Why Your Reopening Strategy Needs to Be Data-driven

As a health club operator, you need context and feedback to rebuild your business. Here are the digital tools to get you started.

  • July 09, 2020

We’ve never been here before. That’s why it’s called the “new normal.” Only now it’s starting to transition into just plain old normal. This is our reality.

You have reasons to be optimistic. Some experts believe the worst is behind us, and clubs in the Asian markets are providing important guidance on what the near future looks like. While some regional outbreaks have caused a return of shutdowns overseas, these have been short-term.

What has emerged in this unprecedented situation is just how united the health club industry is in advancing into the future. Both suppliers, facilities, and members are truly part of one big family dedicated to health and personal improvement. So many people have experienced hardships in different ways, and it’s important to come together with understanding and compassion.

The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and inevitable spikes will continue to disrupt the future of your business in unpredictable ways. The key is to be in the best position possible to anticipate market fluctuations and consumer reactions to new developments. And the best way to keep track of ongoing events and plan for an uncertain future is with data.

“What has emerged in this unprecedented situation is just how united the health club industry is in advancing into the future.”

Data may seem cold, but it actually brings us closer to understanding the human element driving the numbers. Solid information helps us deal with fears that the public may have in returning to health clubs. To provide great member experience means addressing these anxieties in an informed way. Data helps us do that.

Staying positive as you create your strategic plan for the future is always advised. But preparation without information is risky. You need to understand the metrics in real-time: check-ins, class attendance, capacity limits, status of non-dues revenue streams—you need to see what’s working in the moment.

Beyond that, you need to know what’s happening in the industry on a regional and national basis. How are you recovering compared to clubs that are similar to yours? Getting a snapshot of industry trends—what’s working and what’s not—is essential in working through this. (As always, IHRSA is a great industry resource in providing a global perspective and other information, especially when it comes to public policy and best practices. Please see IHRSA’s Coronavirus Resources hub for frequent updates.)

Fortunately, the health club and fitness industry has unified in efforts to weather the storm and return to a financially stronger position. But if you don’t have the capability to assess the situation in hard numbers, you’ll be whistling in the dark.

You Own the Member Experience

The data solution was highlighted by McKinsey in their report, From Surviving to Thriving: Business after Coronavirus. The authors state that the crisis has produced an “acceleration of tech, digital, and analytics” in the wider business world, saying, “It’s already a cliché: the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the shift to digital. But the best companies are going further, by enhancing and expanding their digital channels. They’re successfully using advanced analytics to combine new sources of data…”

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This means embedding data and analytics in the decision-making process, and adjusting pricing and promotion according to those emerging data sets. One obvious example is that the virtual workout options you had designated before the shutdown have changed in valuation since the pandemic began. So have communication channels, on-site management needs (in terms of sanitation and controlling member behavior), and design of workout spaces. These have all taken on an added importance—but only the hard numbers can tell you how to restructure these tasks and how much to invest in them.

As the McKinsey report says: “In the same way that many risk and financial models had to be rebuilt after the 2008 financial crisis, the use of data and analytics will need to be recalibrated to reflect the post-COVID-19 reality.”

This could mean discovering which instructor or interactive streaming service delivers more member response. Or to determine if your club is adequately answering safety concerns for members, making sure you’re doing the right things with your maintenance and messaging protocols.

Knowing the numbers saves on costs, finds revenue streams that work, and reduces your own anxiety and guesswork in finding your way through this unprecedented situation. You just have to make sure you have the right tools for the job.

The Digital Tools You Need to Keep Your Members Happy and Healthy

One of those business leaders who has dedicated their efforts in unifying and reviving the health club industry is Club Automation. As the country continues its patchwork resurgence, the company has produced numerous webinars and other resources to help guide clubs and suppliers through the crisis, including: Re-Opening Playbook: Standards to Ensure a Safe Recovery and Connection without Contact Solutions.

As you would expect from one of the industry’s top software companies, Club Automation’s recovery resources are data-driven but presented in practical terms that provide actionable steps for club owners hoping to find their way back to profitability.

Jeff VanDixhorn, founder and Chief Revenue Officer for Club Automation, explains that these webinars and guides to getting back to business were an intensive process that compiled the insights of some of the top minds in the industry.

“We realize that reopening is overwhelming,” he says. “So, to help our community, we brought together a group of people from across our industry, alongside medical experts, to create a Re-Opening Playbook, with best practices and ongoing learnings to help facilities operate safely in the new normal.”

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These insights also inform Club Automation’s newest product developments. The centerpiece of their emerging strategies is Performance Analytics. Its powerful algorithms track national and regional trends across a number of different data points. In addition, Performance Analytics gives club leaders access to their own club’s performance and trends, guiding club owners and operators as they answer the ultimate question: “How is my club doing?” Performance Analytics measures and organizes key metrics to help you make the right decisions for the success of your club.

“We know data is more important than it's ever been,” says VanDixhorn. “Performance Analytics is the ability to dive deeper. It can instantly tell you everything you need to know about the health of your club.”

VanDixhorn has managed and owned clubs himself since 1995. In 2007, VanDixhorn founded Club Automation, a platform that has continued to develop the tools that fulfill the needs and demands of clubs of all sizes to elevate the club and customer experience. But the COVID-19 crisis has thrust Club Automation into a new role, according to VanDixhorn.

“I see us as providing air coverage, giving the day-to-day operator a path forward as they make their way of this. That’s the purpose of our toolkit and Re-Opening Playbook,” he says. “The people running the clubs are the heroes of our current situation. They are on the front line and we want to do everything we can to help them.”

With Performance Analytics and other tools from Club Automation’s software services, you’ll be able to make more confident data-driven decisions as you devise a new business strategy moving forward. And that’s in everyone’s best interest.

VanDixhorn stresses a truism that is reverberating around the fitness world. “Your individual success helps everyone in our industry,” he says. “We’re all in this together.”

To learn more about Club Automation’s Performance Analytics, Re-Opening Playbook, and their Connection without Contact Solutions, visit their website or email them for more information.

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