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Taking Member Engagement to the Next Level

How the Total Fitness Experience empowers clubs to deliver proactive health and wellness training.

Digital fitness experiences took center stage in 2020. As illustrated by the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM’s) Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2021, online training will continue to be the top trend for the coming year. Walter Thompson, ex-president of ACSM and the lead author of the report, emphasized that “the really smart [clubs that] were able to transition to more of a home delivery model not only survived but thrived.”

This adaptability helped many clubs rebound strongly in 2021, and Thompson expects that engaging members beyond the four walls of the club will continue to be an integral part of creating value for the members moving forward.

It’s evident that this momentum is here to stay. In fact, the leading trend for this year is online training, which swiftly jumped from the 26th spot in 2020 to number one for 2021. It has now displaced wearable technology, which had claimed the top spot in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Along the same lines, virtual training leaped to number six and mobile exercise apps came in at number 12.

Raising the Bar Beyond the Physical Club

As virtual experiences grow in popularity—especially as tools to help keep members engaged, motivated, and committed to their regimens—it has become incumbent on clubs to enhance the way they deliver community and connection, no matter where members are located.

Leading this paradigm shift, ABC Fitness Solutions recently introduced what it calls the Total Fitness Experience, a holistic new concept that’s centered on the member, delivering a hyper-personalized experience curated for their unique needs. By shifting the focus to the member, clubs can deliver a Total Fitness Experience that captures untapped value, encouraging motivation and accountability and, therefore, creating “stickier,” more engaged members.

Defining the Total Fitness Experience

As ABC positions it, the Total Fitness Experience is a 360-degree approach to health and wellness, where fitness is not simply about that one workout you do once or twice a week, but instead is an investment into three facets: exercise, nutrition, and habits. This includes being part of a vibrant community that’s associated with the club brand and reinforced whenever members visit the club, take a class, complete a virtual workout or habit, and interact with other members and club staff through technology. A strong community creates both motivation and affinity for the brand, building on and amplifying the individual interactions the member has with the club.

“From the platform side of things, it boils down to a club being able to deliver personalized programs for members and personal training clients,” says Sharad Mohan, managing director of Trainerize powered by ABC. “In this case, when a member wakes up, their smartphone or wearable starts their day with instruction based on living a better life daily and inspires them to action. That could be as simple as having my club-branded Apple Watch app say, ‘Hey Sharad, don’t forget to have that first glass of water before you do anything today.’ The ‘why’ behind it is to speed up my metabolism, but the app just telling me to act will get me to do it out of habit, regardless of my understanding of the ‘why.’

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"That reminder is a function of the app helping me program myself to follow better habits. This would be a good example of habit coaching. Those types of notifications from a club’s branded app stay with the member all day. They might be cues to walk, move, work out, hydrate, eat a healthy snack or some other notification built around the member’s personalized fitness, nutrition, and wellness plan.”

Essentially, the goal is to support clubs to proactively help members maintain optimal health while making sense of all the options available to them, Mohan says. That connection stays with them, on any device—inside and outside of the club—with which they interact.

“The Total Fitness Experience is about the club and the club community being a part of my life, even when I’m not in the facility,” he says. “It’s a deeper form of engagement.”

Embracing “Optionality”

Among the goals of a Total Fitness Experience, is harnessing the power of every resource available to members.

“We’re empowering clubs to embrace optionality,” Mohan says. “Today’s client has a gym membership, and they might also have an Apple Fitness Plus subscription for $10 a month. They might also belong to a boutique group cycling studio and own a Mirror or a Peloton. It can be overwhelming, and our goal is to connect it all. The future is not either-or, it’s going to be complementary.”

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In bringing those disparate elements together, a club’s app might, for example, communicate to the member how they can offset a poor choice in real-time with actionable remedies. Through their Apple Watch, they could input meals for that day and the app can suggest that, given their vital stats and other personalized metrics, that they could balance that out with a five-minute bike ride.

It’s also designed to help members find value and maximize the benefits of the tools they use and are invested in.

“Here’s a real-world example,” Mohan offers. “The first time I used my Peloton, I marveled at the high-quality content. So much so that I didn’t know what to pick, so I made a random selection. I did five classes in one week and just got burned out. But when I connected my Peloton to my club’s trainer through my app, he helped me make sense of the bike. I’m now using it in a completely different, more appropriate way. It has become a much more effective part of my regimen.”

Prioritizing an Integrated Approach

ABC is continuing to develop fully integrated capabilities that enable clubs to optimize the value delivered to members. Creating a thoughtful Total Fitness Experience, which reflects the club’s brand, creates a stickier member resulting in greater lifetime value, better insights into member behavior, and, ultimately, more revenue and new, creative business opportunities. Doing this without introducing an unwieldy technology stack helps drive a better experience for staff and more adoption among members by creating seamless interactions.

“When it comes to digital engagement, one of the biggest holes we’ve seen in the industry is a disconnect between digital offerings that clubs deliver and how members pay for them,” says Mohan. “If a club wants to offer a $30-a-month digital option, then how do their customers easily pay for that? I don’t mean collecting the payments, I mean the delivery of digital programming.”

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He uses a non-ABC club to illustrate his point. In that case, once a member purchases a digital program, chances are the gym has to add that profile into their system. Then the client profile has to be assigned to a personal trainer, who then needs to have an intake form completed for that member. That trainer then creates a program for the member and somebody must send the member a link to download the app.

“That can be a one-to-two-week process,” he asserts. “The beauty of what ABC is doing right now is that the book-buy-train process happens immediately. So, the minute a member decides to buy into a digital program, the delivery of the branded club app happens within seconds, and therein lies the value.”

Development is ongoing and Mohan points to a consistent evolution for, and investment in, the platform.

“Imagine a world where a member can download an app and immediately find a depth of personalized content,” Mohan says. “Scanning and checking into a club, managing accounts, and class booking and reservations online is table stakes—content is going to be the differentiator. Our club-branded app is going to come pre-loaded with content through which they can immediately start engaging with health and wellness. We’re also working closely with Apple to even further integrate the Apple Watch. Overall, we’re investing in the world of wearables—Apple Watch, Fitbit, the Withing’s Wi-Fi Scale, etc. And we’ll continue helping clubs create branded, digital communities. This will be a very exciting summer for ABC Fitness Solutions and our clients.”

To learn more about the Total Fitness Experience and ABC Fitness Solutions, please visit their website.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to IHRSA.org.