Cardless Clubs Should Think Mobile

Check-in has been disrupted. Whether using biometrics, RFID, QR codes, or a mobile platform, the process of scraping your gym bag pockets, feeling the rush of actually finding your membership card, and then fighting 6 o'clock gym traffic to your locker is over. Or should be. Check-in tech is now too good for anyone to suffer the indignity of losing a card, or miss Zumba time because of a rookie at the front desk. This disruption means less friction for members. For clubs, however, this means opportunity.

Biometric systems are cool, but carry privacy baggage. RFID is fast and clean, works great for trucking and Disney, but performs best in closed-loop environments. QR codes, as a standalone feature, never really took off. Mobile is the future of check-in technology. Mobile phones are no longer a second screen. The statistics around mobile use are shocking. Clubs should view check-in as the entry point to mobile greatness.

Study your peers

The good news is we don't have to look far for best practices. Like health and fitness, hotels and airlines live and die by customer service and operational excellence. The Hiltons and Alaska Airlines of the world recognize the consumer demand for digital and the consumer distaste for waiting, trading keys and tickets for speed and loyalty – assets created from mobile platforms.

From building materials to fuel costs, hotels and airlines operate in a hotly competitive, capital-intensive business with wildly fluctuating variables. Branding is a blood sport. Yet, today, a little check-in feature that works right makes customers really happy. Turns out, good mobile is a differentiator. It builds meaningful relationships. It's the hook for the long haul.

Marriott has made mobile check-in and checkout available at most of its hotel properties. Mobile service requests for extra towels or pillows, or to chat with a hotel representative are concepts from what Marriott calls "mobile incubator" laboratories of the future – properties as test markets, really.

"You cannot separate the mobile experience from the personal interaction between guests and our hotel associates. When executed flawlessly and consistently, they complement each other and enhance the overall experience," said George Corbin, senior vice president, Marriott Digital.

Marriott wraps personalized services around a simple check-in feature. It is branding, loyalty and digital savvy in one package. They get the mobile world we live in.

Responding to customer wants for greater choice and control, Hilton's rewards program allows members to peruse and choose available rooms and floor plans using a mobile device before they arrive. Next up for Hilton is smartphone room access. No front desk. No fuss.

Both Marriott and Hilton are executing a mobile strategy centered on the customer, expanding mobile services into an ecosystem of self-serve amenities.

Hotels and health clubs share the same first contact: the front desk. Using technology to bypass the check-in process seems simple enough. Beyond the front desk, beyond this common touchpoint is the real payoff. Both Marriott and Hilton are cashing in with a mobile-first plan. Benefits from the other check-in technologies are strictly operational and stop at the front desk.

Real production value

"I encourage CIOs to develop a mobile-first strategy," said Suhas Uliyar, vice president of Mobile Strategy Product Management at Oracle. Oracle was printing money in the old world of computing. Point is, Oracle is a global empire that builds heavy business applications. But despite decades of investment in a different business model they're now directing enterprise customers to a mobile platform. Mobile is that critical.

Mobile devices now pack enough power to enable real computing applications. Well-designed mobile apps can do a lot more than just check-in. In fact, integrating choice functions of your software system into a mobile app helps push production to the edge.

Your members buy shoes waiting in line at Starbucks. Why can't they schedule a trainer, sign up for a class, or pay club bills? Why can't they spend in the cafe or pro shop using the same technology? No membership card, no debit card, just revenue driven off a mobile platform.

Steal from startups

It's convenient to forget we were all once startups, in some way. Whether bootstrapped or funded, successful startups get the most out of constrained resources.

Startups need influencers to promote, communities to share, and network effects to scale. Google or Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, discovery is a mobile thing. Membership cards don't influence or share, and tailgating is not the network effect we're looking for.

Startups must also gain critical mass to survive, regardless of measurement. They are nobodies racing against the clock to be media darlings with addictive products or services.

Clubs already have an addictive offering, and a captive audience. You are somebody. So mobile adoption becomes more of a function of design and experience, not survival. Mobile greatness should be in your future. It all starts with disrupting check-in.

About CSI Software

CSI Software provides fully integrated, single source health and fitness club management software to health and fitness clubs, campus recreation centers, parks and recreation facilities, wellness centers and hotels and fitness resorts, as well as JCC, YMCA and YWCA organizations.

Empower your members to book, register, and schedule from their phones with CSI Software's mobile app.

Lose The Cards And Go Mobile

Request Information

Management Team