Digital Futures 2022 report from ukactive and Sport England charts progress on digital maturity

Fitness and leisure operators are set to accelerate their digital strategies in 2023, after participation in the Digital Futures consultation doubled, ukactive and Sport England revealed today (30 November).

The Digital Futures 2022 report, published today, is based on consultation with 93 public and private operators (up from 44 in 2021), representing more than 1,800 sites across the UK (up from 1,300 in 2021) and serving an estimated 4.5 million members nationwide.

The report provides an updated review of the digital maturity and effectiveness of the UK’s fitness and leisure sector, with operators using ukactive’s free Digital Maturity and Effectiveness Index Tool to obtain their score and advice about the next steps to take.

Using more than 6,700 data points, experts from digital consultancy Rewrite Digital are able to provide a year-on-year measure of progress for the sector, benchmarked against other sectors.
Key findings of Digital Futures 2022:

• The overall score for the sector’s digital maturity and effectiveness is 51% in 2022 (down from 55% in 2021). The index describes this level (40-59%) as ‘Digital Experimenter’, typically meaning that operators are making great strides forward but missing the investment, goal alignment and rapid advances to yield a strong performance.

• Operators who participated in both the 2021 and 2022 consultations scored higher on average than last year, indicating a positive impact on performance.

• Three operators reached Digital Leader status, scoring 80% or more, compared to just one in 2021.

• 24% of operators scored less than 40%, compared to just 11% in 2021.

• As with last year, private operators score higher than public operators for all areas of digital, with university operators scoring lower still.

The decline in the overall scores is attributed in part to higher participation among smaller operators this year, which commonly achieve lower scores, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – with the reopening of facilities reducing dependency on digital.

Improvements in an organisation’s understanding of digital can also lead to lower scores, as the self-assessments become more advanced and critical.

The report provides a series of strategic and practical recommendations for operators of all sizes to improve their approach, from developing a digital strategy, to personalisation, gaining consumer insights, customer experiences, and digital inclusion.

Today’s publication is the second annual report of its kind and is supported by ukactive Strategic Partners, Gladstone, Myzone, EGYM, Les Mills, Technogym, and Xplor. It forms part of ukactive’s Digital Futures strategy, as well as Sport England’s Uniting the Movement strategy.

The aim of the strategy is to help improve the application of digital by all fitness and leisure operators, with the ultimate objective of creating a sector that can meet the needs and demands of everyone in the community, ensuring full digital accessibility and inclusivity.

As such, it also forms part of ukactive’s proposed shared ambition for growth with the Government and partners – helping gyms, pools and leisure facilities to reach more than five million new members by 2030.

ukactive and Sport England will run the consultation for a third year in 2023, in order to further calibrate the measurement of the sector’s digital maturity.

A broader approach will also see the partners engage and support National Governing Bodies, the Active Partnership Network, and other organisations in the physical activity ecosystem, while continuing to provide practical resources on a number of subjects.

Plans are also underway to benchmark the sector with territories outside of the UK in order to achieve a wider perspective and to learn from global leaders.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “We are hugely encouraged to see more operators engaged in our Digital Futures consultation and taking advantage of our free index tool to help improve their businesses.

“Our latest findings present the most comprehensive case yet for investment in digital strategies by fitness and leisure operators, providing them with the evidence and recommendations needed to drive improvements.

“Digital transformation will play a fundamental role in creating a first-class, inclusive fitness experience for every customer in the UK, helping us to get more people active than ever.

“With the support of Sport England and our strategic partners, we will continue to engage and support organisations from every level on each step their journey.”

Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England, said: “Uniting the Movement is focused on tackling inequalities and ensuring that everyone has the chance to play sport and be active. Growing our collective knowledge and understanding of digital is key to both the growth and sustainability of our sector – and delivering the ambitions of our strategy.

“The digital maturity tool is a useful first step in building knowledge in a way the whole sector can benefit from. We congratulate ukactive and the Digital Futures group for this vital piece of work.”

In addition to the strategic partners, Digital Futures has been shaped by contributors including operators and organisations from the fit-tech sector, such as Keepme, LeisureLabs, and Move Technologies, as well as other experts.

To download a copy of the Digital Futures report, click here.

To use ukactive’s Digital Maturity and Effectiveness Index Tool, click here.

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