Here’s why you need to be data-driven.

We’re all looking forward to the day our health clubs will reopen, but we have no idea what that’s going to look like. Many gym owners have so many years of experience that they can intuitively make pretty accurate estimates of how many memberships they can sell in January, how many they’ll lose in June, and what proportion of members will purchase personal training or group exercise classes.

None of that experience will help when it comes time to reopen a gym following the Covid-19 pandemic.

We have nothing similar to compare it to. No history, no best practices, no experts. The reality is nobody knows what the exact pattern of member returns will be.

The unanswered questions are numerous:

  • What percentage might return the first week? The first month?
  • What type of member will return first?
  • How many will be coaxed away by historically low offers from desperate competitors?
  • How many members will have a cautious wait-and-see attitude, and for how long?
  • How many members grown accustomed to social distancing and awareness of contaminated surfaces will be “spooked” during their first visit back?
  • How many engaged members will cancel due to personal financial stress?
  • How many members will downgrade memberships due to restricted access to amenities?
  • How many members will have lost their fitness habits to weeks of Netflix, CNN, and the couch?
  • Will the impact of exposure to more virtual training opportunities impact your business positively or negatively?
  • Will there be long-term impacts on the industry as a whole, and what will those be?
  • What types of clubs will emerge from this pandemic stronger or weaker?

We’re entering into a Wild West of unknowns. The only way forward is to be as proactive as possible in preparing for your reopening, and having access to good analytics to track the success of your efforts, make swift adjustments (probably a given you’ll need to…what best practices are there?), and quickly assess the success of those adjustments. Repeat. Repeat. You’re not going to have a “well, last year we…” to fall back on because little of that experience is relevant right now.

You are going to need to be data-driven like never before if you want to emerge from this pandemic on a strong competitive footing. The other alternative is to wait to read about the success stories of your competition later on, because successful clubs are going to use data to navigate these unknown waters.

I’ve written about why you want to use analytics to identify high-value, high-engagement members during your closure so you can focus targeted outreach and reopening communications to them. But once you reopen, the need to be acutely in tune with member behavior is going to be more critical than ever. You can’t rely on what members did before to predict what they’re going to do. You can’t rely on what you’ve done before to know whether you’re doing it right. And you can’t rely on what someone else says is going to happen because nobody really knows.

You’ll need to rely on member behavior data analytics to see who has checked in and who hasn’t, what kinds of members (traits, demographics) are coming in and what kind are not, whether a first reopen check-in is reliably predicting a second, how member behavior is trending at aggregate and individual levels, and how post-pandemic member behavior compares to pre-pandemic. You will need answers to all of these questions in order to make rapid adjustments and adapt your business to new realities.

I heard one seasoned gym owner say they were going to be treating their reopened gyms as if they were startups opening for the very first time. That’s a very wise attitude. We may very well be entering into a new world for many things, and it’s best to be prepared to experiment, assess, make changes, assess, and change again. Analytics can help you be one of the first to figure out the new formula. You definitely don’t want to be one of the last.

Re-engage your members today!

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