Holiday gluttony guilt drives people to join gyms in droves around January 1. The challenge is to keep those members coming back. Gold’s Gym International aims to fatten its retention numbers and its fiscal fitness with a new website and mobile application intended to pump up customer engagement, the centerpiece of a multi-million-dollar digital transformation. The chain is looking to incentivize members to hit the gym by allowing them to track their fitness performance from their smartphones, fitness trackers and other wearable devices.
“We’re using people, process and technology to get better results,” CIO Bill Floyd told CIO.com .“We want to be an aggregator of the member’s fitness life.”
Pressured to boost sales in a digital age, companies are building software that lets consumers interact with their brands from any mobile device. The goal is to pinpoint mobile moments, such as paying for coffee from a mobile phone, or texting shoppers a targeted offer they can convert in the store. Floyd is applying a similar IT strategy to identify how Gold’s Gym can best engage with its members, ideally retaining them and getting them to spend more in its 700 locations worldwide.
The initiative comes at a time of tremendous disruption in the fitness sector. Founded by Joe Gold in 1965, Gold’s Gym was a dominant fitness chain the early 2000s, when a flurry of upstarts burst onto the scene with a no-frills approach at a lower cost. The disruption has evolved to specialized, interactive studios that offer respite from traditional workout routines and classes.
The path to digital disruption is littered with mobile apps and wearables
Gold’s Gym is countering the upstarts with myPATH, the name brand for a website and mobile app where members can customize fitness and nutrition plans with their personal trainers, track goals and get tips and other information about working out, as well as class schedules for local gyms.
The software connects via APIs, with wearables such as Nike’s Fuel band, Fitbit and health apps such as MyFitnessPal, giving members places to store their fitness-tracking data. Members can also set up the mobile app to collect data they generate from fitness machines, such as treadmills, helping them track fitness performance. “People want outcomes and results.” Floyd says. “They go to the gym and have no idea what to do and no guidance” to get the results they desire.
Since launching myPATH in early August, adoption has ballooned to more than 20,000 members in the 200-plus U.S. gyms that currently support it. Over the next 60 days all 400-plus U.S. gyms will support myPATH.
Ultimately, Floyd would like to implement some business intelligence capabilities to analyze the data myPATH collects from wearables and health apps. One early use case will likely include analyzing troves of membership data to help the marketing team offer incentives to members that the gym views as having the “highest potential for becoming our best customers.”
Floyd estimates that such data would help Gold’s Gym boost retention by as much as 25 percent. He’s holding off on this big data project until 2016, as he estimates it will cost the company between $500,000 to $1 million to implement a system that will yield the best return on investment.
MyPATH won’t put Gold’s Gym at the vanguard of digital retail, where Target, Chico’s and several other organizations are several generations into such software. But maybe it doesn’t have to. Floyd believes the real opportunity lies in how Gold’s Gym members use myPATH inside its facilities. He sees opportunities to “gamify” the member experience. For example, members could unlock badges or earn rewards points for Gold’s Gym merchandise by competing with fellow members in work-out sessions, and sharing their results, possibly even in real-time. Floyd declined to share details about this project, which is currently in the exploratory phase. Ideally, the efforts will help Gold’s Gym thrive in the era of SoulCycle and Flywheel, the stadium cycling chains that employ lights, loud music and upbeat trainers.
Out with the old, in with the new
The road to myPATH was paved with challenges. When Floyd joined Gold’s Gym in May 2014 he found an IT shop that was essentially stuck in a 2000-era technology time warp. IT was ostensibly shadow IT by definition, with marketing purchasing cloud services such as Salesforce.com to do their jobs. Membership contracts were printed out, signed and scanned into an antiquated gym management system. “IT was starving for a way to move forward with acceleration and velocity,” Floyd says.
In the past 18 months, IT has been broken down and built up. The company upgraded its telecommunications and Wi-Fi systems to support mobile and wearable devices. Gold’s Gym rebuilt its security systems and upgraded to flash storage for speedier data retrieval. Software development is now conducted in an agile framework, with teams conducting two- to three-week sprints to add custom modules to myPATH.
Some Gold’s Gym employees questioned why they were changing their technology processes. Floyd told them: “Well, because it’s slow and inefficient and we can’t track it.” Given Gold’s Gym increasing reliance on fitness tracking to advance its business agenda, tracking business technology changes is crucial.