Let me start with a personal anecdote. Even though I live and breathe fitness in my career, I’m not a natural gym goer. But like many other non-natural gym goers, I go anyway and workout to stay fit and healthy. What keeps me connected to my gym routine is the relentless efforts of my personal trainer Bryan, who has somehow figured out the triggers and techniques to keep me showing up week after week. So, as the news coverage, buzz and interest around artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots continues to build, I found myself wondering [pullquote]"can AI do what Bryan does?"[/pullquote]
And can predictive algorithms, machine learning and generative AI ever match the personalization and expertise of club staff as business becomes more tech-driven every day. Of course, the answer is no. But understanding the benefits that AI promises for your fitness technology stack – and how that helps your people – is going to be critical to club success before we know it. Let’s take a look at what every club should know.
What AI means for clubs
If you haven’t given much thought to AI you should. ChatGPT – the text bot from Open AI that can do advanced research and write (to a point) – reached 1 million users faster than any other global trend, including, amazingly, TikTok. Since launching in late 2022, ChatGPT has attracted 100 million users and is actively being integrated into all kinds of apps and solutions in a venture capital gold-rush that’s grown 425% since late last year.
As all of this takes place, every club is facing the same challenge: how to stay competitive with member offerings versus the competition; and how to assess all of the new technologies and processes that can help maximize efficiency? Emerging AI technologies can help in two major ways: 1) playing a central role throughout marketing funnel activities to efficiently target and engage new members at the local level and optimize marketing spend; and 2) streamlining many parts of club operations to help you and your team focus on exceptional member experience, which studies show is key to retaining members.
AI solutions and bots can speed time-consuming admin tasks, conduct lightning fast data analytics to help you make more informed decisions and answer initial questions on your app and website. That means more staff time to build relationships with members, create opportunities for interaction and build custom programs to help them meet their fitness and health goals. Things the machines will never master.
Understand the why of AI for your business
Consider this. If the human brain takes five minutes to solve one problem, AI computing can do ten in a minute and manage trillions of transactions. It’s undoubtedly a big step in technology tools for businesses, but what can it do for clubs that are all about people, interactions and experiences?
As Simon Sinek says in his TED Talk you have to find “the why” to be successful in this changing club landscape. Ask why do we provide certain services to members and why do they come back to the club? What is it about your mission, your operating style and way of engaging members that creates success? And why should – or shouldn’t – you use AI for your club?
AI may be limited in its human interactions, but its advanced data analytics capabilities can create benefits for every club. Automated AI can monitor fitness activities, trending classes and popular instructors. It can track machine usage by day and time and predict preference and behavior patterns over time to help you tailor classes and scheduling. It also means more informed investment in the equipment, more precise offerings and services that engage the most members and help with the member retention critical to grow your business.
AI-driven analysis can also pinpoint weakness in operations: areas where members perceive lower value, or spot inflated operating costs and inefficiencies with staffing schedules and compensation inefficiencies. Your operations team and training staff may have views and opinions on member behavior trends but AI data analytics can verify these patterns before you invest time and money in making changes or meeting perceived needs.
The combined power of human and machine
Open AI, one of the major developers of generative AI tools released a report recently, highlighting which professions are expected to be impacted by the advances of GPT AI. The staggering news is that it’s expected 80% of the U.S. workforce will see job impacts. Nowhere near the top of that list?
Fitness trainers, instructors and fitness staff. But while you can’t replace the personal in personal trainer, adding AI to augment what your team does with members could make sense in a number of ways:
- Automated Coaching: AI-powered software can now provide personalized fitness recommendations and real-time feedback to users from their wearables, in addition to the programs and techniques instructors provide.
- Virtual Reality: We’re not there yet but virtual reality technology will soon be able to create immersive digital fitness experiences.
- Intelligent Fitness Equipment: Smart cardio equipment can now monitor user fitness and activity levels to provide personalized data and guidance on performance.
- Online Training Programs: AI-powered online training programs can provide personalized fitness plans and real-time feedback to users.
- Automated Analytics and Recommendations: intuitive AI can now be used to monitor biometrics to provide tailored nutrition and overall health and wellness guidance for members.
Steps to incorporating AI into your club’s future
Whatever your view of AI, it’s rapid rise will very soon touch many aspects of club operations. As you consider the best ways to integrate technology, you should consider these key stages:
- Set goals: are you looking to streamline operations, optimize member marketing, or improve member engagement? Defining your outcomes and goals will help you choose the most appropriate AI tools for integration.
- Ensure good data practices: AI is only as effective as the data it collates and analyzes. Before investing in new tools, ensure your club has a solid data base from wearables, club equipment, social media interactions and engagements and member feedback.
- Appropriate AI for your needs: AI like ChatGPT is getting all the attention but there are many kinds of AI that can be used for your business: NLP AI (or natural language processing) can help automate customer service, computer vision AI can be used to monitor the club floor and predictive analytics solutions can help optimize and plan.
Whether you’re an early artificial intelligence adopter or a cautious club waiting to see how the technology develops, AI will make a major impact on every club someday soon. But it won’t replace your expert, trusted club staff. And Bryan will be happy about that.