Frictionless Experiences. What They Are And How They Will Impact The Fitness Industry

By: Kelly Card

In my early days working in the fitness business we sold memberships for people to workout at the gym, personal training services for our clients, and some miscellaneous items like drinks and apparel. Back then digital commerce did not exist, people did not have mobile smartphones, and their experiences and expectations pretty much aligned with most other industries. You had to call people on the phone or go to their physical locations to buy almost anything. Our job was to give great service when members would come in and keep the place clean and functioning. Members seeking a workout had to travel to the gym when we were open, look for an available treadmill, and drive off to work or home from there.

Today customer expectations have made a significant departure from my early days in the business. Banks allow customers to deposit their checks via an app, look up their balances at any time, and even apply for loans on their mobile devices twenty-four hours a day. I won’t even touch on being able to watch any movie you’d like any time of day or night via a host of content platforms like Netflix, or shopping on Amazon at 1:30 am. How does this relate to the fitness business? Well frictionless experiences are all about what customers want, when they want it, and how they want it. This trend will change everything about the fitness business.

“We can’t have the conversation about online, offline and the transcendent experience between the two because we haven’t looked at what our customers value, love, desire and how they behave. Once we do, we can find opportunities to design new, better, unified experiences online and in the real world.” - Brian Solis, Author, Speaker And FXC Thought Leader

Frictionless customer experience (“FCX”) is a mindset and approach to business that continuously pursues the best combination of a product or service to a customer at the right moment and in the right channel. Three underlying concepts define FCX : the product or service, the moment, and the channel. If you want to understand the implications and opportunities FCX creates check out this article on the magic that thoughtful FCX has created at Disney.

As we define the dimensions of FCX its important to clarify a few things.

  1. A product or service is not only your beautiful gym, it can be content of any kind. This is an important distinction because anyone can experience health and fitness in many ways now digitally. Also, certain products or services are more appealing for some members over others. What does that mean? Look at what Equinox is doing with PlatformX to deliver workouts and fitness coaching for travelers without having to go into their gyms. Convenient hyper-personalized offerings create more value.
  2. The moment has to do with when the member wants or needs what they want. Chatbots are delivering automated support and coaching as an example. Understanding where a member is in their lifecycle and use patterns informing a brand that relies on data help anticipate moments as opportunities to add value. The moment is about context.
  3. Members are experiencing and engaging with the world on many channels; Youtube, your App, in your club, via Instagram, via Google, and more. Coordinating those channels in a way to be more valuable in your engagement with the member enhances their experience. You might have heard me refer to omni-channel experience before. Well this is it.

It is the artful integration of these three key dynamics that will separate certain fitness brands from the rest of the pack by doing things for their customers others cannot do by creating a frictionless user experience. Therefore, becoming a FCX business is going to be a significant  strategic advantage but it will not be easy to achieve because it is hard.

Really being thoughtful and walking in the shoes of your customer, for example, is difficult for many business owners. Experiencing things from the eyes of your first-time buyers and repeat members requires a truly objective view. You must literally inspect every pixel, word and emotion being expressed in every touch point.

Developing choreographed experiences requires tweaking messages and processes, both digitally and physically, even subtly. Different members are seeking different things and therefore messaging should be personalized, and yet most fitness businesses don’t tweak their messaging for clearly distinct scenarios, given the moment, member, or the channel even though it has been proven to make a big difference on purchase intent.

Ultimately, members want simplicity when interacting with a fitness brand. Frictionless designs are synonymous with simplicity because it makes things easier. When we think about frictionless experience, we usually imagine what we can use without learning anything. Interactions are intuitive, and every operation is smooth and natural.

Crafting a frictionless experience requires deeply understanding how a user interacts with a user interface. To reduce UX Friction designers need to start with the user or member journey. They must decide when friction can be helpful, where harmful, and design the product accordingly.

The bottom line is that these efforts are not just about making the experience so much better. FCX is really about the sustainability of a fitness business. Increasing conversion rate of new members, extending life-time value, and enhancing revenue per member by selling additional products and services are all outcome of these disciplines when well applied. When people are getting their specific needs met in new ways they are happy to stick around and spend more. FCX is about obtaining specific business outcomes.

Obviously data will be an important tool in being able to execute FCX, as my previous post Why Data Is Going To Become A Big Differentiator For Health Clubs And Gyms attest. Along with data, integrated software platforms and deep understanding of business economics will also be very important. The execution of FCX requires thoughtful coordination of technology platforms, business models, automation, employee training, among a list of other dynamics but the effort is worth it.

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Kelly Card is the Senior Vice President of Partner Relations at ABC Financial. Check out her Fitness Industry Innovation Podcast where she interviews leaders from across the health, fitness, and wellbeing landscape. Kelly serves on the Board of Directors of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and is the Co-Founder of Industry FIT. She has over twenty years of experience in health club, gym, and fitness operations and co-founded and was President of Club-Apps, which was acquired by Netpulse in 2014. You can reach her kelly.Card@abcfinancial.com and follow @theKellyCard on Facebook & Twitter. Connect with and follow @IndustryFit for the latest in fitness trends and technology as well.