The ongoing digitalisation of society means that many consumers now expect to be able to carry out a wide range of tasks online – from ordering food online to booking a doctor’s appointment. The rise of apps, such as Uber and Amazon, has also created the expectation of “always-on” access to such products or services.
However, the fitness sector has somewhat lagged behind in this respect. Indeed, Sport England recently found that booking a holiday, taxi or concert ticket is easier than arranging an exercise class online – causing one in five people to put off exercising.
Our recent research supports this. It found that many fitness professionals, such as personal trainers, are still using outdated systems to book and manage clients. A third still rely on using pen and paper.
These archaic, time-consuming ways of engaging people leave many fitness professionals struggling to meet changing consumer habits and unable to achieve their career goals. Plus, excessive time spent on admin tasks is costing personal trainers £8,136 in lost income every year – equating to £211,536,000 across the industry.
Improving the efficiency of such tasks will free up more time for client sessions – boosting professionals’ bottom lines and the UK’s health and wellbeing.
So, what is the importance of bolstering technology throughout the fitness sector and how can this be put into practice?
Technology – the key to success
Digital innovation is arguably at the heart of fitness giant PureGym and has helped it become one of Britain’s biggest, most-used gym chains. Its digital system allows users to access unmanned gyms 24/7 and stores customer data to help tailor offers to each individual.
But this use of technology is not filtering through to the grassroots of the industry. For example, we found that 44% of personal trainers still use local newspaper advertising to attract new business – a method that is expensive and often inefficient in a digital world.
There is much to be learned from other sectors that are effectively using technology to help drive business success. Digital retailer, Ocado, for instance, uses artificial intelligence to automate administration processes and predict demand, and is trialling driverless deliveries. This has helped increase customer satisfaction rates and bolster revenue levels.
This use of tech to reduce admin time needs to be embraced throughout the fitness sector on a wider scale. Not only will it help boost profits and membership numbers, but also drive overall customer engagement and satisfaction throughout the industry more widely.
Enable online booking
Our research found that only one quarter of personal trainers use online booking systems – with the systems that are being used failing to meet changing consumer requirements. This means that the majority of customers are forced to arrange sessions via calls, texts and emails. So how do personal trainers put this right?
Capitalise on social media
With over 3 billion social media users worldwide, the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are invaluable tools for businesses. They help boost client bases, increase customer engagement and drive traffic to company websites.
Using them to promote availability is essential. For instance, if any last minute sessions become available, or empty slots remain, trainers should use social media channels to highlight vacancies. A booking URL should also be added to a trainer’s online bio – making it easier and more convenient for clients to book online.
Implement digital payments
With credit and debit cards having long-since overtaken cash as the preferred method of payment, and online payments expected to grow by a further 56% over the next decade, it is vital that fitness professionals allow clients to pay for sessions digitally to take advantage of the trend. These payments should be taken at the time of booking to increase class numbers and significantly reduce session no-shows.
To put this into practice, trainers can adopt tools such as PlanGuru. This integrates with accounting platforms to provide users with both current cash-flow data and forecasting. As a result, fitness professionals no longer need to waste their time managing this often complex aspect of a business.
Gym groups can also assist with this by adopting and promoting tools that drive sales online, providing transparency for trainers to comply with the latest legislation – such as IR35.
If fitness professionals and gym groups take the above into consideration, they can expect to reduce admin time, keep up with consumer expectations and create new revenue streams – now and in the future.