Wearables – An Untapped Opportunity

  by Tamara Bailey

Since first appearing in 2016, except for a slip in 2018 and an unsurprising second place to online fitness in 2021, wearables have been number 1 in the ACSM Fitness Trends report every year.

Over the last 5 years, the number of fitness apps, trackers and smart watches with wellness features have grown exponentially, and with large players such as Google entering the fitness market with the Google Fit health tracking platform, and Apple with Apple Fitness+ they seem set to continue to grow.

The Global Wearable Technology Market Report predicts global growth of 14.3% between 2022 – 2026, a value of over $61 billion. Whoop, the US based fitness tracker for strain, recovery and sleep has made significant moves from a wearable for high performance athletes to a wearable for the general population and is now worth $3.6 billion.

Despite this, it seems the leisure and fitness industry have been slow to capitalise on the opportunity within facilities. We have seen a rise in online fitness offerings as a result of the pandemic closures, but not trackers to support and connect with them.

As we head into challenging times with the cost of living rapidly increasing, members will be considering where they can cut expenditure, and as the cost of utilities will also impact facility revenues, the potential of members choosing their wearables instead of memberships is a risk we can’t afford to take.

However, wearables and trackers should not be a competitive alternative, if integrated into the member journey they can create exceptional experiences and higher retention, using them to add value of club membership.

Why Embrace Wearables?

  1. There is demand

    According to recent surveys, 1 in 5 people now have a smart watch or fitness tracker.

    Research by Legend by Xplor, found that over 50% of people purchased 1 or more fitness apps during lockdown and 48% of members expected their fitness provider to integrate devices into their experience. It also reported that 25% of members were interested in more connected equipment.

  2. They drive retention

    Whether people choose to track performance outcomes, weight loss, calories burned, steps achieved, recovery rates and sleep, MOVEs or MEPs, fitness apps and wearables provide simple, measurable goals which can be used to drive attendance, achievement and reward. All factors that generate and maintain exercise habits.

    By building these metrics into the support journey, whether in person or digital, we create an opportunity to connect and engage with members on their terms, meeting them where they are and providing an important connection to their club and additional value to membership.

    Many wearables also have a community element built in, not only allowing your teams to continually support and engage, but for members to support and engage with each other. This creates recognition and accountability for effort and achievements.

    TMActive have acknowledged the benefits and have created a clear strategy for engaging with members, creating community and driving retention https://www.myzone.org/blog/tmactive

    There is even a move to bring virtual fitness to swimming pools with products such as https://www.hydrohex.com/ another area that tracking could provide vital engagement where in person support is low outside of aqua classes and swimming lessons.

  3. Revenue Growth Opportunity

    Improving retention will itself create more on-going revenue and reduce pressure on new sales but wearables can also enhance your secondary spend potential.

    Whether through retail of wearables and accessories, driving Personal Training or additional courses or workshops built around wearable technology, clear revenue generation can be created. You may also consider premium or digital only membership options linked to the specific services and activities delivered through tracking technology.

  4. Gather Valuable Data

    Another important area that operators need to improve on is gathering meaningful data. CRMs are essential as your central data hub however, aside from attendance data, don’t provide more detailed insights into member behaviour, achievements and progress. These can be provided through smart data from wearables and trackers.

    In our previous article 10 People Joined Yesterday, we identified the need to better understand what happens to new members in the days and weeks after they join.

    Whether recognising programme compliance, goals achieved, engagement with training modalities in club, or tracking exercise outside of the club, trackers provide important insights to drive communication, member journey triggers and identify at risk members early.

How to Embrace Wearables

  1. Central or Individual

    Decide whether your approach will be to provide a central system for all members to link to or to support a wide range of members choice of wearables.

    Providers such as Myzone, Technogym MyWellness, EGYM and others create a clear and consistent approach to your member engagement strategy. They can also link to many individual smart trackers such as Apple Health, Garmin, Polar etc. so still allow members to link to their own choice but provide a central data collection point, focus for group exercise or gym workouts and support activities outside the club while linking the data back to the facility.

    Les Mills recorded their recent Live event entirely in virtual reality and Myzone are even set to move into the Metaverse in 2023, an easy step towards virtual fitness so technology is fast becoming an integral part of fitness experience.

    If not investing into a central system, the use of wearables should still be included in the member experience, from helping goal setting to tracking achievements and encouraging routine.

  2. Build into Onboarding

    Ensure wearables are a topic for your onboarding steps. Understanding if members use wearables or trackers, which ones and why, will help support their training plan, goal setting and progress reviews.

    Using a tracker to run an initial fitness test will help set a clear and understandable start point, highlight areas for focus, and establish goals familiar to the member. Many wearables will also integrate with body composition scanners to store and track progress towards goals such as body fat %, muscle mass and muscle imbalances so provide a point of discussion wider than simply their exercise programme.

    Having a central system also means you have the potential to introduce new members to wearables by having a demo device for completing initial fitness testing.

    Rather than simply providing a gym programme, trainers should be outlining a weekly activity plan, incorporate preferred elements of in-club training but also home workouts and outdoor activity. These will all remain connected to their member experience through tracking of completion and achievement data.

    Many systems will also incorporate contact triggers or automated communications for support, achievement and drop out risk. This enhances the member journey without impacting on staff resource.

    Used well, technology should enhance and streamline support by your team rather than replace but effective use of your digital ecosystem can provide tools and data to make their role easier and reduce admin time while also providing constant support where resource is not available.

  3. Build into the Ongoing Member Journey

    There are many ways wearables can support continual member engagement. As well as being an integral part of on-going reviews they can be used to create community and motivation through member challenges, either individual or collective e.g., a facility challenge to burn 1million calories.

    Central systems also offer a next level experience for group exercise, not only providing the member with performance feedback in real time, they can provide the instructor with insights to motivate, acknowledge achievement and use members names and all performance data is collected by the member to support wider activities than just the gym.

    Where exercise data can be centrally tracked and followed it is possible to use to communicate with members, either a simple like or comment on workouts or a direct contact, particularly where attendance or compliance is dropping, this provides as essential tool for early intervention and prevention of drop out and cancellation.

    Proving impact on health, fitness and wellbeing has never been more important, wearables and fitness trackers provide measurable data for you to demonstrate the impact your facilities and team are having on your local community, exercise referral schemes and wellbeing initiatives. This can be used to source funding, case studies and promotional campaigns.

  4. Connect Home Workouts to Member Value

    With the current cost of living crisis, there is a risk that people will look to reduce outgoings, potentially cancelling membership and returning to at home exercise.

    Having time to build gym visits into weekly commitments has also always been a challenge and a reason many members give for cancellation.

    By engaging with wearables and fitness trackers you can encourage home workouts as a standard part of their weekly activity plan (ideally build in 2 visits to the facility to maximise membership retention) without reducing the value of membership. Most operators have continued to provide some form of online workouts so consider including details of relevant tracking metrics. For example, approximate calories for the workout, what Myzone colour zones or MEPs the workout should achieve, or number of MOVEs towards the daily target.

Whether you choose to fully embrace a central fitness and effort tracking system or enhance your journey by ensuring individual trackers are discussed and used to support member progress, it is clear it is an area that hold significant potential but is not yet being well integrated into facilities and operational strategies.

Key Take-Aways

  1. Decide on your approach to wearables and fitness trackers. Would a central system work best for your experience or can you task your team to support multiple options.
  2. Build the use of wearables and fitness trackers clearly into your new member onboarding as part of goal setting as well as the on-going experience. E.g. Group Exercise, Home Workouts, Challenges and communications.
  3. Understand the data you can collect and how you can use this to support and connect with members as well as review and revise your member engagement strategy.
  4. Provide your team with training or information on these devices and how they should be building them into their support.

If you would like to discuss the potential of wearable solutions on your member experience or need support in delivering this, contact the TA6 Team.

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