Why API's Are Critical to the Future of Fitness

Posted by Brian Hayden with Shapelog

New, digital products aren’t just disrupting traditional fitness companies. They’re making the industry bigger for everybody by blurring the lines between fitness, healthcare, and entertainment. Peloton is worth $1.3B, Fitness Blender has 33 million monthly viewers, and now every fitness company needs a digital strategy. This is good for consumers. As digital products - like apps - become cheaper to build, consumers see better, more personalized offerings.

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This is the second in a two-part series on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). If you missed the first part, “What is an API?”, you can start there for a basic overview on APIs and how they work.

APIs are critical to the future of fitness because they dramatically reduce the cost of developing digital products. You can make a lot of money selling digital products. Unfortunately, it’s also possible to waste a lot of time and money building digital products if you don’t leverage the growing API ecosystem.

Keep these six points in mind as you craft your company’s digital strategy:

  1. Think big. When digital products work, they make customers happy, and are insanely profitable. Scarcity thinking will lead to bad decisions that artificially limit your upside potential.
  2. Digital and physical products complement each other - they don’t compete. The stickiest products exist in both the physical and digital worlds.
  3. You don’t need to hit home runs. Fitness consumer preferences are fragmented and prone to fad - it’s better to embrace and plan for that fact, rather than fight it.
  4. Lowering the cost of creating digital products is the best way to guard against downside risk. Rather than making one big bet, it’s better to make many smaller bets.
  5. Simple apps can be powerful when they sit on a foundation of data - remember when Under Armour bought MyFitnessPal for $475 million?
  6. APIs decrease the cost of developing digital products by cheaply making huge amounts of useful data available for your consumption.

APIs Drive Down the Cost of Product Development

How much does it cost to build a great digital product? It depends.

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APIs provide reusable building blocks that allow you to build sophisticated apps for the price of a simple app. It’s like cheating, but in a good way.

 

Data isn’t valuable by itself, we know this, but when APIs make actionable data available to more developers, the consumer wins. APIs provide a hook into datasets that already exist. By stitching data sets together, you get to stand on the shoulders of giants. Before you were constrained by not knowing about your user - now your only constraint is your own creativity.

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Cycling Community Demonstrates the Business Value of APIs

The ecosystem of apps, physical and digital products, and experiences that the cycling community has built on the foundation of power meter data is the best example of how APIs enable creativity and product development.

By stitching together data from phones, heart rate monitors, watches, and power meters, we get companies like Strava, Wahoo, TrainingPeaks, TrainerRoad, Map My Ride, Zwift, Peloton, Soul Cycle, and a hundred others. Giving consumers more diverse and interesting choices helped the industry grow faster than any other.

Zwift built an incredible app to gamify indoor cycling that is powered by heart rate and power data. But they don’t make devices to measure those things - they pull in real-time data using an API. Could Garmin or Wahoo have built Zwift? Sure, but since that’s not their core business, the product would probably have been watered-down and less unique. Could Zwift make a power meter? Sure, but chances are it wouldn’t perform as well as the companies who focus on just that one thing.

Specialization makes the world more interesting. By tackling only a piece of the full experience, Zwift was able to put more resources into making a unique digital experience that consumers love.

Summary

If building fitness apps were cheap enough that you could create unique experiences for all of your user types, your product portfolio would be more interesting and more resilient. Users would be happier, you could be bolder and take bigger risks with each one, and the fitness industry would grow as a result.

Digital products blur the lines between healthcare, wellness and fitness and fuel growth in the fitness industry. The sooner we all get comfortable supporting and using APIs, the faster we’ll get there together.

If we all spend less developing products, build on each others APIs, and reallocate more resources to connecting directly with customers, the fitness industry will grow like the tech industry and the world will be a healthier, happier place.

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.