How Fitness Technology Enhances Health Club Member Engagement

"The clubs that are going to be the most successful are the ones that integrate thoughtful digital strategies with the brick and mortar."

Article image

For decades, using "fitness technology" meant little more than stepping on a scale. Now an array of wearable devices and digital applications offers detailed workout feedback in real time. 

According to Bryan O'Rourke, president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C), that presents health club owners with both a challenge and an opportunity.

"The clubs that are going to be the most successful are the ones that integrate thoughtful digital strategies with the brick and mortar," O'Rourke said.

Getting with the Digital Program

A digital health club strategy can cover a lot of ground—everything from providing free apps to transferring your entire digital infrastructure to the cloud. As a club owner, only you can say what makes sense for you.

Here are some options to consider:

Wearables: As the name suggests, these are small fitness trackers that the customer wears, usually either as a clip-on or with a wristband. (They're sometimes called smartwatches.)

Digital trackers are light years beyond old-fashioned pedometers. Yes, they can count steps taken and calories burned. But they can also monitor heart rate and sleep patterns; some even have a GPS to help bikers and joggers map their routes.

But the basic idea behind all trackers is simple: Trackers provide more data. More data leads to greater engagement. And engaged customers are happier customers.

Apps: If you're not ready to make the leap to wearables—or you're worried that your customers will balk at the cost—fitness apps could a good alternative, says Michael Rucker, vice president of technology for Active Wellness.

Basically, these apps tap into a smartphone's built-in tracking sensors and repurpose that data for fitness monitoring. And some of them are free.

"If you're a high-volume/low-price club, your members are likely to be cost-conscious," Rucker said. "They're going to appreciate it if you offer them a free mobile app that does 80% of what a [wearable] does."

And you'll appreciate the guests who renew their memberships because you made it easy for them to store workout data from both their home and your club on their phones.

Mobile: Mobile devices and the health and fitness industry go hand in hand. The word "mobile" even suggests an active lifestyle. Health club owners can fully engage their busy, active guests by allowing them to use their mobile devices for all aspects of the health club experience—not just tracking, integrating, and customizing workout data, but also renewing memberships, checking club schedules, reserving equipment, etc.

As O'Rourke noted, "It's irrefutable that a 'mobile-first' strategy is emerging, which means that you may need to rethink some aspects of your business model."

A Revolution in Real Time

You don't have to commit to a particular digital strategy today. You do, however, have to commit to having a digital strategy. Because fitness club guests everywhere are demanding a higher level of engagement that only modern technology can provide.

Author avatar

IHRSA Staff @IHRSA

This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.