How being a data-led company can drive more sales in less time

By Andy Hall, Director of Sales  

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Sadly, data is one of the most underutilised tools in a modern day operator’s armoury. According to research by McKinsey, brands that utilised customer data to generate insights outperform peers by a whopping 85% in sales growth and 25% in gross profit margin.  

In this article, we will look at how you can utilise the data you have to optimise your commercial performance and drive a growth organisation. We refer to the kings (and queens) of data analytics and look at how the likes of Amazon and Netflix have built global dominating brands all around data and data analytics.  

How data can drive sales and revenue

Gone are the days where a great sales team could drive your business success. Now, this team is only as good as the data they have to work with. A data-driven sales strategy is proven to increase sales outcomes and performance, boost funnel conversion rates, accelerate revenue growth, and improve pipeline visibility; all resulting in more accurate and precise forecasting and ultimately commercial performance. 

Data can be useless unless you are willing to interpret and analyse it into meaningful insights from which you can take action. You will need the ability to capture data, have a strategy for how you will interpret it (and share it with your team), and of course, the power to make positive changes.  This type of plan is essential to keep the sales team performing at or above the level needed to hit sales goals and drive more revenue.

One thing that’s important to note, is that the data you collect and analyse is open for all departments and key personnel to see, access and action. Transparency is key. This will help to justify and speed up decision-making about new processes, new product development, offers and promotions, even recruitment and re-structures.  We recommend key personnel and teams have their own data dashboards and can review data and metrics most relevant to them. 

Digital data acquisition

There’s no denying that we live (and operate) in a fast-paced, digital world….

  • 98% of digital consumers are social media users
  • An average of 2 hours and 20 minutes per day is spent on social networks and messaging apps – a figure that continues to increase
  • Smartphones are facilitating on-the-go social engagement, with many dipping into different platforms throughout the day.
  • Social media has an important role in purchase journeys. Over half of digital consumers are following brands and social networks and more than 60% of consumers are believed to visit a brand’s social media accounts before visiting a shop
  • 80% of these consumers are more likely to buy from you if you have a good digital footprint
  • Video watching on social is now mainstream
  • Digital influencers are becoming more influential, more so than celebs.  

In this increasingly digital world, customer-centricity, personalisation, and excellent customer experience separates the good brands and businesses from the bad and the ugly ones. Covid-19 has increased the adoption of a more digital way to consume and interact with the brands we love but couldn’t physically access- including a boom in connected fitness, becoming a standard practice for how people work out at home and in clubs. In a world where social distancing and limiting capacities could become “normal,” brands and organisations need to find a way to effectively compete and retain customers in this “phygital world” where digital meets physical. The key to unlocking the potential here is data. For the brands which are slow to respond to this data-led opportunity…maybe ask Blockbuster or MySpace, Kodak or BlackBerry how they are doing? 

A quick look back

Before we jump into the sales and marketing strategies you should be using in today’s world, let’s first take a look at what we used to do and how and why we’ve had to evolve. Rewind ten years and mass marketing was the only way to market.  Successful brands stood out from the crown by better segmenting and targeting their customers. They would look at age, gender, income, occupation, location etc. In other words, they focussed entirely on the “who”.  

Whilst we’re not knocking the importance of understanding who your customers are, it’s important this information isn’t used in isolation. If we look at the world’s most successful brands, they are using data and insights to develop clearer customer personas and looking at customer journey mapping and customer behaviour, which is driven wholly by data analytics.  

This quote from Netflix’s VP of Product Innovation, Todd Yellin, rings true here: “It really doesn’t matter if you’re a 60-year-old woman or a 20-year-old man because a 20-year-old man can watch Say Yes to The Dress and a 60-year-old woman could watch Hellboy.” 

If we think about Netflix and Amazon, most of us will think about their incredible use of personal recommendations and it’s no surprise that these recommendations aren’t served up by luck. The advanced engine algorithms are designed to serve each and every customer with hyper-personalised content and product suggestions based upon each customer’s past behaviour. 

Let’s apply this to our sector. How many 60+ year olds do you see in your gym who are in better physical condition than some 20-year-olds using your facility?  Therefore, who should you target with your sales and marketing messages? The answer is both and with personal messages around their usage habits and behaviours.   

Here are a couple quick stats to further highlight the point we want to make: 

  • 75% of Netflix viewer activity is driven by recommendation 
  • 35% of Amazon’s sales are generated through their recommendation engine 
  • Netflix’s recommendation system saves the company an estimated $1Billion per year through reduced churn 

The challenges 

Firstly, we want to point out that if this was an easy way to market, everyone would be doing it. For the most part, marketers struggle to effectively align teams and strategies with the customer journey, citing difficulties such as: lacking a single view of the customer, fragmented data sources, and budgetary constraints as top obstacles getting in the way. Thankfully, we have a solution.  

Volution can support your organisation to overcome these barriers. Our bespoke dashboards offer a single view of your business via the data you have and are collecting daily. Our solution pulls all your data into one place (no need to change existing providers / partners) as we can plug in multiple sources of information. And there’s no set-up fee so you don’t need to worry about finding the budget. Finally, we can be up and running in less than six weeks!  

More touch points equal more data points.

Naturally, the more times your customers interact with your brand and service, the more you can learn about them and their behaviours. Very quickly, patterns and trends will begin to emerge and you can start to understand why successes (and failures) happen.    

Using the data in this way offers invaluable insight for the sales and marketing team and, in turn, the sales funnel and path to purchase can be optimised. You can also look to re-target look-a-like audiences of your high-performing customers and look to target them with the right marketing and sales messaging. This will also help you to better manage your marketing budget and focus the appropriate resources on prospects with the highest likelihood of conversion and the highest potential of driving lifetime value.  

In essence, it’s time to cut the fat and stop wasting time and money on prospects who are long-shots, or whose lifetime value won’t be worth the marketing spend, even if they do buy (as a rule of thumb, LTV should be at least 3X customer acquisition cost.)

This leads us perfectly on to how we use data to retain and engage our members and customers once we have converted them.  

Retention and engagement

Did you know about 1 out of 26 of unhappy customers complain? And 91% of those unhappy non-complainers simply leave. How can we use data to keep our members happier and more engaged for longer? 

A great example here is, once again, with our friends at Netflix. The brand uses customer behavior data to make decisions on what content to produce and license, which also helps them to prevent churn, as well as improve customer acquisition. This makes perfect sense right? And as a result of seemingly “commonsensible” efforts, Netflix has significantly reduced its churn rate, which now sits somewhat lower than its competitors.

A simple deep dive into behaviour data can help retention and lifetime value, but it also gives Netflix – and any other brand for that matter – the ability to grow market share as they have less customers to backfill (due to churn) and potentially more to spend on customer acquisition.  

Driving Lifetime Value (LTV)

Club usage data is invaluable in driving LTV. Creating regular and ongoing data touchpoints with members, especially those early on in their membership, will help them to form habits with your brand and service. For example, regular analysis of the data will show you which type of fitness and fitness products your members need to consume and when in order to form habits. Once a habit loop is formed, retention becomes much easier and cheaper. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, assisted gym products and programmes are truly great at keeping members engaged, motivated and achieving their fitness goals. Sign-posting them to these parts of your service, makes perfect sense.  

It should come as no surprise that a member who has a great experience of your club or facility directly links to a member staying for longer. If a member is having a good experience, they are less likely to churn and vice versa. Data can show you which members are most engaged, identifying   the correlation between members having a good experience and their interactions with your clubs and brands. Of course, this is the same for those having a bad experience. 

Easily accessible and comparable data across these multiple sources allows you to stop doing the things that cause a bad experience and double down on those leading to great experiences.

Upselling and driving secondary spend 

Knowing who is having a good experience and a bad experience allows you to better target members in a bid to upsell and create a healthier secondary spend revenue stream. Members who are having a good experience are more likely to spend more money with you.

What’s more, data showing actions of members can highlight the types of members buying certain products and also members that should be targeted to buy certain products. For example if your data shows that just before a member purchases a PT product, they are attending the club just once a week, you can target all members attending the club just once a week. 

If we look outside the sector, we could look at the success of Amazon.  An ecommerce site that gets more than two BILLION monthly web visitors it’s a brand that needs no introduction.  Let’s take a look at Amazon Prime, a subscription service which offers Amazon customers access to exclusive perks such as next day or even same day delivery for certain products.  It also gives customers unlimited access to Amazon’s streaming services (video and music) and the ability to borrow kindle books, store photos and other benefits. This has been quite the revenue generator from the brand not only in sign ups and the subsequent membership fee but Prime members spend on average three times more than non-members each year.  

The success of this can be largely down to three factors; it focussed on one key selling point (speed of delivery), it made signing up to this service an obvious choice / upgrade – interestingly, initially Amazon didn’t see the uptake it wanted after Prime was first launched. To boost this, Amazon offered free 30 day-trials and consumers saw the benefits.  And finally, it used the right conversion techniques.  In the US, 73% of the Prime subscribers who took advantage of the 30 day free trial converted to the paid subscription model. An average 91% renew after year one and this jumps to 96% after year two and then Amazon has loyal customers for life.  

If we apply this to the fitness sector, what difference could an additional subscription service make to your bottom line? Think about how a tiered subscription / membership could work?

Launching new revenue streams

Data can seriously impact and influence anything new you want to trial or launch.  For example, if we look at the boutique operators, we can see that not only do they offer an amazing fitness experience whilst training at the club, but they also enhance this by offering protein shakes, smoothies, salads, awesome coffee, clothes, and accessories. Operators can look to trial similar services and use the data and results to guide its decision-making process on what to launch and roll out. In a snapshot, data can show you which products have a good ROI, good take up and which are worth pursuing further.

Make data-driven decisions; quicker

So, you’re sold on the benefits of being a data-led brand and operation. You understand the key metrics, how you will collect the data, how it can be analysed, and now the final step is to use these insights to guide your sales strategy and operational processes. 

Our friends K, P and I will come into play here, so it’s important that all data is used and measured against key KPIs. You should also have a central dashboard to compare clubs within your portfolio, which will help you make more accurate high-level decisions. For example, some club data might be different from others and therefore be exempt from changes. Data can help you see the bigger picture far easier, but also help you make accurate micro decisions, faster, and for the benefit of business performance. 

Summary 

There’s no escaping the power of data and what it can offer to any organisation of any size. The data you have within your business can inform so many areas of your operation from content and messaging to sales personnel performance and even have operational ramifications. Such insights allow leaders like you to be more proactive rather than reactive by enabling informed, evidence-based decision-making. When used and analysed properly, data offers greater, more detailed insight into the “state of business” than ever before.  

Data-driven companies have proven to be both more profitable and productive. Are you ready to be a data-driven business? 

The link between data and marketing

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The fitness sector is an exciting place to be. Globally, it’s worth approximately $100 billion, with over 210,000 fitness and health clubs. Since 2013, we’ve also seen a 121% rise in consumers signing up and using boutique gym and fitness facilities.   However, with the growth of the market comes increased competition and where previously location was one of the most influential factors when deciding which gym to join, consumers are far more fickle today. Experience, price and community are all key influencers on where consumers spend their healthy pounds and dollars.    

As fitness operators, you would have seen the market change considerably over the past ten years. Roadside banners have been replaced by digital banners, good old-fashioned PR has been buffered by influencer marketing and leaflets are never to be seen in the modern marketeer’s armoury. There’s much more to consider when developing your marketing plan in 2020 and beyond, and that’s without even taking Covid-19 into consideration.  

Big data has been around for years. It’s not new. 

Big data analytics involves examining large amounts of data, which is done to uncover the hidden patterns, correlations and also to give business insights enabling you to make more informed business decisions. In short, forward-thinking and trailblazing organisations have realised the need for evolving from a “knowing” organisation to a “learning and growing” organisation. There is a burgeoning trend for the most successful businesses to become more objective and data-driven, and the only way they can achieve this is by harnessing the power of data and technology. 

This blog looks to explore the tremendous impact data can have on your marketing and sales strategy.  

Leads, leads, leads! 

Did you know that in the region of 26% of all marketing budgets are wasted on ineffective strategies? Wow, imagine what you could do with that 26% if you were given it back today. But, there is a way that you can ensure your marketing strategies are firing on all cylinders and that 26% can be put to great use. The answer is data and forensically evaluating the insights, to learn which actions enable you to reduce waste and achieve better performing campaigns that increase membership sales, revenue and profit.  

First thing to note here is that you don’t need any type of special qualification to do this, in fact, all of this insight could be available at the touch of a button (or two), thanks to advances in technology and sophisticated capabilities of the right data system and partner.  

Customer acquisition and data 

The customer is the most important asset that any business depends on. There is no single business that can claim success without first having to establish a solid customer base. However, even with a good customer base, a business cannot afford to disregard changes within the market, increased competition and other influencing external factors. If a business is slow to adapt and even slower to learn what customers are looking for, it’s very easy to offer poor-quality products and services. In the end, a loss of members and customers will be the result, and this creates an adverse overall effect on business success.

Your current data holds so much insight that can shape, form and influence your marketing spend and activity. By analysing your data on a regular basis, you can generate profound insights into customer preferences and trends over time.

By using data analytics and forensics to measure and monitor your marketing activity, it can help you track important metrics and you’ll learn how to optimise your campaigns for the best ROI. For example, with better and more efficient data management and tracking, we can look to monitor and measure the following, all in one place.  

  • Website traffic –  Quickly and simply you learn the source of the traffic, page views generated, and actions taken on your website.
  • Lead conversion rate – Data can determine the lead conversion rate for your campaigns.
  • Trends – Data analytics can help better understand what audiences in your market are searching for in real-time, thus creating a better understanding of  trends that you can capitalise on.
  • Channel performance – Data can demonstrate the performance of every marketing channel you use. 

Customer Segments 

Developing a well-versed understanding of your customers’ behavior is central to developing high performance marketing strategies. With better use and analysis of your data, you can quickly and effectively build a bespoke, 360-degree view of your customers, including their geographic location, average lifetime value, interests, hobbies, behaviours and much more. This information can inform your marketing strategy for the best return on investment. And if you realise a key customer demographic is converting poorly, you can look to evaluate your campaigns and messaging to better address their needs.

It’s time to get personal

We talk a lot about personalisation but nailing this is key to get more leads and closing more sales. It’s believed that some 90 percent of retailers now use personalisation in their marketing efforts and further reports quoting an ROI of 20 to 1 when personalisation is used.  

Personalised marketing isn’t new. Who remembers the Coca-Cola campaign where names were printed on bottles? Who brought a bottle with their name on? Or brought a bottle with a friend’s name on? Simple, personalised marketing which saw Coca-Cola boost their sales in the US for the first time in over ten years.   

Data analytics can help you build a customer persona, which you can leverage through various strategies to drive more sales.

Implementing a more targeted and personalised campaign means that businesses can save money and ensure efficiency. In turn, you might not generate as many leads but the leads you do receive are likely to be high-converting and better quality, and this is because you’ve been able to target the right people, in the right way, with the right message, at the right time.  

Where to start? 

Sometimes, the job of analysing data can be overwhelming, especially if you’re working in a business with multiple sites. There’s good news though, your data can be analysed computationally and with very simple dashboard management. Your dashboard and data management solution can reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions with your brand.   

This can help determine your blueprint or road map to better understand who your prospects are, what their preferences, interests, goals, lifestyles, challenges, and even personal stories are too. By understanding this, you can develop your strategy and, in turn, match this to marketing tactics that can help you develop stronger, more qualified leads.  

You might be surprised at the historical information and data you currently have on your customers, not to mention prospects and even those who didn’t join. This can also tell you a great deal and influence your marketing strategy.   

The right data partner can help you develop algorithms to create granular data sets for your prospects and identify what factors will result in a conversion.  

It’s a journey….

Once you’ve used data to better solidify your sales funnel, it’s vital that data usage and analysis doesn’t stop here. Further analysis of data can generate further and ongoing insight into member and customer behaviour and, in turn, how to optimise lifetime value.  

The power of referral marketing 

Let’s face it, it can be expensive to gain and convert a new lead into a sale. It’s therefore critical we don’t stop interacting and engaging with customers and members and learning from the day-to-day data they give us. This can inform and influence our ongoing sales marketing.  

Member referrals can be a fitness club’s best-converting channel. But only if they are delivered to the right members, at the right time and with the right reward. 

Happy, motivated members refer more people organically. In fact, a study by Saasquatch revealed that an average of 2.68 friends are referred by engaged customers (of course, this figure could be much higher if you nail your member experience and turn everyone into raving fans of your business!) 

Reducing attrition 

There’s no point in generating an improved sales strategy, with better performing leads and a better quality of sale if they are only to leave four months later.  Therefore, it’s important sales and marketing teams look at how the member or customer is interacting with the gym and what services they are using (this can also help feed into future sales campaigns and messaging). This links heavily into member engagement and your ability to deliver a hyper-personalized experience that creates a deep, long-lasting relationship with members inside and outside the four walls of your facility. The key to achieving this is, of course… data! And more information about this can be found in our member engagement playbook.  Here we detail how you can harness the power of virtual engagement to deliver the ultimate hybrid gym model (used by the likes of Anytime Fitness) that’s proven to boost member engagement, secondary spend, and lifetime value.

On the flip side, we can use data to understand the behaviour and triggers of leavers, understanding why they stopped using. Once we start to understand trends, we can set up flags – and automated actions – to reduce this happening and indeed look to alter our operation to improve the member experience. 

Once you understand who your high risk members are, you can look to implement an at-site strategy in a bid to move high-risk members into the safe zone, and this is often by encouraging people into assisted programmes.  

Did you know that only 9.6% of the UK population takes part in group exercise weekly and 30.0% annually, according to YouGov, yet, the risk of a member cancelling their gym membership is 56% higher in gym-only members compared to group exercisers? This is an unbelievable statistic and begs the question why more operators aren’t ploughing more resources into driving people into more assisted fitness programmes and products. Do you know what your risk factors are?   

If we look at the gym only members and how they experience the facility, they come to work out on the gym floor (or take a swim) 2-3 times (maybe more) a week.  Do you know how often they are spoken to? Maybe the odd “hello” from someone on reception? Do you know what their goals are? How exercise savvy are they? Do they understand how to effectively train to get the results they want? Has any of the fitness team ever spoken to them? If most of the answers to these questions are no, is it any wonder their motivation dwindles from time to time and they soon cancel their membership? Whereas, on the flipside, you have a member who trains with a PT once a week and attends group exercise classes on three other days. They are constantly engaging with experts, with people who are inspiring. They are engaging with other members who have similar goals and characteristics and feel part of a community. They are on a performance improvement plan and have help, support, encouragement and motivation. Happy days. What impact would it have on your business if just 5% of the “at risk,” gym only members started to engage more? Maybe brought some PT services or simply stayed longer and referred another member? This could take you a while to manually run those numbers. With the right data partner you could have the answer in a matter of minutes. Pretty powerful right?   

Summary 

Data analytics is vital for any business looking for growth and better commercial return. By using and analysing data on a regular basis – part of your business as usual strategy – your business can achieve competitive advantage, reduce the cost of operation, drive membership and customer retention; leading to increased revenue and profit.  .

Becoming a data-driven business doesn’t require huge amounts of change or investment as all the data you need is already at your fingertips; instead, it’s about partnering with the right provider that knows your sector and can implement the appropriate, real-time data analysis systems to handle your data in a way that maximises your marketing efficiency and outputs to increase leads and sales. Data, it’s really quite cool when you get to know it!   

Why member experience starts with data!

By Matt Adey and Ryan McNicholas

We live in a digital universe, with 1.7 megabytes of data being created for every person on earth – every second of every day. It’s no wonder then why businesses are prioritising their data strategies to improve member experience and drive commercial results. For some time, however, the fitness industry has been lagging behind other sectors. Thankfully, that’s all about to change, as we enter a data revolution! 

If it wasn’t obvious before, Covid-19 has shown that those who understand their customers the best and have the tools to reach and engage them in the right ways, at the right times, through the right channels are going to be the most successful, both now and longer-term. Fortunately, there are many great examples from other industries that we can turn to for inspiration.

Just look at the way Netflix uses data to fire up its ‘recommendation engine’ to suggest what people might like to watch based on their previous viewing habits, also using data to commission original programming content that it knows will be popular globally or to purchase the rights to films and series/box sets that will appeal to specific audiences. Always forward-thinking, placing people at the heart of its innovations, Netflix is now trialling a new Shuffle Play function, which randomly plays content it thinks members will like. This helps them to quickly and easily find content that’s tailored to their tastes – great for indecisive people or couples who can’t agree on what to watch! 

Retail giant, Amazon, gathers a massive amount of.data on each of its customers as they use the website, monitoring what they buy, what they search for, their shipping address – even making a surprisingly good guess at their income levels based on location – to offer up bespoke recommendations that reduce people’s search time and persuade them to buy. 

Uber is another global company with a strong data game, using the personal data of customers to closely monitor usage patterns. This determines which features of its service should be focused on to improve the user experience and, subsequently, how its pricing strategy should be altered to generate higher commercial returns. 

Harness the power of data or risk being left behind

Used correctly, data allows businesses to make better, smarter and more effective, real-time business decisions to enhance customer experience and lifetime value; the opposite of going by gut feeling! 

According to a recent study conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, “The expectation of consumers today is that everything exists in the world of the now, and that their interactions will be personalised.” In line with this, 60% of the 560 business leaders interviewed said that the ability to use real-time customer analytics to improve customer experience across touchpoints and devices is extremely important today.

Retailers are experts at using real-time data to enhance business performance by mapping trends – quite literally. As reported by Forbes, thousands of retail executives use a geographic information system that layers multiple data sets onto smart maps in real-time, enabling them to “analyse connections between hundreds of categories, from demographic traits to consumption patterns to characteristics of areas ripe for expansion”. 

In an era where physical stores are subject to the same high expectations as online stores, retailers are also using real-time purchase data to personalise offers at the point of sale, regardless of whether the customer is new, infrequent, regular or part of a loyalty scheme. Importantly, these offers are based on the shopper’s behavior (past purchases, items in the basket, etc) and can include coupons, discounts, stretch spend offers, new product promotions, or ‘value-adds’ such as product care tips on receipts. Faced with the unique challenges of Covid-19, real-time location data allows retailers to make data-driven decisions around restocking, staffing and store design to improve traffic flow, customer safety and personalisation of experience. For example, data can show the best times for at-risk demographics to shop, and which stores or zones are most congested so the appropriate action can be taken. According to Retail Customer Experience, “Understanding how customers move through the space, where they dwell, where congestion is happening, and where missed sales opportunities sit, provides a layer of insight that can boost sales, improve efficiency and increase overall safety.”

These real-time data solutions previously didn’t exist in the fitness industry and, for years, operators have been trying to make sense of different data points on different systems. Although data is becoming much better used – particularly amongst the budget and boutique operators – there’s still a long way to go and countless opportunities to be seized. Many facilities have been running with the same CRM systems or ways of reporting for the last five or ten years, not operating in real-time, and, therefore, are at risk of being left behind. With fit-tech and data accelerating at an extraordinary pace, the gap between those who are using it well and those who need to improve in this area is only set to widen, and it’s up to the operators to decide where they’ll end up. 

We’ve seen what’s happened with brands like Blockbuster and Nokia who failed to move with the times and suffered the consequences, with one forced into extinction by the birth of on-demand, streaming services like Netflix, and the other ranking 13th amongst smartphone brands, having once occupied the top spot. This is the same ‘innovate or die’ challenge that operators are facing right now. 

New start-ups can come in and immediately create something the market has been asking for overnight; likewise, online platforms and smaller boutique operators are seemingly able to innovate much quicker, particularly when compared to the likes of mid-market and premium mainstream facility operators. The good news is, data can help to defend against this and future proof your business by enabling you to build a roadmap of innovation so you know exactly what to focus on in the coming years. By working in this way, when the next great innovation comes along, your members won’t be looking to jump ship as you’ll already be on the front foot; leading in a way that hits the right notes with your community. 

To deliver what members want both now and in the years ahead, you need to ask them what they would wish for if they had a magic wand; the sort of high-level question that doesn’t often get broached because it’s not something that’s practical right now. But we need to tear up what’s practical, adopt a new way of thinking, and trailblaze a bold, new, data-driven world of customer-centric experiences.

Another advantage of having a strong, central data system, like a virtual hub, in place is that it can evolve with your business. So, if a new, third party app comes along that’s all the rage amongst members, you can quickly work out a way to integrate this (dependent on programmatic access) into your offering and track the data from it. In the future, it may even be possible to aggregate multiple apps into your data system.

Making data “live and breathe” in your facility

How do you make data live and breathe in your facility? It’s a question on every operator’s mind, and a challenge that excites us at Volution!

To maximise data and make those marginal gains, operators must realise that every data set tells a story. For example, if the data shows that members want to do more of a certain type of training at a particular time, then the message of the story is that the timetable needs to be adapted to reflect this, which will subsequently drive member attendance and engagement.

Data also comes alive when you tweak it, as demonstrated by David Lloyd, one of the leading operators in terms of whole-facility programming. David Lloyd understood from its data that it could increase attendance at adult sessions by scheduling them 10 minutes later than kids sessions to give parents enough time to reach the studios and prepare before their workouts. A small action with a big impact on member experience; potentially the difference between low-performing classes and having many more people attend! Something that might otherwise have been missed if data wasn’t central to their operations. 

Interpreting data in the right way

A challenge for every industry is interpreting data. If you look at one data point on its own, it won’t tell you the full story. For example, if you have ten people in a fitness class, but the weeks prior, you had 15 or 20, you could view that as a bad result. But if that was in half-term and overall visits to the club were down 50 per cent, then that attendance is, in fact, very high within the broader context. That’s why, at Volution, we help to educate operators on the best ways to understand how all the data points interact with each other to provide the full picture. This avoids making those knee-jerk, cost-cutting decisions that can actually damage a business. Data is not something to be interpreted quickly, but rather smartly, if it’s to stand the best chance of enhancing customer experience and growth of membership.

In order to build up that ‘360-degree view’ of your facility and members, it helps if all of your data can be found in one place. With a virtual hub, operators can see the length of stay for each product or service (online and offline) their facility offers, all via a central dashboard – making it easy to be proactive and make smart business decisions in real-time. This allows data to become part of the day-to-day operations of your facility where it’s most effective, rather than something that’s only addressed at the end of the week or in monthly board meetings. The way we work at Volution is not to replace your current systems, but to unite and maximise them, while identifying opportunities to increase your data functions to increase the lifetime value of members.  

That all-important member feedback

When it comes to member experience, the most important data is the feedback from members and the visit rates or take-up rates of a certain activity which provide a strong indicator of whether people are enjoying your facility and services. 

Depending on what your member feedback mechanisms are, which could include Listen360 scores, member reviews, mystery shopper scores, or Net Promoter Scores, this is really important data to analyse because it’s direct feedback from members in real-time. Good operators will know that quantifying that data, and – most importantly – acting on that data, helps you to make the right decisions that increase business performance. 

Once you’ve made changes to the business based on member feedback, it’s then essential to track those over time in terms of their effect on key metrics – attendance, penetration levels and lifetime value. However, it’s important not to change too much at once; if you’re switching all the dials, you don’t know which dial has made the biggest impact when looking at overall member experience and, from a data perspective, you could end up with misleading results. There’s a balance to be had between how you’re going to measure and review these changes and what data points you’re going to focus on; something we’re only too happy to help with at Volution. 

The power of hyper-personalisation

It’s no surprise that businesses achieve an average 20% increase in sales when offering personalised experiences, but now, the big new trend – and holy grail of customer service and marketing – is hyper-personalisation. 

Instead of grouping people into categories or personas as per the traditional way of marketing, hyper-personalisation is about diving into the granular details, and is a much more effective way of engaging your customer base. The danger of grouping by category is that it doesn’t take into account the individuality of each customer. Possible fitness categories, such men over 50 who enjoy Yoga or women under 30 who enjoy weight training, are just too broad and don’t provide businesses with the level of detail they need to effectively target and communicate with these members to guarantee their attendance and loyalty. 

And what about the ‘clubs within clubs’ that exist – the groups of people who socialise and exercise together outside the gym. The Saturday morning cycling club or Thursday evening running club. How do you know where all of these ‘clubs within clubs’ are if you’re not connected with them? And how can you hyper-personalise their in-club experiences without this data? This is why operators need to have a solid virtual engagement strategy to develop those extra touchpoints with members that reveal this type of beneficial information. 

Spotify – one of the world’s most popular music streaming services – is a master of hyper-personalisation. The Discover Weekly feature analyses your played tracks and cross-references them with people who have listened to similar music. It then identifies songs from the playlists of your ‘kindred spirits’ that you haven’t heard of, knowing there is a high chance that you’ll like them, too. Finally, it filters those findings using your taste profile, areas of affinity and exploration to give you a personalised playlist that continues your journey of discovery with the app; a complete stroke of genius.

The online personal styling company, Stitch Fix, has also hit the nail on the head when it comes to hyper-personalisation. After sharing your fit, style preferences, and budget, your very own stylist curates a selection of items to match for a small fee that’s deducted from anything you buy. Once the items arrive, you can try before you buy and only pay for what you keep. Added to this is a note from your stylist with expert advice for pairing items with styles you already own, whilst a pre-paid return envelope makes⁠ the whole experience a breeze. The longer you’re with Stitch Fix, the better they get to know your preferences, even giving you the chance to swap stylists to find a better match or to mix things up.   

Once you start to really look at how individual people are, it’s hard to look at grouping people at all. The boom in connected fitness apps, services, and equipment, allowing people to work out how they want, when they want, is also helping fitness operators to hyper-personalise experiences. Connected fitness allows the operator some degree of control – or input – into the workout experience of its members outside the four walls of the facility. For example, if an operator is running Les Mills classes and they’re used to doing BODYPUMP™ or BODYCOMBAT™ in the studio, they can continue this experience at home through LES MILLS On Demand. Another way is using your own coaches to deliver virtual training to provide the same great experience at-home and in-facility. If you leave members completely to their own devices when they’re not with you, then the connection is lost, so it’s about making sure that your virtual experience aligns with your physical experience, driving members back towards your facility. 

Automation – an operator’s best friend

Capturing large amounts of data is great, but how do you handle it all to boost member experience? As humans, it’s impossible for us to read through every line of customer data, all day long. But that’s where technology comes in… Not only can computers operate 24/7/365 without taking a break, they can also sift through data much faster and more efficiently than we ever could. With automated member journeys built into your system, this can make light work of turning data insights into actions and ultimately commercial return. For example, if a prospect interacts with your app or platform in a certain way, they’ll automatically be sent the communications, offers, and information to move them along the sales funnel. 

Automation isn’t replacing people with robots, like the scenes from some sci-fi horror movies; it’s about making the member experience more personalised. It could be that your data system triggers the head coach to call a particular member because they’ve interacted with one of your platforms, showing that they require intervention, motivation, or can be upsold to. There’s a general fear within the industry that because people want real human connection, it has to be done in person. Of course, that will always be important, but there are now some really cool ways we can do this virtually. In many ways, automation takes away the human guesswork of when a member or prospect should be approached and interacted with. Data never sleeps, so you need a virtual hub that’s always at work!

Getting smarter with data

During the pandemic, many operators have dipped a toe in the virtual world, offering members digital experiences for the first time; typically, using platforms such as Zoom and Instagram Live to host virtual workouts, personal training sessions and coaching. However, the problem with those free-to-access platforms is they’re not built specifically for fitness, and don’t provide the metrics that operators and staff need to track and truly hone their members’ digital or digit, hybrid experiences. A purpose-built virtual hub gives you that functionality, showing exactly which classes work best, at what times, and with what trainers to increase attendance and engagement by giving members more of what they want, more often. It’s great that the industry has become more tech-savvy, but now’s the time to build on that foundation and take it to the next level. 

The long-term effects of Covid-19

It remains to be seen what the longer-term effect of Covid-19 will be. Will visitor rates get back to where they once were, or not? We believe that the future is the digital, hybrid membership, combining physical sessions at the gym with virtual workouts at home. It will be interesting to see what the data tells us. Members who are following a very specific routine and need very specific equipment will most probably still attend the gym on a frequent basis, but other exercisers might not train in-club as often as they’ve found at-home solutions that work for them and fit their lifestyle better. One thing’s for sure… having a virtual hub will be essential for operators to identify these behaviors, habits and trends to adapt their business models accordingly and deliver great member experiences.   

Summary

As an operator, the digital world can sometimes feel overwhelming, but hopefully, you can see – if it wasn’t clear already – that improving member experience starts with data. The more data you have at your fingertips, the better you’ll be at observing the various customer-related patterns, trends and behaviors that are essential for delivering a knock-out member experience that triggers loyalty and retention. 

If you’re still unsure where to start, no need to worry. As your true data partner, we can identify the key data points relevant to your facility, map out what to do with that data from the best practices we’ve seen and experienced globally, and unearth new opportunities and challenge areas within your business that can make a significant impact to the lifetime value of members. Together, we can navigate an exciting path forward with data!
To unlock the power of data to deliver a digital, hybrid gym model that delivers results, download our playbook now!

What can data be used for to grow your business?

By Adam Norton

Download our playbook to start enhancing your business through data today.

Data-driven decision making is the future for all businesses, but the fitness industry has been slow out of the blocks. For decades, operators have been focused on the ‘brick and mortar’ model – throwing money at getting as many members in the building as possible, then growing the business and expanding revenue by opening more sites or studios. However, technological advancements over recent years have completely shaken up the way we live and consequently think about fitness, meaning the world of data can no longer be ignored, and operators must be quick to embrace digital technology to both survive and thrive in the years ahead. 

Just think of how far we’ve come… Who remembers the pain of waiting for a video to buffer, watching that infuriating little circle go around and around? Or waiting for what felt like an age for a song to download? Thanks to the dramatic increase in internet speeds, those days are long gone, and we can now watch hours upon hours of our favourite box sets, or perform a series of virtual, on-demand workouts in global locations, without interruptions (kids and pets aside!) 

But technology doesn’t develop all by itself, so what’s been driving this? One of the key factors has been the change in consumer behaviours and expectations, orchestrated by Millennials and Gen Z – typically, the ‘want it all, want it now’ generations. As we know, they value speed of service and personalisation, are money-conscious, tech-savvy, and generally prefer to invest in experiences over material assets. They’re also quick to switch between brands if they don’t get what they want! It’s no real surprise then why we’ve seen a boom in budget and boutique gyms, the rise of no-contract memberships, and the coming to market of countless fit-tech products and apps, like Apple Watch, FitBit and Strava, that give users access to live, real-time data at the push of a button to enhance their fitness experiences and results.  

But why does this matter? According to research by LES Mills, Millennials and Gen Z – dubbed ‘Generation Active’ – now account for 80% of gym-goers and 89% of total users of online or app-based workouts. Therefore, if gyms just stand back and watch as fit-tech companies provide Generation Active, and those to follow, with everything they need for a great workout – be it a jog around the park or a HIIT session at home – then operators run the risk of being left by the wayside. Of course, we’re not saying that you must take on Apple by creating  your own cutting-edge, wearable device, but simply to learn from the way it’s using data to create a loyal, avid customer base, and reflecting that in your facility.   

A digital future 

Even before Covid-19 struck the globe, 85% of all gym members were doing workouts at home. This trend increased amongst the wider population during lockdown, with 44% of people doing home-based activity (including 23% doing online workouts). Interestingly, 20% of those doing home-based fitness online were doing it with children in their household, introducing the next generation to digital, at-home exercise. Older generations, too, were learning how to use Zoom and other platforms to meet up and work out – creating an altogether more ‘digitally aware’ global society. 

With people’s growing love of digital and at-home workouts – shown by the 80 million views Joe Wicks racked up on The Body Coach TV YouTube channel as he became “the nation’s P.E. teacher” during lockdown – it’s not hard to see why it’s essential for today’s operators to adjust their business models to include a strong digital offering  (something we call the digital, hybrid model, otherwise they could be waving goodbye to a large portion of their potential audience. So, why haven’t more operators gone digital sooner? The answer is usually ‘change paralysis,’ a.k.a the fear of change. There’s the common misconception that to change, upgrade or implement a new data system, it’s going to take endless amounts of time and cash, but that’s often not the case with the right data partner in place.  

Do I have enough data?

Even if you’re the smallest gym in the world, you’ll have hundreds of thousands of lines of data, but you may not know it; everything from your point of sales, to people walking in your door, to the personal data you obtain by talking to people. Using the trends found in your data can help you to understand, on a minute level, what your members are doing, so you can provide a much better service that keeps them motivated, engaged, and, ultimately, retained. 

What we’ve found over the last five years is that boutique brands like F45 and Barry’s Bootcamp have become very popular because of their ability to deliver more personalised experiences and build community, where people feel included and have that genuine rapport with trainers, fellow members and the brand as a whole. They’re usually more agile, too, as we witnessed with the speedy launch of Barry’s At-home during lockdown. The data that comes from this method of operation helps to reduce cancellations, unpaid membership fees, and more.  

That being said, the bigger gym chains can replicate this personal service by using data to create those extra touchpoints and opportunities. For example, a traditional gym that’s only ever offered in-facility training could create a digital-only or hybrid (digital and physical) membership, using its superstar coaches to record or stream workouts direct to members’ devices. This is effectively transitioning the brand outside the gym, providing value to the consumer, possibly reducing wear and tear on equipment, and increasing the facility’s potential membership. Additionally, a data system could be created with a rule to notify the operator every time drop-off rates fall below a certain level (harder to spot in the large gym chains without the use of data), providing a list of all those people so that immediate, personalised action can be taken to correct this.   

Regardless of size, however, most operators still have some way to go to harness the true power of data. Many of the smaller, boutique gyms and studios are based on a booking mentality, with studios generally holding around 20 people (maybe fewer during Covid because of capacity restrictions), and so they face different challenges. For instance, what happens when five people drop out of a fully booked class, but the people on the waiting list don’t get notified? The operator loses out financially and annoys the people on the waiting list who missed out on an opportunity to have a great experience. However, by creating an algorithm within your data system that redistributes a space out to those on the waiting list when someone cancels, it overcomes that potential issue, while also gamifying the situation (who can grab the space first?) to make the process a little more impersonal, so the operator’s not having to choose one member over another. 

Many boutique operators also sell packages, such as blocks of 10 or 50 classes. What happens when a member stops attending the studio but still has classes left to use? Using an automated system, you can remind members that they have classes remaining to keep them engaged and returning to the facility so, in future, they buy more packages and tell their friends about their experiences, driving referrals. Additionally, if data shows that on the member’s last three visits before they stopped using their class passes, they bought a banana protein shake, you could offer them a free shake the next time they come in to further incentivise and re-engage them. A low-cost, high-impact action that helps to drive attendance, retention and growth. 

Over time, you could see exactly how many people respond to a free shake or a free day pass as part of your re-engagement strategy, then take this a step further by looking at the minor detail. What age brackets are most receptive to this? Which channels are best to target them through? Really understanding what the profiling is within each subset of members, so the next time you plan a sales campaign, you know that 19 to 24-year-olds, for example, solely respond through Instagram and are most attracted by a ‘two for one’ class pass, leading to increased conversion rates. 

A final point to add here is that a data system is only as good as the information put in. For example, it’s hard to market to someone if you don’t have their correct email address or phone number. Thankfully, a system like our virtual hub can spot fake email addresses and spit them out to create and maintain a clean and useful database, so you’re not wasting time marketing to people that don’t exist!  

Don’t take the first digital concept you see!

During Covid-19, it’s understandable that many operators have taken the first digital concept they’ve seen, and not really thought about it in as much detail as they could in terms of post-Covid and their long-term strategy. This is dangerous to the brand and indeed the future success of the business. 

Starbucks is a great example of how not to follow the crowd and, instead, end up with a data system tailored to your unique audience and goals. President and CEO, Kevin Johnson, encapsulated this when he said, “Where others are attempting to build a mobile app, Starbucks has built an end-to-end consumer digital platform anchored around loyalty.” With a customer-centric strategy, Starbucks innovated the mobile order-and-pay app to overcome its customers’ pain points: convenience, line avoidance, and so on. Combined with its expansive loyalty programme, the app gives Starbucks the perfect platform to up-sell and market to coffee-lovers the world over. Furthermore, the app filters back huge amounts of data which can be used to better dissect their customers’ habits and desires. This enables Starbucks to implement new features quicker, deliver more personalised experiences for each customer, and a more integrated experience all-round. 

In this article, it’s clear how Starbuck’s forward-thinking, digital strategy paid off during the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sales from Starbucks Rewards were up 4% on the previous year, which was above the pre-Covid trends, while drive-through and mobile order-and-pay amounted to almost 90% of sales volumes in their latest period. Delivery also made a big difference for the brand. Johnson stated, “We are seeing first-hand the power of integrating physical and digital customer touchpoints to meet customers’ growing need for convenience. Our digital assets have proven to be a competitive advantage.” At Volution, we’d call this the digital, hybrid gym model. 

What Starbucks has done is the difference between using a data system to put a bandaid on a problem, and actually using it as part of an overarching strategy to drive business success. By having the right data, it’s much easier to build that plan so operators can maximise their physical footprints, digital presence and customer journeys. For example, at that vital point when you’re thinking of opening a facility in a new country, you can use the data from your current model and benchmark this off existing facilities within that region and the known cultural differences, to create a model that works. Once up and running, you can then use data in real-time to make the adjustments quicker than waiting until the end of the month to get the report on performance – sales, penetration, uptake in classes, and more. With a virtual hub, all of that information is available immediately from a central dashboard.  

Head office can then compare how facilities are performing across different regions, taking into account their unique differences. So, if the business is doing really well in South East Asia but struggling in China, for example, you can ask the questions, what’s different? What can we learn? Or if the business is doing really well in South East Asia, then this could present an opportunity to expand into Indonesia because the demographics are quite similar. This approach is one we’ve used successfully with Anytime Fitness, helping to translate its offering into new markets. 

Fine-tuning the sales journey to boost member acquisition

As Dan Zarrella said, “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.” Thankfully, one of the major benefits of data is that it allows you to better understand – and fine-tune – the customer sales journey. How do you get the lead in? Where does it come from? Who talks to the prospect? How does that then play out? All questions that data can answer.

By digitising and automating as much of the sales process as possible, operators can track the engagement with prospects across all channels (phone, social media, email, etc) to learn which messages, delivery times, journey stages, and channels get the most engagements, and, ultimately, lead to the most member conversions. With the dashboards featured in a virtual hub [Link to virtual hub blog], operators can quickly see their funnel metrics (number of prospects in the awareness, interested, consideration, intent and decision phase of their purchase cycle). Armed with the knowledge of which actions convert the most prospects, and in the best lead times, operators can then optimise their funnels and double-down on the most efficient tactics to drive more memberships and revenue.

Generating secondary spend

One of the brilliant things about data is that it allows you to spot opportunities for generating secondary spend amongst your most engaged members (those most likely to spend money) by understanding what they like to do when they’re inside the facility and then capitalising on this. For example, if you identify that a group of members likes to buy a certain food, drink or supplement after each session, you could target them with a membership package tailored to their tastes. For example, Fitness World in Denmark offers its members the option of paying an extra 100 coronas per month, which means they can enjoy one item from the fridge, such as a protein shake, a protein bar or a bottle of water, per visit. Not only does this help to create a culture, but also an additional revenue stream.   

Ramp up referrals 

As the phrase goes, “happy customers make happy customers.” In other words, if your customers like your product or service, they will refer more. In fact, research shows that brand advocates are 83% more likely to share information about a product than typical web users, and 50% more likely to influence a purchase. Furthermore, word of mouth (referrals) is the primary factor behind 20 to 50% of all purchasing decisions, not to mention that referred customers have 25% higher lifetime value than non-referred members. By using data effectively and utilising a digitised referrals system, you can identify ways to strengthen your internal community and create a feel-good vibe around your business, which, consequently, increases the likelihood of members making referrals to their inner and outer circles.  

Just look at the way Monzo has been able to engage customers and grow a successful business by taking the old brick and mortar bank system and flipping it on its head. Through digitisation, Monzo has made it so easy for people to share money, to pay for items, and to travel. One of the great things about this company is that it’s very open and transparent about what’s coming next. It has a community function in its platform, so you can see on its Trello board what’s being developed and have your input, so it has really understood the power of customer feedback, data, and the desires of the younger generations driving consumer behaviours. What’s stopping gyms for gaining member input this way? Monzo has been successful at standing out from the crowd and differentiating itself. Instead of being transactional in its approach, Monzo has gone community-focused and it’s paying off. If anyone’s in a prime position to adopt this model, it’s gyms, as community is the very foundation upon which they’re built. 

Turn up your team’s efficiency

According to Gallup, an eye-watering “85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work,” causing the global economy approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity. Contributing to this is the fact that employees are interrupted from their work an average of 56 times a day and it takes an average of two hours a day recovering from these interruptions, as getting ‘back into the zone’ isn’t something that just happens instantaneously. 

Of course, every business is different and will have its own unique set of barriers to productivity, but through automating processes, it’s possible to remove distractions, streamline processes, and free up staff, so they can concentrate on what’s most important, like coaching, interacting with members, and keeping the facility Covid-safe by carrying out regular cleaning tasks. Even in the ‘big box’ gyms where personal trainers are self-employed, you can give them the tools – and freedom through automation – that enables them to drive their businesses and gain more customers, generating more revenue for themselves and the facility. 

By automating the prospect journey through a lead management tool, it takes a lot of the ‘hard graft’ away from the sales team, and provides them with the insights to concentrate on the highest converting actions. Additionally, because every action taken by the sales team is logged and time-stamped via a virtual hub, there’s no way of cheating the system and earning commission from work that’s not been completed. 

From an operating perspective, you can see how many Net Promoter Scores have been gathered to understand gauge reputation and member engagement levels, how many free consultations have been delivered by the PT staff, the length of time between a new member joining and them receiving a wellness consultation, and how they are getting approached. A data system can also be used to hold staff members to account by monitoring stock-take versus takings in the cafe area or the number of PT sessions that are actually taking place, highlighting any discrepancies and lost revenue. Of course, there’s buckets more you can do! 

Why Volution should become your tech partner

Now that we’re clear on why data should be central to your ongoing business strategy, how do you choose the right data partner for your business? In a Harvard Business Review article, “Digital Transformation Is Not About Technology,” we’re reminded of the importance of involving the ‘insiders’ – those who understand the daily demands and operations of the business – in this process. Not only will this create buy-in from your team, but it will also ensure that you select a data partner capable of meeting the unique requirements and objectives of your business. If you get this right, you’ll wonder why you’d never done this sooner! 

At Volution, we understand that every business is different and benefits most from a bespoke data solution, which is a lot quicker, cost-effective, and hassle-free than many people would expect.

To give you a brief over, we start by conducting an initial consultation/workshop with the client to really get to know their business and each different aspect of how it operates and functions. Although we can create your entire data systems, our main solutions plug in and bolt on to your existing frameworks, meaning we don’t interfere with the systems you’re currently using  but instead look to unite and evolve your digital ecosystem into one centralised dashboard to exploit opportunities and plug gaps, driving member experience and commercial results. We then suggest and implement the particular modules and data analytics functions required to achieve the operator’s goals, following this up with a second workshop to refine those modules, really drilling down to the base level. For example, there may be differences between clubs which require some of the data functions/analytics to be tweaked. From there, we then build it back up to maximise the results.

Data is an evolving product, so we never just sell a product and walk away, but instead like to become an operator’s data partner, investing our time in your success to build that relationship. Therefore, we don’t charge a development fee, and you only pay for the features that you want.  

It’s not the data, it’s how you use it… 

Data comes from everywhere – emails, social media, surveys, club usage, equipment usage, face-to-face interactions, the list goes on and on. To make sense of it, every business could benefit from more digitisation, and for fitness facilities of all types and sizes, the opportunities are there for the taking.     

But before jumping headfirst into the digital world, it’s important to sit back and think about the fundamentals of your business to understand what data you need and how to filter it. That’s where we come in at Volution; helping you to develop a unique system to match the uniqueness of your brand, audience and goals. One that can be implemented day-to-day, in real-time to get ahead – and stay ahead – creating additional touchpoints with members and automating the trigger points to keep them engaged both inside and outside your facility through a digital, hybrid model. By pulling all of your data together, we allow you to look at data differently and get the ‘full picture’ of your business operations to unlock hidden potential. 

As your true data partner, we will help you to understand the key metrics to make smarter, faster decisions, while also enabling you to future proof your business by identifying opportunities to enhance or expand, such as opening additional clubs in new territories or growing your business digitally through apps, on-demand content or virtual training. And if there’s data you need but no solution available, then we’ll do our very best to create it. 

Perhaps best of all, data gives you the power to really diversify your offering very quickly ,to reflect the desires and expectations of members to keep them engaged and enhance lifetime value. Ultimately, a business that uses data is a business that cares about its customer experience, and this will be reflected in member loyalty, your bottom line, and the longevity of your brand.