Among the many changes that occurred with the COVID-19 pandemic, one that has impacted the fitness industry is that the balance of power has shifted to the consumer. Because of that shift, the fitness industry must find ways to use technology and data to make the member experience more valuable and personalized. That was the focus of much of the Fitness Technology Summit, put on by Daxko Nov. 3-5 in Washington, DC.
About 140 fitness executives from 80 club companies and sponsoring vendors attended the annual event targeting CEOs, CTOs, CIOs and CMOs.
“The technology team is typically the part of the organization that is most often left behind at the traditional shows,” said Al Noshirvani, founder of Motionsoft, which is part of Daxko. “With the intersection of marketing and technology becoming more and more blurred, providing these executives with a chance to learn has become increasingly important.”
The event included 12 educational panels and solo presentations, including a keynote by IHRSA CEO Liz Clark, who closed out the event by sharing how IHRSA is evolving and lobbying for relief for the industry. She had just arrived to the event from a visit to Capitol Hill where she had been speaking with Senate staff about the GYMS Act, an act that asks for $30 billion in relief specifically for health clubs.
“For us to reposition fitness as preventative, we need data to show it. We need data to frame the narrative,” Ori Gorfine, president and COO of U.S. Fitness Holdings, said on the panel “Capitalizing on Analytics and Harnessing the Art of Possible.” Gorfine also is a member of the National Health & Fitness Alliance (NHFA) advisory council. The NHFA was created by IHRSA to unite the advocacy, public affairs, stakeholder engagement, fundraising and lobbying efforts of the health and fitness industry in the United States.
Data comparing the healthcare costs of gym members compared to non-gym members would be a help, Gorfine said.
Technology was implemented during COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns to keep members engaged, and some technology has become a mainstay because members now want and expect it. That technology includes use of fitness apps, online workouts and online join opportunities.
Although the digital side of the fitness business may have been more of a hobby of sorts for many club operators prior to the pandemic, during the pandemic, digital is a part of the member experience today, according to Chad Waetzig, executive vice president of marketing and branding at Crunch, who was part of the Fitness Summit Advisory Panel that kicked off the event. And not just in online and on-demand classes, but for Crunch it extends to videos showing people new to fitness how to use equipment, how to build their own HIIT workout and other topics that help to use digital to enhance the in-club experience.
Member behavior is changing, and health clubs need to be there to support it, weighed in Garrett Marshall, president of fitness streaming at Xponential, who also was part of the panel.
Many of the panels also focused on ensuring the industry captures data that is useful and actionable.
A date for the next summit has not been determined, but the event will be in fall 2022, Noshirvani said.