How Technology Can Turn Your Health Club Into a ‘Supergym’

How the right technology tools can create an exercise experience that will thrill your members.

At the IHRSA 2018 Trade Show in San Diego, CA, one subject dominated above all others: technology. The integration of tech products and services into all aspects of the health club experience is more than a trend—it’s a revolution.

Technology is transforming every aspect of the health club industry: operational, financial, marketing, customer relations, personal training, equipment design—everything. It can be overwhelming, which is why some industry leaders recommend that you take a step back and drill down to what’s most important.

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More and more gym members are demanding connectivity from their smartphones to your gym equipment.

“Creating clarity out of confusion is key,” says Carrie Kepple, IHRSA board member and owner and managing director of Styles Studios. “There are so many tech options available in the big, bad world of business-to-consumer industries that we don’t know what to choose for our own businesses to enhance the member journey.”

Kepple spearheaded the growth of Les Mills clubs in New Zealand after working as national director of group exercise for Gold’s Gym. Both experiences taught her how to utilize digital tools to maximize member engagement and retention.

“In my view, there are two key categories of technology we should be looking at in our tech strategy: fitness-enhancing tech and service-enhancing tech,” she explains. “I call this ‘tech-touched training’ environments.”

In the end, it’s all about giving the customer what they want, says Kepple. “Redesigning member experience is about their needs, not yours.”

Members Really Only Want One Thing: Everything

Consumer expectations are higher than ever. Industries old and new are in a race to keep up with demands, which are invariably technology-based. People live online, and they expect to have access to their online world wherever they go: in a coffee house, a hotel, an airplane, and, of course, a health club.

According to a survey, 91% of consumers say that access to content across all devices is important to them. Communication, information, and entertainment are available on-demand, every waking moment. The world is literally at people’s fingertips.

At one time, a generational divide affected marketing of digital-based services, but those distinctions are disappearing, especially when it comes to technology that informs us of our health and fitness status. The more people learn about themselves, the more they want services to attend to their personalized needs.

“There are so many tech options available in the big, bad world of business-to-consumer industries that we don’t know what to choose for our own businesses to enhance the member journey.”

Carrie Kepple, Owner and Managing Director

Styles Studio - Farmington, IL

According to an article in Diginomica: “This shift to personalization is largely the result of retail giants such as Amazon, which have raised the bar on catering to consumers. Companies are now having to think about how they create a consumer experience that sets them apart in a highly competitive marketplace.”

Consider how this principle works in the health club industry. Wearables and cloud-connected training equipment can communicate body measurements like heart-rate during exercise. Health clubs have seen incredible growth in group training programs that utilize video monitors displaying individual statistics from members as they train. Orangetheory, one of the more notable success stories in recent industry history, utilize this concept in a high-energy environment.

This connectivity and feedback loop are only going to increase. When your members walk through your doors, they’re no longer leaving their world behind. They’re bringing it with them.

Says Kepple: “We need to start creating seamless synergy between our old school way of operating and the new school way our customers navigate the world.”

What Kind of Tech Do You Need to Increase Engagement?

While your weight equipment is even getting smart (e.g., cloud-connected weight pins), your cardio equipment is getting even brainier. You need to have up-to-date technology plugged into the cloud. This is what your equipment should have:

  • App connectivity. Your members’ smartphones need to be able connect with your equipment from both Android and Apple platforms and their range of third-party apps.
  • Bluetooth compatibility. Wearables, headphones, and heart rate monitors need to be able to talk to your equipment.
  • Asset tracking. You want your equipment to talk to you as well. Usage reports and automatic notifications will help you better service equipment and identify what’s popular and what’s not.
  • Advanced built-in workout programs. You need to be able to bring today’s top exercise trends to members through your cardio machines. That means high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs, virtual training, and group training.
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A TRUE Fitness treadmill with the Envision LCD Touchscreen Console.

This list is a nice start, but it’s hardly the ballgame. You can take it to the next level. TRUE Fitness recently unveiled their new line of consoles, which includes the Envision 16” LCD Touchscreen Console and Envision Premium.  Both console options deliver a new standard in connectivity and entertainment. Consumers these days are instinctively attracted to touchscreen technology, but these TRUE consoles offer a completely transformative experience.  

The Envision 16  provides users with an interface featuring a contemporary design and intuitive framework. Exercisers can easily track their workout data, discover built-in workout programs, and enjoy integrated technology and entertainment. The Envision Premium shares many features of the Envision 16; however, the Envision Premium elevates facility, member, and trainer experiences with its premium networked solutions, experience, and engagement.

The main features of the Envision Premium include:

  • Numerous entertainment options. Members can access Netflix, Facebook, news, and sports channels from the touchscreen.
  • Interactive workout calendar and “Set Goals” page. Members can easily keep track of their workouts and progress, with their personal data stored in the cloud.
  • Member communication. Clubs can deliver branded marketing promotion, and other communications through the console from one login.
  • Customized reports. The software in TRUE Fitness’ Envision Premium will deliver usage reports, along with search options. And you’ll have the ability to manage reports through multiple facilities in case you operate more than one club.
  • Virtual world travel. The platform allows members to exercise in famous locations around the globe through the LCD screen.
  • Asset management. Clubs can monitor product performance and health as well as learn customer equipment preferences and usage patterns.

Of course, exercise intensity may not be a priority when you’re watching Netflix on a 16” LCD screen. A selling point of home gym equipment used to be, “Bring your health club to your living room.” With TRUE’s technology, you can bring your living room to your health club. Your members may not want to leave.

If your club’s fitness programming is more centered on HIIT workouts, TRUE offers the Ignite High-Intensity Interval Training Console. The Ignite console allows for more manageable HIIT workouts in an individual or group setting with its “quick-touch” technology.

To learn more about the Envision 16 and Envision Premium consoles and the Ignite HIIT Console, visit the TRUE Fitness website. Also stay up to date with TRUE by following them on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org