Should You Turn Your Facility into a ‘Smart’ Gym?

Here’s how machine learning and artificial intelligence can transform your business.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is now part of our everyday lives. Many are excited about the possibilities of AI, others are wary of its increasing influence, but it’s here to stay. In its current role, AI is an intriguing tool for consumers and businesses, with its potential far from realized.

If you’re accustomed to speaking casually to Alexa by Amazon or Google Home, you already utilize AI in a variety of ways. You also know that the software that controls these cloud-enabled home assistants is not operating on a static algorithm. It learns—a process that’s succinctly known by tech scientists as “machine learning.”

Machine learning is what makes the Internet of Things (IoT) work. IoT is the broad term used to describe “smart” appliances and other devices that connect to the cloud and other databases. Machine learning continually collects data and updates its algorithm, which in turn is updated by information from the cloud. It’s an interconnected system that never sleeps.

Machine learning is why your smart refrigerator knows when it’s time to order milk or alert you to produce spoilage. And your smart appliances and electronic home assistants get to know you better the more you interact with them.

But smart devices don’t just know things—your likes, dislikes, habits, and needs—they predict behavior with uncanny accuracy. You don’t have to ask Alexa how this technology could have a profound impact on your business.

Bryan O’Rourke, the president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FITC), summed it up this way: “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.”

“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

Lost in The Cloud

In his keynote address at IHRSA 2014, Gary Vaynerchuk, author and co-founder of VaynerMedia, said: “Marketing destroys everything.” According to Vaynerchuk, the digital tools we enjoy eventually become co-opted by marketers until the technology is all but useless. (He cited email, and the proliferation of email spam, as an example.)

Think of website cookies and the far reach of Google’s algorithmic tentacles. Say you search for a pair of boots on the internet. You’ll notice that ads for boots will start following you around, popping up on every site you visit that features Google Ads. It can be a bit uncomfortable to realize just how easily you’re being tracked.

It’s a common complaint. Yet more intrusive devices, like Google Home and Alexa, don’t illicit the same consumer discomfort. That’s because you want the help home assistants provide. You feel in control.

O’Rourke compares it to the “Dash” button used by Amazon. “When you employ technology to improve the user experience, people buy more stuff from you,” says O’Rourke. “We need to think of ways to make it easier and more satisfying for people to use clubs.”

The IoT is already making its presence felt in fitness facilities. Some companies are already experimenting with “smart health clubs,” where sensors connected to the cloud are embedded in equipment, even dumbbells and barbells. This allows club owners to track equipment use and make better decisions on large purchases. And it can help produce better results for members.

“These capabilities make working out fun for members, and give trainers the tools they need to better guide their clients toward greater success in the weight room,” says Mike Alpert, the CEO of The Claremont Club (TCC), in Claremont, CA.

But machine learning can have a more direct benefit on customer satisfaction and retention beyond smart equipment.

An App That Tells the Future

A cloud-based mobile app that tracks the habits of consumers has obvious benefits. When you introduce AI to it, then you have a potent tool to predict member behavior.

The SaaS company Perfect Gym has created the first gym management software that applies cloud-based AI and machine learning. With input from the company’s team of “fitness intelligence experts,” Perfect Gym’s interactive tool provides numerous benefits due to its predictive capabilities. Here’s how it can help you.

Improve efficiency in staffing and management. The app collects extensive data about gym operations from top to bottom. You’ll be able to forecast budgets and eliminate waste as the app learns membership habits with great precision. The AI system predicts club visit rates and other details that will help you schedule staff and streamline your operational procedures.

Increase retention rates by predicting behavior. The app’s “recommendation engine” analyzes consumer behavior on an ongoing basis, suggesting classes and products. And by personalizing push notifications, emails, and other digital communication with members, you can avoid the spam effect. The app will also help track when members change their habits in a way that makes them a risk for cancellation. It’s a reliable early warning system that you’re lacking now.

Increase sales opportunities. Besides improving retention, the interactive AI will use its predictive capabilities to create targeted campaigns that follow the changing needs and preferences of members. It takes the guesswork out of your sales pitches, and gives you precision data points to upsell more services and options to members open to your offers.

Like AI home assistant machines, the Perfect Gym management app works in the background, learning about your members without being intrusive. In doing so, it increases the user experience and overall customer satisfaction. It will revolutionize the way you communicate with members, and bring a higher level of efficiency and sales potential to your club.

For more information on Perfect Gym’s AI management software or to request a demo, visit their website.

Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org