At IHRSA, we're revealing an exciting new look and our unrivaled approach to the market. Find out more.

Analytics : The Essentials For Health Clubs, Gyms, And Fitness Studios

A few years back Tim McGuire, a respected director for the McKinsey & Company consultancy group, was quoted as saying “Analytics will define the difference between the losers and winners going forward”. Tim could have been talking about any industry or business and his comments are particularly important for health club, gym, and fitness studio businesses today.

Perhaps you read the recent article Why Data Is Going To Become A Big Differentiator For Health Club, Gym, and Fitness Studio Businesses, where I touched on themes regarding the topic of analytics in the fitness space. The thesis of the article was that the proper application of analytics is essential to making better decisions, solving real problems, understanding members better, and improving the member experience. These are all very important to success in the fitness business today and will indeed be a key differentiator between the “losers and winners” as Tim alluded.
It is far easier to paint a picture of the theoretical benefits of analytics. The bigger challenge is understanding what it takes to make analytics work. This comes down to some essential steps for health clubs, gyms and fitness studios.

“Invest in the future and have a plan to improve your data collection and quality.” ~Don MacLennan, CEO, Bluenose

So how do you make analytics work? You need a plan and a related strategy drawing a roadmap that defines what data is useful, identifies the analytic models that the data supports, outlines the right technology tools, and addresses the organization’s commitment to reinventing processes and behaviors. Combined, these components should make a measurable business case which creates value for your business.

What Data Do You Need And Why?
A data game plan is essential. Most businesses are buried in siloed information frequently isolated across business locations or by function. Data might sit in legacy IT systems, varied cloud-based service solutions, and important data often resides outside, in unstructured forms such as social media networks, and in member conversations.

Making this information a useful asset can demand an investment in new capabilities. Balancing speed and costs is an important thing to keep in mind. Plans may reflect a need for significant reorganization of data architectures over time. In the short term, a simpler solution may be possible for some companies: outsourcing the problem to specialists and solution providers who use cloud-based software to unify enough data to attack initial opportunities. Tools like FitnessBi are good examples of this type of solution.

“Have a vision for what you are trying to do. Use data to validate and help you navigate that vision, and map it down into small enough pieces where you can begin to execute in a data-informed way.” -Andrew Chen, Head of Rider Growth at Uber

Analytic Models
Alone, data does not generate value. Analytic models enable optimization of data and the creation of business predictors and outcomes. You must decide where models create business value, who will need to use them, and how to avoid inconsistencies or the unnecessary expansion of analytic models. Do certain members paying in certain ways generate longer memberships? Do certain offers show more effectiveness with some member types than others? There are many business questions that analytical models can answer.

As with fresh data sources, companies eventually will want to link these models together to solve broader opportunities across functions. In this case remember that “perfect cannot be the evil of good”; it is important to resist the temptation of analytic perfection: too many variables will create unneeded complexity.

Technology Tools
Modeling may be valuable, but only if managers and employees understand and use it. Overly complex information can be overwhelming or even be mistrusted. Intuitive tools that integrate data into day-to-day processes and translate information into tangible business actions: for instance, a clear interface for working with members at the point of sale, or as a way for salespeople to make real-time decisions on discounts. Medalia’s partner MXM is a great example of a technology tool that can help clubs make information more actionable. Many companies fail to complete this step in their thinking and planning, only to find that managers and operational employees do not use the new models, whose effectiveness predictably falls.
There’s also an important factor needed to animate the push toward data, models, and tools: the human factor. As some strategic plans fail to deliver because organizations lack the skills to implement them, so too big-data plans can disappoint when organizations lack the right people and capabilities to make them work.

Wrap Up
Remember, to make analytics work in your fitness business you need a plan that focuses on three key aspects which create a business case: what data do you need, what analytical models will you rely on, and which technology tools are necessary. If the team at ABC Financial can be of help in applying this approach to your health club, gym, or fitness studio let me know.

Kelly Card is the Senior Vice President of Partner Relations at ABC Financial. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and is the Co-Founder of Industry FIT. Kelly has over twenty years of experience in health club, gym, and fitness operations and co-founded and was President of Club-Apps, which was acquired by Netpulse in 2014. You can reach her and follow @theKellyCard on Facebook & Twitter. Connect with and follow @IndustryFit for the latest in fitness trends and technology as well.