Insight Update

Can digital transformation help curb the world’s obesity crisis?

Alarming findings from a recent report released by the World Obesity Federation suggested more than half of the world’s population will be classified as obese or overweight by 2035 if action is not taken. Of the reasons noted for this silent pandemic are greater levels of sedentary behaviour says Claire Rollins, CEO of the UK’s leading leisure management software company Gladstone Ltd.

Yet, despite this and many previous warnings, the leisure industry continues to lag behind other sectors from a digital transformation standpoint.

According to one of ukactive’s most recently released Digital Futures reports, in fact, the overall score for the sector’s digital maturity and effectiveness was noted at 51%. The index describes this level (40-59%) as ‘Digital Experimenter’, typically meaning that operators are making great strides but missing the investment, goal alignment and rapid advances to yield a strong performance. The findings pointed to a lack of a robust digital strategy, continual investment, and adaptability of third-party technology platforms as reasons holding operators back.

Like most industries, the leisure sector was forced to adapt to new ways of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, whereupon digital platforms were launched and developed at breakneck speed, to create a more efficient leisure experience. Coming out of the pandemic, customers’ digital expectations have remained high, and therefore, it is more important than ever that leisure operators continue to invest in digital technologies to try and close the gap on other sectors. I think it is critical, not only to attract more individuals living sedentary lifestyles, but to ensure these individuals keep moving. We must use technology to strive for improved efficiency, which goes hand in hand with customer accessibility, satisfaction and engagement.

A big part of achieving this is through a shift in mindset and investment across the sector, so, while state-of-the-art equipment for example is going to attract some new members into facilities, I think we have to question whether this is simply targeting those same individuals that already enjoy and actively engage in exercise. I think the primary focus should be on investing in simple, friction-free digital tools which ensure an inclusive, seamless and attractive fitness experience, if we are to get the world moving.

To expand on that, it’s also interesting to consider the role of continued innovation when it comes to effective digital transformation to turn the tide on declining public health. At Gladstone, we are currently investing £2.5m a year into research and development, and it’s something we will continue to do to drive the transformation of the sector.

This investment has allowed us to transition from legacy systems to build an industry-leading cloud based leisure management software solution. With customer experience a fundamental pillar of this too, this will be a driving force to help the operators we work with attract those living more sedentary lifestyles.

As recently as last year, 85% of operators surveyed by ukactive said that at least some of the systems they have in place hold them back, which I think only further emphasises the importance of innovation. It’s my belief that as an industry we simply must invest in technologies fit for society’s evolving expectations.

Gone are the days of membership cards and having to physically enter a gym to become a member, and we must instead invest in digital technologies to ensure a seamless customer journey, to attract and retain members at the very base of the participation pyramid upwards.

Digital strategies to get more people moving and into leisure facilities simply must consider mobile technologies too. When you consider consumers of all ages now check their mobiles over 100 times a day, savvy operators are already starting to take advantage of using mobile apps to connect with their customers, offering promotions and driving membership sign-ups through social media referrals. I think more can and should be done though, especially so given the flexibility mobile provides, with the ability to target customers to make that first step to sign-up for a class or gym membership from just about anywhere.

Overall, it’s a shift that needs to take place, to a more customer-obsessed mindset which best enables operators to deliver what consumers demand and expect, to encourage those living sedentary lifestyles into facilities, and commercial performance will follow.

This includes digital solutions that are scalable, affording enhanced flexibility yet reduced costs in the long-term, but also solutions that empower operators to be able to adapt and evolve strategies using data and insight.

As an example, our cloud-based system provides operators with multiple data points, interpreted and displayed through a simple, user-friendly dashboard. This removes barriers for less tech-savvy employees to provide an accurate picture of customer engagement and journeys through a centre, allowing operators to get closer to their customers, identifying trends in consumer behaviour such as the causes behind member churn. This information can then be used to refine and create, informed strategies geared towards attraction and retention.

Without these tools, operators lack the ability to bring people into a club, which plays to retention, as consumers are less likely to remain engaged based on their digital experience. Amidst wider challenges, such as a lack of motivation and perceived value proposition, it could be the difference between us getting consumers engaged and moving or not.

To summarise, there is no silver bullet, however, a greater level of digital maturity which includes a focus on data within the sector has the potential to drastically change the way operators attract those living more sedentary lifestyles, and to ultimately help curb the impending obesity crisis.

Can digital transformation help curb the world’s obesity crisis?
Author note: Claire Rollins, CEO of the UK’s leading leisure management software company Gladstone Ltd

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button