Fitness center technologies designed to help your members succeed in their fitness quest within the wellness area has been around for decades. In 1994 Fitlinxx® pioneered an aftermarket tracking system that could attach to existing exercise machine manufacturers, allowing members to track their sets, reps, and weight progressions and get FitPoints™ in the process. It was considered revolutionary at the time and has garnered somewhat of a cult following particularly for the senior population, who enjoy visual guidance of rep ranges while they use gym exercise machines. Other in-facility exercise tracking systems emerged, mostly kiosk-based programs that provide paper-based workout plans for the day that allowed members to follow a designated program inside the facility. Members would have to go back to the kiosk or login online to report feedback and then get an updated workout for the next day. But all technology has a lifecycle. The revolutionary gizmos of yesterday become the stodgy old has-beens of today. Just ask VHS recorders, cassette tapes, or phone booths.
Thankfully, innovation never stops and companies such as Apple and Google have introduced revolutionary lifestyle devices that 90% of adults now own. Obviously I’m referring to iPhones and Android devices. These devices provide your members all the power they need to support their exercise efforts inside and outside your facility in the palm of their hands. In fact they prefer it that way. People love reasons to use their smart phone and the average person has their device within seven feet of them day or night. Now that’s crazy!
Companies like Fitlinxx® and others who did not pivot to embrace and address the mobile market demand have become obsolete and are now used by a very small population demographic within fitness centers.
Your Exercise-Tracking Technology Options
Many branch operators are fearful of taking away an amenity such as Fitlinxx from their member base, worrying there will be a mass exodus if they do so. The fact of the matter is that the demographic who uses this technology, the senior population, is the segment of the facility that is the lowest risk of leaving. Obviously that doesn’t mean you want to not be mindful of their concerns, however you do want to employ technologies that the vast majority of your member population can enjoy.
So what are my options? Basically you have three options: Keep your existing technology and keep kicking the can down the road as fewer and fewer members use it. Eventually you will be forced to make a decision when the cost of the service no longer equals the value of your member usage. The second option is to remove the technology with no plans on replacing it. The challenge here is twofold: first, you could be perceived as removing a value that your members associated with their membership; and secondly, the trends show that in today’s market, having in-house fitness technologies to help members succeed and connect with staff is absolutely expected. The last option is to zero in on a replacement solution and then develop a transition plan.
How Do I Choose the Right Technology for my Fitness Center?
What would be the ideal replacement? To answer that question, ask yourself the question, what is the outcome that we want our fitness and engagement technology to create? You should look at this as an opportunity to finally leapfrog what you have been accepting as status quo for so long and really start over with something game-changing. What is the goal that you are shooting for? In other words, are you looking for just another feature to talk about in your facility, or are you looking for something that will truly help your staff impact member’s lives? Are you looking for better engagement, fitness management, personal training, and ability to provide your members with a tool that will keep them motivated to keep coming back?
How Do I Transition My Fitness Center to the New Technology?
Once you have identified the replacement technology, the next question is how do you make the transition with as little disruption as possible? The saying “old habits die hard” is somewhat applicable to this situation. If you have been working in the fitness industry for a while, you have probably noticed that any change to your facility typically receives some negative blow back. In fact, sometimes just moving some equipment around, gets you smack on why that happened. Some people like consistency and they may bark a little when you make changes. But understand just because they bark, doesn’t mean they are going to march up to the front desk and cancel their membership. I’m sure you have also experienced some of those same people who came back to you and let you know how they like the new arrangements too.
With all that said, we have found the best practice when transitioning to a new system, is to not do a direct conversion. In other words, one day you have the old system and the next day you have the new system. Even if you do all the advance marketing of what’s to come, many of your members, who don’t necessarily pay attention to your well-intended marketing efforts, will feel like they just took a polar plunge. Even if the new technology had the exact feature for feature of the old technology, your members will compare and contrast the differences and complain. It’s just human nature.
Four Steps for Transitioning Your Fitness Center Technology
So knowing all of that, how do I sidestep these potential challenges? We recommend a four-step process:
Step1: Notify your members that the old technology will be going away and announce the date.
Step 2: Cash out the rewards points of the existing system. Some of your members could have amassed quit a bit of points over the years and are quite proud of their accomplishment. Therefore, we recommend that you set up a rewards program for their hard efforts. There are two types of rewards currencies: Cash or something of intrinsic value such as program registration or personal training sessions. The second reward system “virtual currency:” typically a form of recognition, such as a leader board, badges, trophies, or certificates. Whether you choose an intrinsic value-based reward, or a virtual currency is up to you. The important thing is that you cash out the points and celebrate closer of the old system with your members.
Step 3: Have a 30-60 day buffer period between shutting down your old system and launching your new one. But, market that something new is coming. This is a critical step, and it addresses the direct transition and comparative problem head on! Basically you want to give your members a period a time to “detox” from the old system they were using and get it out of their system so they will be in a receptive state to rapidly adopt the wonderful new system you will provide for them in the coming months. So the key here is to go dark while marketing that something new is coming soon.
Step 4: Soft-launch with valued members and create ambassadors. Once you get your staff trained on the new system, be sure they are using it from a member’s perspective too, not just the staff tools. Next you can have a “soft” launch of the new technology to the members who you select will be early adopters and excited about trying something new. This could be up to 20-30 people initially. The soft launch should last about two weeks or so, which should allow your members to see the true benefits of the new system. This will help you create ambassadors within your facility. These ambassadors will be your team of soldiers mingling with the rest of your member population to help spread the word on the new wonderful amenities that your branch is now offering.
If you follow these four steps, you will be surprised at how much smoother your technology transition will be. Sure there may be some bumps in the road, but it will be minimal. And the long-term benefit to your member base is that you are now relevant with technologies that they will enjoy and value in the years to come.Follow us: