If you operate a fitness-related business and are just getting acquainted with the world of fitness software, I hope this can serve as a great introduction. With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right software solution for your business.
But first things first, what is gym management software? And why is it needed for your business?
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What is gym management software?
Simply put, gym management software is a type of software that provides fitness businesses the functionality needed to manage all aspects of their business and efficiently operate their studio. Gym management software can also be referred to as club management software, fitness software, or gym scheduling software.
Regardless of the nomenclature, these platforms all share similar feature sets and are used for the same purposes. Gym management software helps fitness owners and operators manage their class and trainer scheduling, keep track of their members, communicate with clients, and process payments.
What type of businesses need it?
While the software category includes the word “gym”, gym or club management softwares are used by many types of business. Health clubs, boutique fitness studios (including specific disciplines like spin, barre, pilates, yoga and HIIT), health spas, CrossFit gyms, martial arts studios, fitness centers, personal trainers, and sports performance businesses all fall into the same category when it comes to software needs.
Who uses the software?
From gym owners and operators to the trainers and front-desk staff, all employees of a fitness business interact with the software. However, depending on their role, how they utilize the software will be different.
Trainers and instructors will use the software to manage their availability, check their schedules, and view member information. Front-desk staff (which consists of trainers at many studios, especially boutique fitness) will use the software to enroll clients in memberships, schedule classes for members, and process payments. Owners and operators will utilize the software to view reports, create new classes and programs, manage marketing communications, and run instructor payroll.
However, staff members are not the only users of club management software. The clients of the business also do. Gym management softwares have a client facing portal, where members can log in, enroll in memberships, schedule new classes, and transact with the studio.
This means that when choosing a software, fitness studios must understand that their decision is not just about their internal operations, but also their members. Using a gym software that provides a poor customer experience could make that member look elsewhere.
Why is using a gym management software necessary?
So we’ve covered what fitness software is and the functions it serves… but why do clubs and studios need an all-in-one management system?
It helps optimize studio operations
It helps increase member satisfaction
One of the most important benefits of a fitness software is that they can help increase member retention. Assuming clients enjoy the workouts and the sense of community at your studio, if the software is user friendly when they’re scheduling from a mobile app or on their computer, then they’ll continue to come back.
Where software can hurt a business is when their members have difficulty using it on their own. If it isn’t intuitive to purchase and schedule, or there is too much technology friction, then they’ll be forced to call in and have a staff member deal with it. Eventually, they’ll just look to take their business somewhere else.
However, there is more to it than just the client experience. Many gym management softwares have electronic waiver capabilities, which allow new members to skip the hassle at the front desk and enjoy the studio’s services when they walk in. In addition, the ability to increase member engagement with marketing workflows is important. Studio owners can set up marketing automations based on various data points like last visit, birthdays, and number of classes attended, which makes members feel valued and appreciated.
It helps make better business decisions
A third reason why club management software is important is they help owners and operators make quicker and more informed decisions. With real-time data and insightful analytics, studios can gain more insights on things like membership performance over time, track retail sales, view outstanding balances, and visualize business KPIs over time.
Since the payments platform is integrated with the business software, each transaction adds more data points and gives a more clear view of the overall state of the business. It also eliminates the need to export data from various sources to put in a spreadsheet and run calculations.
Top features of gym management software and things to consider
While there are a number of features to consider when looking at a club management software, I’m going to touch a few of the more important functions that your solution should include. Most software providers possess these features in one way or another.
Scheduling, booking, and registration
One of the main functions of a gym management software is the ability to manage scheduling and registration for your programs. Whether your main revenue streams include ongoing classes, private sessions, six-week programs or one day events, each program you offer has different needs when it comes to scheduling, and it’s important to understand whether the software can handle those use cases.
For example, if your studio offers personal training, then you’ll need the ability to create availability for your trainers that clients can block out. You’ll also need to consider HOW clients are able to book those sessions. Many softwares let you set up various credit packages that can be associated with specific open-booking events for clients to purchase and schedule.
When it comes to pre-scheduled programs (e.g. 4-week, Monday/Wednesday class), this would be geared more towards registration, since clients aren’t scheduling time slots but signing up for the entire program. If this is more of what your gym offers, then I would recommend looking into how payments can be configured. Upper Hand’s fitness software provides the flexibility to create any type of program with a variety of payment options, including one-time payments for the entire program, single-session purchases (including proration), and even payment plans for higher-dollar programs.
Lastly, you’ll want to understand how you’re able to manage scheduling on the backend. There will be instances where you’ll have to refund credits or remove someone from a class, and some softwares may have limitations on whether you can credit those sessions or refund those payments. The key is having important attendance and credit records. You’ll also want to understand how staff members are assigned to those sessions and what limitations there are when having to update scheduling on the fly.
Since auto-renewal memberships is one of the main revenue streams of fitness clubs, gyms, and studios, understanding the functionality of memberships is crucial.
Your membership management software should automatically charge a member’s card on file on their renewal date, whether that is monthly, quarterly, or annually.
Customizing the benefits of your memberships is another big aspect to consider. What are you offering to entice your clients to enroll? Upper Hand has the most flexible membership creation process, allowing studios to combine any number of member discounts, retail perks, automate class credits, and member-only programs.
Additional membership features and workflows to consider include one-time join fees, commitment lengths, and what the process is for canceling or suspending memberships entails.
To keep operations running efficiently, you’ll need the ability to manage your staff. The software should provide a staff portal that they can use to manage their availability, check their schedules, and manage client information.
When it comes to payroll, your software should be able to manage employee timesheets so that calculating payroll is an automated process and not a headache.
Client retention tools
Attracting new clients is only half of the battle; retaining those clients is equally important. Your club management software should give you tools to automate emails, segment your clients into contact groups, and provide the ability to run successful member promotions.
In addition, fitness software gives you the ability to track important client details on their profiles so you have easy access to critical information.
Many fitness softwares differ when it comes to payments. Some include a payment gateway and merchant account, while others make you connect a third-party payment system. Either way, you should have the ability to accept payments how you want and where you want.
If you have a front desk, then consider which point-of-sale hardwares the software integrates with. You’ll need the ability to perform refunds, offer online payment options for clients, manage recurring billing and one-time transactions, and reconcile financial transactions with detailed financial reports.
UP Payments is Upper Hand’s in-house payment processor that gives businesses all of the flexibility they need to efficiently and accurately manage their finances.
Another feature of gym softwares is retail and inventory management. The software should allow you to sell your branded swag online and in-studio and provide up-to-date inventory metrics. Upper Hand gives studios the ability to set low-quantity alerts to help automate reorders, as well as barcode scanners and SKU printers for easy inventory checks.
Lastly, club management software gives your members a way to engage with your business. Whether it’s on their computer or via a mobile app, clients have access to browse your programs, manage scheduling and payment details, and enroll in new programs. Upper Hand also provides clients the ability to manage other members of their family, meaning no duplicate contacts and a more friendly user-experience.
Questions to ask when looking for a gym management software provider
If you’re still reading this, you deserve a pat on the back! So far we have covered what gym management software is, why it’s important, and key features to consider. However there is one last piece - what about the software provider?
Don’t get me wrong - the features and functionality of the software are a huge part, but it’s important to understand the business you’re partnering with as well.
Is the software flexible enough to be configured to my business needs?
If you’re just starting your business or implementing a software for the first time, this may not be as important. But if you’ve been in business for a while or switching software providers, you’re going to want a software that is flexible enough to adapt your business model. If you don’t, then it’s going to feel like you’re starting from scratch, and more importantly, there will be friction between your business and your clients. We are creatures of habit, and mixing up the routine for them could lead to unexpected churn.
Unlike most industries, every business in fitness operates differently, down to what they offer to how they operate. We understand that, which is why we have made sure to keep Upper Hand as flexible as possible in order to meet the unique needs of any fitness business. Regardless of how long you’ve been operating, our platform can be configured to your ideal workflows.
Is the provider innovative and forward-thinking?
The software you’re considering may seem like a great fit today - but what about in 12 months? Is the software scalable to grow as your needs evolve?
The fitness industry has seen so much change and disruption since COVID with the boom of at-home fitness solutions, innovation in the wearables space, and an overall change in consumer habit. These factors have changed the way businesses have to operate, which means the software has to evolve to meet new market trends and demands.
Many software companies have a public-facing product roadmap for customers to add new ideas. When looking at a new provider, ask them questions about where they see the product going in the future, how often they push new features, and what has been pushed live in the past six months. Find a company that is aligning their product with the growth - and disruption - of the industry.
Can the provider be a partner in my studio’s growth?
A final thing to consider is whether or not this provider can help your business grow outside of just the software. Understanding what the implementation and on-boarding process looks like, what options they provide for customer support, as well as on-going training (e.g. webinar series) and feedback channels is critical to the long-term success of your partnership.
In addition to software-related support, consider their overall knowledge of the space. They may have a great software, but it would be a red flag if their people don’t truly understand the goals and challenges of your industry.
A gym management software is critical to the growth and long-term success of fitness clubs, studios, gyms, and personal trainers. Make sure to do your homework and find a software and provider that will work for your studio both in the short term and long term.
If you’re interested in learning more about Upper Hand and how we can help your studio, we’d love to hear from you.