I have been going to group exercise classes at the gym for many years. Like everyone, I rarely have time to speak to the other students or the instructor. The next class is starting, and everyone runs to their busy lives.
I thought it would be great to connect with other members and instructors if only to know their names. It seemed to me that we might benefit by getting to know more about our fellow fitness buffs, and share the journey with others who have similar goals and interests.
Was I the only one who felt this way?
There are a number processes at the gym which are inconvenient, especially in this age of technology. Separate companies provide the mobile app and the class reservation system, while the web site is maintained separately, often causing things to be out of sync.
Paper flyers are posted to announce special events and updates. If there is something that might be interesting for myself or a friend, it slips my mind once I leave the gym. There is also no easy way to give reviews or feedback, which have become such a potent force today.
I interviewed members, instructors, and managers about their habits, motivations and their challenges, to get their perspective how the facility experience could be improved.
For members, the common threads were a lack of time, the difficulty of staying motivated, and things their facilities could improve upon (feedback). Most of them hadn’t given much thought to how they connect to their fellow members.
Instructors, often highly trained, lamented not being able to share their knowledge beyond the snippets available in and after classes. They also expressed some frustration about scheduling and feedback and a wish for more streamlined systems.
For managers, concerns emerged about competition from all the new trendy fitness facilities with their technological advances. Getting members and keeping them engaged in this environment is much more challenging than it used to be.
Occupation: HR Administrator
Nicole tries to go to the gym regularly, and always did until her life got so busy. Now it’s been pushed lower on her priority list. She doesn’t know anyone there, as her job is in another town, and she is caught up with her family. She is active on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Frustration: Between her job and her child, she’s very short on time. She wants to lose weight and get healthier but she doesn’t know where to start. She’s bored with her fitness routine and her gym.
Occupation: Pilates Instructor
Michelle has been a Pilates instructor for eight years. She is extremely knowledgeable and is passionate about teaching others about how to take care of their bodies, especially because she was transformed by Pilates after a car accident years ago.
Time is limited. Her students often have questions and want to learn more, but a new class is coming in and her students are busy. She also doesn’t really know how well she is doing as an instructor. She only gets feedback if there is an complaint.
Occupation: Facility Manager
Mitch is the regional manager for a fitness facility. Member satisfaction and engagement is his number one concern. He has been in the fitness industry for twenty years. Member retention and engagement are his top concerns. Always keeping an eye on the industry, he notices that there seems to be a trendy new “concept” facility opening all the time, many with slick online features.
Frustration: Mitch is concerned about keeping up with the competition, getting new members and keeping them. To do this, he needs to find and retain quality staff, and have a better understanding of how his facility is doing. The website requires maintenance and updating.Lacking a technical team, he patches together several third-party tools (Facebook, GroupEx Pro, etc) to provide features and content.
A Solution Takes Shape
For members, time, motivation, and knowledge are key. For instructors connection to students, sharing knowledge, and getting feedback are the motivating factors. For managers, the most pressing needs are around integrating systems and technology and getting feedback, both factors in helping them keep up with an ever-changing industry and help their members engage and build loyalty.
I began to see the community as the hub of a more comprehensive solution rather than the main attraction. Why not develop a turn-key solution that would provide the facility with the tools they need to connect with their members, with a community as the engine powering it all?
In this scenario the facility would be the “power member”, utilizing the platform to promote programs and updates, showing the possibilities, while the members would have time to catch up. A community left solely to it’s members would take awhile to take hold. The facility could promote itself and create trust and incentives for members to engage.
Sketching to Prototype
The sketching process revealed some familiar patterns from the world of social media, with a central news feed, member listings, and screens for viewing, creating, and editing profiles, events, and groups.
A Turn-Key, White-label Application for Fitness Facilities
This solution (for both mobile and desktop) would be like a “facility in a box” for fitness facilities, with the community as the hub, providing members, staff and managers with tools for connecting and learning from each other.
As the “super-user” the facility would manage and moderate the community, dominating the “news feed” until members engage, replacing or augmenting offline methods of communication.
Fitness organizations would be able to leave concerns about systems and integration behind, as they watch their communities take shape and grow, while leveraging modern, updated technologies.
Home Screen (logged in)
Members and Groups
Sharing, Commenting, Following
Schedules & Reservations
Feedback and Reviews
Let me know what you think!
I am actively updating and improving the prototype as the research continues. Click below to play around with it or install it on your phone. All constructive comments will be appreciated, and taken seriously.