How 24 Hour Fitness Is Achieving Personalization At Scale

One of the cornerstones of effective and engaging customer experiences is personalization.

However, according to McKinsey, while many companies have launched personalization strategies for a few of their product lines or segments, most are still working to scale them across all customer engagements and touch points.

That’s a goal that fitness industry leader 24 Hour Fitness took on as part of its digital transformation journey, which began in 2016. The need to transform became evident as the company redefined its place in the market and in the lives of consumers.

“Our mission has always been to change lives through fitness, and that’s still a major part of it, but we’ve made it a little broader,” said Tom Lapcevic, EVP and CMO of 24 Hour Fitness, in an exclusive interview with CMO by Adobe. “Today our mission is to create a healthier, happier world because we know fitness ties to happiness as well. We aspire for our impact to be much broader than just the physical condition. We are working to bring to life the emotional and transformational impact that fitness has, and we are doing that in our clubs as well as across our digital touch points, where we believe we can benefit people as well.”

As part of this new mission, 24 Hour Fitness outlined three goals, Lapcevic said. The first is enabling consumers to work out whenever they choose to and wherever they prefer—whether in a club or on the go. The second is to provide members with personalized, useful contextual guidance on movement, nutrition, mindset, and regeneration. The third is to motivate and reward members, while ensuring they stay engaged and have fun throughout their fitness journeys.

Digital Transformation 1.0: Technology, Infrastructure, And Data 
Delivering on these three strategic priorities meant getting the whole organization more focused on a member-centric experience, which was no easy feat.

“We formed a ‘transformation office’ that is a cross-departmental function,” Lapcevic said. “The goal is the 360 degree integration of our new fitness solutions that support our member-centric thinking. We spread this approach across the organization.  The tip of the spear is how we help each member attain the results he or she wants by providing guidance and motivation at each phase of the fitness journey.”

The transformation office is made up of business stakeholders from various functions in the organization, which is critical to get the entire organization motivated, Lapcevic said.

“One of the key areas of focus for the transformation office is to help identify, from every angle, all the ways we can help our members,” Lapcevic said. This group influences the member experience across all of 24 Hour Fitness’ touch points, he added, starting with how individuals are engaged at the top of the marketing funnel, to how they are greeted when they walk into clubs, to what type of technology can help people achieve their goals, as well as scaling personalization efforts across the company.

But these personalized experiences aren’t possible without the right data. And, like many companies in the initial stages of transformation, 24 Hour Fitness had a lot of data that was spread across various technologies and systems. Bringing the data together into one unified view was imperative, Lapcevic said, and it entailed getting the right technology platform in place as well as identifying the most critical data.

“Serving our members was the driving force upfront,” Lapcevic said, adding that this member-first mentality helped the company identify what information mattered most. 24 Hour Fitness then prioritized the data that could help it achieve that goal.

Once the data operations portion of the company’s digital transformation was complete, 24 Hour Fitness was well-armed to identify the type of content, services, and programming that was critical to improving the member experience.

Digital Transformation 2.0: Managing And Delivering Unparalleled Member Experiences
The result? In January 2018, 24 Hour Fitness launched the first version of its proprietary fitness personalization platform, dubbed 24GO. The digital platform, which provides personalized solutions to members with the objective of making their fitness easier to access and their goals easier to obtain, was made available via a mobile app, a website, in-club Wi-Fi systems, screens and monitors throughout the clubs with ties into the back-end member systems, as well as communication channels like e-mail and SMS.

Last month, the 24GO technology platform merged with the services of 24 Hour Fitness’ certified personal trainers to create the 24 Hour Fitness Fit Plan.  Here’s the gist: Members are able to meet with a certified personal trainer for a free fitness appointment—a workout and assessment to determine which exercises match a member’s goals and current physical ability. The personal trainer and member then co-create a personalized, seven-day fitness plan on a computer within the club. The plan is customized based on the member’s schedule and preferences, defining for the member specific workouts and activities both inside and outside the club. The plan is automatically synced with 24GO so members can access their plans on the 24GO mobile app, which places the workout plan on the member’s calendar and outlines what exercises to do, with videos demonstrating how to do them.   

24GO, which is powered by machine learning, continues to optimize and provide recommendations unique to each member based on how user preferences evolve in the platform (i.e., workouts completed, content engaged with, etc.). The entire experience is fueled by this single, fluid, unified view of the member. Users can also locate 24 Hour Fitness class schedules and calendar the classes that fit their interests and schedule. Plus, they can track and share their progress with their personal trainer, family, and workout buddies—all within a single dashboard.  

In addition to data analyzed within the platform, the company relies on outside behavioral research for member experience management. For example, 24 Hour Fitness is currently working with several academic institutions, including Behavior Change For Good, an initiative led by Angela Duckworth, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences, and Katherine Milkman, Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions at the Wharton School, plus a world-class scientific team (including Nobel laureates and members of the National Academy of Sciences) all united to test and improve a behavior change program focused on improving people’s daily health decisions.  Lapcevic shares that this one of the largest research projects ever conducted about how to help people stick with their fitness—a game-changer for the fitness industry and the worldwide population.

 “We realize everyone is different,” Lapcevic said. “The results that people want are individualized, and each person’s intrinsic motivators are unique. We’re analyzing how to individually motivate people based upon their different goals, objectives, and challenges. This involves a lot of different groups within our company working in a synchronized manner.”

The Future Of Fitness
According to Lapcevic, transformation is a journey, not a destination. “This is a perpetually ongoing effort, but we are far down the road, and we feel good about where we are heading,” he said. “New technologies, behavioral science, programming, and our over 12,000 certified fitness professionals are enabling us to personalize fitness for millions of people.”

In terms of what’s in store for the future, Lapcevic said he is paying close attention to genomics, body sensors, and other emerging technologies that are capable of tracking human performance and body responses, which can be incorporated into fitness prescriptions and services.

He is also bullish on the integration of virtual reality, augmented reality, and immersive environments into fitness, and he expects voice commands and voice inputs to become an industry staple.

“Those are key areas we believe could result in some beneficial offerings for our members in the future,” Lapcevic said.

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