an email.

Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org