Gyms are constantly looking for ways to enter the digital world in order to take their businesses to the next level, and many gyms have focused on integrating technology into every facet of the fitness experience as a means to acquiring and retaining members. Wearables can be a game changer for improving upon that experience.

A wearable device, or "wearable," is an electronic technology added to clothing and/or accessories that are worn on an individual's body. They are designed so as not to interfere with the body while performing exercises, including standard activities that occur at a gym.

I recently spoke to Emmett Williams, President of MYZONE to uncover why wearables are the future of fitness, and he started with a dialogue on data.

1. Data from wearables will increase customer lifetime value. The gym industry and its use of technology is traditionally very rudimentary, according to Williams. As wearable technology clashes with the old fashioned, physical side of the gym, there is an opportunity to extract value out of members based on the immense amount of data generated by wearables. Gyms can identify which members have a propensity to buy based on their behavior, giving them the ability to send the right member the right message at the right time and at the right price. Similarly, gyms can identify which members are likely to quit the gym and intervene with measures to keep them engaged, whether that's a free personal training session, access to group class to increase community, or a simple consultation.

2. Wearables engage members for added retention. Gyms can make wearables an integral part of a member's experience at the gym by integrating their use into group classes, personal training sessions and by inviting members to connect with each other on social platforms associated with the devices. Data from the devices make it easier for gym operators to know when to send a push notification, class reminder, training tip, etc., says Williams. Wearables can also be used to make the gym a social space for gym goers, encouraging members to connect with each other inside and outside of the physical space.

3. Wearables enhance personal training and paid programming. Gyms can use wearables as a value add part of the mix. Williams uses the MYZONE training partner and app as an example, which allows personal trainers to track their clients' activities and meals, even when they aren't at the gym. The trainer can check in to make sure a client is sticking to the training program and to offer support and guidance.

4. Wearables typically provide tracking, feedback and meaningful insights. At the most basic level, wearable fitness gives gym-goers the ability to track their progress. Rather than training simply for the sake of training, wearables can provide feedback on individual gym sessions as well as progress over time, allowing members to make meaningful changes to a training program in order to be more effective. Williams points out that members can also track changes in bio-measures like body fat percentage and heart rate over time.

5. Gamification makes going to the gym fun. Wearable fitness trackers, especially those that are synced up with the gym ecosystem, are a great resource for gamification as they can turn any workout, whether it's a group exercise class or simple weight training, into a game. The benefit of using game mechanics in a "non-game," i.e. exercise, is that it will motivate gym-goers to get things done and will engage them in the process. When the payoff--losing five pounds, running a 5K, etc.--seems like a faraway reward, gamification provides motivation to reach the end goal.

6. Social amplification is key in a millennial's gym experience. Wearable fitness devices give gym-goers another way to connect with a gym's community of members. "Exercising can be mundane and solitary," explains Williams. "The more social gyms can make exercise, the more members are likely to enjoy the experience of coming to the gym and adhere to their personal fitness goals."

Published on: Mar 30, 2016