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How To Create Health Club Differentiation Strategies With Data

Since the dawn of spreadsheets and databases in the eighties, through the more recent contemporary era of solutions in the cloud, we’ve come along way when it comes to collecting and using data in the fitness industry. Today, as much data is being created every two days as was created from the beginning of time until the year 2000. By 2020 the amount of digital information available will have grown from around 5 zettabytes to over 50 zettabytes. That’s a lot of data.

It is not surprising then that many operators in the fitness industry are drowning in information and unsure about how to use it. This is understandable since much of that data is unstructured; it takes many forms from documents, content, check-ins, payment methods, workouts, member demographics, along with a lot of other information that usually doesn’t reside in conventional databases and can’t be parsed by algorithms or machine analysis.

The intelligent use of data is going to significantly impact every business and industry in the years ahead and the competitors who start learning how to use it wisely are going to have an advantage. Forward-looking fitness facility brands are beginning to realize the potential insights that reside in their data

While they try and “de-silo” their information and create an integrated enterprise view that can be used to help them accomplish some great things for their members and as a result their fitness businesses. ABC Financial designed a robust API and integration marketplace for a variety of vendor partners to support clients for this very reason. It is also why we have been investing millions in developing new solutions to help health clubs, gyms, and fitness studio businesses leverage data in the future using some new innovative solutions we’ll be sharing details around in the coming months.

More information on health club strategies can be found in The Ultimate Health Club Management Guide.

Determining the best path forward for fitness operators to tap into the potential for data can be daunting but the opportunities in the long-term are significant. We live in a revolutionary time for all industries when it comes to tapping into available data and understanding how to actually use it, and the fitness industry is no exception.

“Without Data You Are Just Another Person With An Opinion.” ~W. Edwards Deming

So what can the impact of data be, what does it mean, and how will it become a big differentiator for health clubs, gyms, and fitness studios? This is a complex question but here are some important points fitness operators should keep in mind regarding the impact data can have now and in the years ahead:

Make Better Decisions

How do you make decisions about your fitness business today? Do you rely on what you think you see happening? Do you follow your “gut”? All of these things can be useful, but making decisions backed by actual numbers and real information about business performance is something you can’t afford to miss out on.

If you believe there’s not enough data to improve decision making, that’s likely not the case. Not understanding how data can help or not having access to the right data can hold companies back from properly using data in their decision processes. It’s important to understand the underlying drivers of your business and sources of data that support those drivers to improve how you make decisions now and in the future. Look for new platforms and the synthesis of data from various sources to provide insights you might not expect but could be very valuable to your business.

Solve Real Problems

Did you have a slow sales month or finish a marketing campaign that didn’t drive your membership or program sales like you thought it would? How do you pinpoint what went wrong and why? Identifying the real reason for underperformance without data is like trying to hit the bullseye on a dartboard with your eyes closed.

Tracking and reviewing data from business processes helps you pinpoint performance breakdowns so you can better understand each part of the process and know which steps need to be optimized and which are performing well.

“Marketing Without Data Is Like Driving With Your Eyes Closed.” ~Dan Zarella

Understanding the real opportunities and challenges is what great and relevant data can reveal. As the baseball book and related movie Moneyball attests, the traditional yardsticks of success for players and teams in baseball were fatally flawed for a long time until Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, used statisticians to build a record winning team with the second lowest payroll in baseball. Even long-held beliefs can mislead us all until data is used to identify real challenges and opportunities. As you analyze your key data drivers for your business make sure you are looking at the right and relevant information and most importantly that you are learning along the way.

Understand Your Members

Without data, how do you know who your actual members are? Without data, how do you know if members like your services or if your marketing efforts are working? Data is essential to understanding your members and your market.

The clearer you see your members, the easier it is to reach them. PayPal Co-Founder Max Levchin said, “The world is now awash in data and we can see consumers in a lot clearer ways.” The data and tools you need to help you understand and reach your members are out there so use them.

Enhance Member Experience

Being successful at improving member experiences is about meeting their needs on an individual level; its referred to as a “segment of one” not a “one-size-fits” all approach as experts say. What does this mean and how do companies attain personalization through data?

This is a big question which would require a lot more details than my Linkedin post here can address in full. However, in simple terms enhancing member experience first means segmenting your members into core groups and then aligning your programming, digital content, experiences, rewards, and service delivery around the needs and motivations of those core groups. Today that not only means personalized, it also means omnipresent; both digital and physical experiences that are integrated into a very easy to understand and convenient manner.

Improving member experience is the key to driving loyalty, enhancing retention, and the lifetime value of your members. As this article attests, good user experience design means better business.

In closing, the smart use of data is going to become a big differentiator for operators of fitness businesses in the years ahead. Make sure you have a plan to leverage your data and follow these guidelines in how you proceed with relying on data as a tool to enhance your fitness business.


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. Follow @theKellyCard on Facebook & Twitter.