A 'device-focused' approach to customer interaction will be a key part of the ongoing digital strategy at a fitness business, according to Fitness First CIO Ed Hutt.
"For us in the fitness industry, there is a seismic change - especially in the last couple of years - moving towards a far more technologically-driven organisation. Not everybody just wants a 24-hour gym with equipment in - many people are looking for a sense of community and a source of motivation in their training, and that's something that can be developed and enhanced through mobile technology to a 'Martini' solution: fitness anywhere, any place, any time."
Hutt said that the move towards the digital gym was fundamental. "As this develops, it will give us the ability to push apps, to push web components and to drive approaite content to a member both in the gym and outside at any time of day to help them with their personal fitness goals and provide the key motivation needed to succeed," Hutt said.
One of the areas the fitness industry can consider is iBeacon technology to track who exactly is entering the gyms and push relevant information to members automatically without the need for further intervention from staff and personal trainers, who can spend more time working with customers.
"People want to pay for an experience that makes them feel valued, welcome and known," Hutt said. "Technology can help with this and it does not need to be either complicated or expensive.
"Most members will have a smart phone and this is key to the development of a personal digital service for training, communication and for interactions between members. It becomes the pass key that can identify a person, provide them with the digital tools they need to train the way they want, and the way we can communicate with them any time."
Data centre consolidation
The development in business models has coincided with the simplification of the IT infrastructure underpinning its operations.
"Fitness First used to occupy about 50 cabinets of legacy technology in various locations," Hutt said. "This is now slimmed down and our new data centre model for a major region fits into two cabinets, and they are not full.
"The alternate cloud-based data-centre model which we also use is based on Microsoft Azure, and works well for certain operational units of a specific size and types of business services. The cloud model, which we call Black II, works for some business situations and the colocation model (Black I) works for others.
"We are not fixated on one or the other and have both in our digital portfolio. We use the most appropriate for each business situation to optimise cost and service. We also take a lot of services as SaaS now and this was part of a conscious strategy to provide operating flexibility, manage cost and facilitate the exit from the old data centres which would have been harder if it meant migrating more systems.
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