Man planking Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the health club industry was adapting to digital and technological advancement. It was however doing this slowly. Arguably, the health club industry was behind other comparable industries like retail and hospitality in terms of technological innovation. This resistance to adapt appeared to stem from the threat of digital fitness potentially taking a dominant proportion of the market, relative to the traditional bricks and mortar operations. Given the COVID-19 experience, it appears digital has been the saviour of the fitness industry and it is now up to healthclub operators to find a way to embrace the inevitable.

Industry experts currently foresee the future as a hybrid one; the traditional in-gym fitness routines will return gradually in the months following the wide spread national lock-downs, whilst digital fitness via online resources will arguably continue to grow, enabled by ever more intelligent wearables and other devices. Some believe that consumers will expect gyms and studios to offer a hybrid experience given the relative success experienced by people working out from home during the lock-downs and as they look to augment the fitness services they may be consuming from elsewhere. At the time of writing, the latest entrants to the digital fitness space now include Apple, Facebook and Amazon. So this is getting serious.

Put simply, a hybrid fitness business is one that offers both onsite and online services. Onsite is what you offer within the four walls of your premises. Online is what you offer through live streaming, on-demand content or other online resources.

Pivoting a traditional gym or studio business towards a hybrid model will not be easy given that consumers can already combine different services from multiple specialist providers and tailor their own "hybrid combination" of routines. Regardless of what each operator chooses to provide its members, an area often overlooked is how to generate accurate and actionable data of member attendance at each gym or studio. Without this, operators do not have a complete picture of member engagement across the various services offered.

We believe that the operators that will succeed in the future are those that have an end-to-end view of their members; not just what Personal Training bundles or how many protein shakes they have bought, but an understanding of when they come into the facilities, when they do not, and when they do come in knowing how long they stay and being able to personalise their experience. Overlaying this data, combined with what members do when they are inside the club as well as their other engagement when outside of it, relative to their goals and nutrition plans, completes the picture for operators and allows them to tailor member experiences accordingly.

Digitising a business will mean different things to different operators - put simply, its a journey rather than an end in itself. Getting the foundations right is vital and we see too many businesses jumping to construct the roof when the foundations and walls have not been properly thought through. In a world of hybrid fitness, cloud-based access control remains an important foundation stone for any health club business that wishes to sustainably provide facilities and services that consumers can use and obtain full benefit from.

Read the key benefits of cloud-based access control in our What is cloud-based access control blog.

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