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/