In the last two years, there has been a huge amount of interest in mobile fitness apps, as confirmed by Google Trends. Fitness apps can be powerful tools for marketing and motivation and there is a new generation of gym members coming up, who expect that they can download an app and immediately get gratification from it. If you don’t provide that option they will look elsewhere for their fitness needs.
The Fitness App Bandwagon
Mobile apps are a very competitive market, driven by many big companies wanting to get their products into everyone’s hands. In fact, the market is so strong that, as of mid 2014, sixty percent of web traffic comes from mobile devices. You can add an interactive element to your gym and provide how-to videos and other training resources. The information that is likely to be useful for members also gives you some powerful analytics on the back-end, about what is going on, in a way that you cannot get anywhere else.
Mobile fitness apps can potentially be so disruptive that:
- They are on track to dominate the information space.
- They are going to happen regardless of whether gym owners get involved or not. If you don’t actively provide an app that’s integrated into your system, members will use someone else’s. That’s bad!
- New members can potentially be lured into membership by downloading your app and using some of its features, before they even know your gym’s address. Members of other gyms could be using your app and tempted to switch to your gym. Competitively speaking, that’s good!
Shifting Information Paradigms
There is a historic parallel in another field that shows that information can change the balance of power for entire industries. In the 1980s and 1990s retail business was rocked by the introduction of electronic point of sale (EPOS), with computerized cash registers and inventory management. Prior to the introduction of EPOS, it was the distributors and manufacturers who had the upper hand.
They knew how much was selling and where, so they could dictate their terms to the stores and retailers as to how merchandise could be displayed. When the stock was in the stores’ upgraded systems retailers could tell far more about the dynamics of selling. It changed the relationship with suppliers because retailers could confidently refute any claims about what was selling, and they had more information then had been available to anyone before.
Shifting The Gym Management Paradigm
In the gym business it would be great to know that much about what members are doing at any given time. Gym management software is pretty good at tracking accounts and payments. You have your separate EPOS system for merchandise sales, and that works great too. But even the largest gym chains only have limited data about how people move around and use the gym once they check-in.
The thing about mobile devices and phones is that people tend to keep them on their person constantly. The modern human is about as likely to leave their mobile device at home as their car keys or shoes. Members get the utility of the app and another tie into the gym community and owners get an insight into the patterns of membership behavior. If someone never attends you can send him or her entirely different notifications than if they spend three hours every day in your free weights area.
Lead The Change Or Not
The pace of technology is moving unbelievably fast these days. The fact that so many people have mobile devices is making it possible to do amazing things. Users get connectivity that was impossible a few years ago. That’s exactly the potential of a mobile fitness app, assuming that you supply it as part of your service. As an owner you can see the dynamics of your gym in real time. I think that the potential’s only just beginning to be tapped, so start thinking about getting a fitness app for your gym, or prepare to be looking at someone else’s app, over your members’ shoulders.
Google. Fitness App. August 14, 2014. http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=fitness%20app (accessed August 14, 2014).
Hessinger, Shaun. 60 Percent of Online Traffic Now Comes From Mobile. July 8, 2014. http://smallbiztrends.com/2014/07/online-traffic-report-mobile.html (accessed July 14, 2014).
Toffler, Alvin. Powershift. Bantam, 1991.