What is an Application Programming Interface (API)?

Posted by Brian Hayden with Shapelog

Do you use software to run your business?

That question sounds ridiculous because of course you do. Your ERP or CRM system helps you learn about your customers and employees. Your website and mobile app are channels for interacting with users. Software saves you time, gives you the information you need to make good decisions, and helps your team impress customers. It’s the backbone of your organization.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are an efficient way to share information across these different software platforms. If you learn to use them, you’ll be consistently more innovative than your competitors because:

●      APIs make your existing apps and software systems better. So you attract and retain more customers.

●      APIs put better information at your fingertips. So you look awesome and make better decisions.

●      APIs make it cheaper to build and support apps. So you can be bolder and more creative.

This is the first of two articles on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in the fitness industry. These articles are written for dummies like me. If you want to know just enough about APIs to make wise investment decisions and hold meaningful conversations with your technical colleagues, read on. The goal of this article is to establish a mental model as a foundation for future learning.

If you want to know more about APIs you should listen to Karl Etzel’s FIT-C podcast, read O’Reilly’s “APIs: A Strategy Guide”, and explore ProgrammableWeb API Unviersity. The journey to API mastery is a mile long, and this article is just the first step.

What is an Application Programming Interface (API)?

An API is a hook that allows developers to access information in a structured way. When I have something valuable to share, I create an API so other developers can use it easily. The more interesting and unique my data is, the more developers will want to use it. Building and maintaining an API is how I make it easy for developers to use my business assets. Developers gain something new to sell to their customers, and I gain new revenue streams and distribution channels for my products.

Some APIs are public, but the vast majority are private. Developers use APIs to create internal tools to increase productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. They can also use APIs to create new apps or to make their consumer-facing apps better.

Here’s an example from O’Reilly’s “APIs: A Strategy Guide” that helped me:

AccuWeather is well known for providing weather data to the general public. They also maintain a very popular API that developers use to create their own apps. You can find AccuWeather data on their website, or through one of the many apps that are ‘powered by’ AccuWeather data. In theory, AccuWeather could have built all of those apps themselves, but in reality there’s no way that would happen. It would be too expensive and risky to undertake such an effort for one company, but by providing a unique and valuable tool to developers, AccuWeather data is now available in 37 languages and every country in the world. Consumers benefit from the creativity and risk taking of many developers creating new experiences, enabling AccuWeather to reach more people than would have been otherwise possible.

How Do APIs Impact the Fitness Industry?

Most fitness companies don’t know as much as they’d like about their customers. Fitness is a competitive space and consumer preferences are fickle. Over the last decade, many point solutions have emerged that illuminate some portion of the customer journey. Think club membership data, equipment usage, heart rate monitoring, steps, strength training performance, sleep, diet, and social networks - both inside and out of the club. Each of these is a ‘stranded’ data set that doesn’t tell a very complete story on its own. APIs are the bridges that connect the islands of data, and the companies that embrace a collaborative approach to developing new experiences will run circles around those that go it alone.

We’ll explore what that looks like more deeplyin the next article: “Why APIs are Critical to the Future of Fitness”.

If you’re a developer currently using APIs to build innovative user experiences, we’d love to hear from you, and shine a light on what you’re doing. Please comment, reach out via social media, or email me directly at brian@shapelog.com.

5 Steps to Boosting Health Club Member Retention

Posted by InTouch Technology on Apr 20, 2017.

We often hear our customers talk about member acquisition... but what happens once you’ve made the sale and converted a lead into a member? At that point, successful gyms turn their attention to member engagement and to one of our favourite metrics - retention.

After all, analysis after analysis has shown that member retention is less expensive than recruitment.  It generally costs around five times as much to gain even a single new member as it costs to hold onto an existing member.  While it is important for the growth of your club to continue acquiring new members, you should also look to develop a strategy to lower membership churn rates and hold onto your valued members.

To help you develop a supercharged retention strategy that keeps members coming back year after year, we’ve put together 5 key steps to boosting health club member retention.

Step #1) Environment

Your club’s ability to create a positive environment will influence whether people keep coming back.  According to the Harvard Business Review, 64% of customers cite "shared values" as the prime motivator in forming an enthusiastic relationship with a brand.

Your club culture and environment should reflect the atmosphere of the area, as well as the beliefs and ideals of your members and the surrounding neighborhood to create a positive work-out environment. 

Step #2) Equipment

This is an essential strategy point in your bid to retain members. Today’s gym members expect club equipment to be in pristine condition, and you should be willing to replace (or at least renovate) older hardware once wear and tear starts to appear. Poorly maintained equipment is a huge “red flag” for potential and retained members alike.

Similarly, you can expect to improve member retention rates by matching your equipment to your member’s workout needs. An easy way to find out what these are is to ask your members via a simple survey to your members or even just do walk-and-talks in your gyms.

Step #3) Engagement 

Your club’s ability to increase member engagement has a clear impact on retention rates. To encourage engagement, contests and other events that get members engaged with your club and with other members, are a great idea.  A good gym is a community, not just a place to work out.

Also, you should look to integrate technology into your member’s club experience.  Wearables are hot right now, and clubs should aim to incorporate new technologies for the fitness industry to improve engagement. 

Step #4) Experience

Today’s club member wants a personalized experience.  They don't want to feel like they're "just another member."  You and your staff should be focusing on their individual wants and needs whenever possible, and looking to craft experiences that make a visit to your club feel truly special.

Here are some ideas for personalizing your member’s experience:

  • Encourage your team to remember and use each member’s name in conversation with them.
  • Be on the look-out for authentic ways to wow your members. If you think this is hard you can start by asking them what they want and listening to the answers. Delivering on these requests will have a hugely positive impact on your member’s perception of their club experience.
  • Surprise members with extra perks for celebrations such as reaching a fitness milestone.

Step #5) Education

Always keep people informed about what's happening at your club.  Keep frequent updates posted on training techniques, classes, courses, programs, events, and other activities.  Consider maintaining archives on your website, or within the club itself, with a range of health and workout information. Maintain a blog and a social media presence full of helpful information.

If you want to seriously improve your club’s member retention rates, look to InTouch Technology. The member lifecycle management solution is custom-built for fitness clubs and includes all the tools you need for great member engagement. Contact us today for a free demo.

How Digital Fragmentation Impacts the Client Experience

It is often said that modern technology leads to fragmentation. After all, the internet is the perfect segmentation device. We have been able to form pocket communities of like-minded people, only discussing the things we like and avoiding contrasting experiences. Our attention span has fragmented too. We are bombarded with distractions and flutter from one page to another in a matter of seconds.

On the other hand, the online world is one of connectedness. The segmented communities we have formed are global ones. We are constantly in touch with each other via social media, message boards, email, and chat. Technology not only connects our media devices to the internet: our electronics, our entire homes, even our bodies are connected.

This paradox of technology has resulted in a quick-paced and exciting world, where adapting is the key to survival.


Changed Consumer Expectations

It's fair to say that the online experience has changed our expectations. Three things that we have come to expect as a result of living in a digital world are more choice, more contact, and more personalization. This affects the way professionals need to think about their business, their services, and their client experience.

Consumers Want More Choice

Our online minds want to move from one thing to the other, to pick what we like and ignore what we don't. Online shopping experiences are already tailored to this expectation of choice and flexibility: buy what you need, pay how you want. The offline world needs to follow, including the fitness industry. The classic membership model does not align anymore with consumer demand. Think unbundling, "pick & mix" memberships, variable combinations of online and face-to-face coaching, and so on.

Consumers Want More Contact

Mass communication is passé. The day of businesses flat-out telling consumers what to buy is over. In the era of social media, "conversation" is the word of the day. The art of persuasion has changed: businesses need to engage and entertain their audience, before informing and persuading them. This means you need to be tech-savvy, and have a constant ear to the ground for the fast-paced developments in online communication.

This also means digital omnipresence: you need to be there whenever consumers want to reach you. Social media pages and contact pages are a good start, but don't forget that integrating mobile apps and other communication tools into your business offer more flexibility while also offering more control over the client experience.

Consumers Want More Personalization

In a way, the anonymous internet has become an annoyance. People don't generally like to feel anonymous. We all want to feel like we matter. That means people not only want to find information where they expect to find it. Services also need to be tailored to the individual.

The key to this level of personalization is data. There are immense amounts of data generated by smart devices like phones and wearables, but also by on-premises tech such as access control and scheduling software. All this data can be leveraged to provide highly personalized services by fitness businesses: personalized workout and nutrition plans, on-demand class booking, tailored marketing offers, timely motivational messages, etc.

Improving the Client Experience with Technology

Technological developments have resulted in societal changes, which impact consumer demand. In turn, this forces fitness businesses to take a critical look at the entire customer journey. There are three key takeaways.

Firstly, consumers expect flexibility and choice. Instead of having your clients adapt to your services, adapt your services to their needs and wishes.

Secondly, consumers expect to be engaged in conversation. There is a desire for contact - but on their own terms. Social media, mobile apps, and other communication tools need to be considered. Note that there is no winning formula. The success of a business depends on the particularities of their clients' needs.

Finally, consumers expect a personal experience. After mass media, the last thing they want is to be treated like they are anonymous, or worse, a wallet with legs. The key is leveraging the huge amount of data from the various tech and software tools in use to offer a personalized client experience.

Pieter Verschuren is a tech enthusiast and Communications Officer at https://www.virtuagym.com/