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How GymNation Achieved Digital Leadership in the Fitness Industry with Perfect Gym

87%

accuracy in predicting member churn

1%

improved retention

0

API downtime

Back in 2017, Dubai ranked as the world's second most expensive city for gym memberships. Seeing member overcharging and substandard facilities as a prevalent issue, GymNation was founded with a mission to redefine fitness, paving the way for a more inclusive approach to wellbeing. Fast-forward to now, “The People’s Gym” stands out not only as the best value-for-money gym chain but also as a Digital Leader in the fitness industry. Here is how GymNation’s strategic use of technology transforms the gym experience in the Middle East.

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Location:

The Middle East

Business type:

Fitness chain

Number of sites:

12

A decade ago, fitness club memberships in the United Arab Emirates were deemed expensive. At that time, residents were confronted with exorbitant fees exceeding 400 AED per month (approx. 100 €), requiring an upfront payment covering an entire year. Recognising the need for a paradigm shift in the industry, Loren Holland, Frank Afeaki, and Ant Martland launched GymNation in 2017.

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three men in gym clothes with logo smiling

GymNation Founders: Frank Afeaki, Loren Holland, Ant Martland. Source: GymNation

Their vision was to democratise access to high-quality fitness facilities, breaking free from the constraints of inflated prices and offering a new standard in affordability and accessibility in the Middle East. Today, GymNation is not only the most affordable and flexible fitness chain in the Emirates but also one of the most technologically advanced gym operators in the world.

In 2022, GymNation embarked on a rapid expansion with ambitious plans to grow internationally but its management system at that time felt the systems they had in place fell short of supporting these efforts. To cater to the evolving business needs and facilitate brand growth in Saudi Arabia and across the wider GCC, GymNation needed a platform that meets the key requirements:

  1. An open interface facilitating integration with third-party software 
  1. Custom integration capabilities to expand the digital ecosystem 
  1. Support for the mobile app in the Arabic language 
  1. Implementation of a fully automated 24/7 access system 
  1. Support for various payment gateways to accommodate members' preferred billing methods 
  1. The capability to customise and develop an exceptional digital member experience  

Embark on the transformative journey of GymNation, exploring its commitment to excellence across five fundamental pillars driving the transformation in the fitness industry.

Remote Implementation and Premier Success Plan

Choosing a gym management platform that not only accelerates growth but also aligns with specific business needs is crucial for a company's success. Ant Martland, GymNation’s co-founder and CCO, confirms that finding the right software partner is not an easy task. “We went through an extensive due diligence process. We probably spoke to every provider of gym management software in the world, and we just felt that Perfect Gym was a good solution to scale with us.

The system's remote deployment, coordinated from Perfect Gym’s Polish headquarters to GymNation's 11 sites in the UAE, was skilfully handled by the implementation team. They provided guidance through every step of the way, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free transition. Reflecting on the process, Ant states:

Having a remote implementation couldn't have gone better. Our initial concern was about the need for the Perfect Gym team to be physically present, but their extensive experience in remote implementations proved invaluable. Perfect Gym team expertly navigated us through each step, not only with our platform but also with the integration of various third-party tools.

Introducing a technology shift into a large-scale business infrastructure demands careful planning and flawless execution. GymNation is serious about prioritising smooth operations for an unparalleled member experience. This commitment was emphasised by choosing the Premier Success Plan, a comprehensive support service designed to maximise process efficiency and performance.

The Premier Success Plan goes beyond standard support, offering a tailored approach to meet the specific needs of your organisation. Depending on the size and complexity of your business, you have the flexibility to select a level of dedicated support and sessions that align with your goals. 

For a business of our scale, I highly recommend onboarding with a Premier Success Plan. It provides us with a dedicated account manager who expedites and channels any issues to different appropriate within the company. This person is on call 24/7, with weekly check-ins ensuring optimal platform use. We also have regular meetings for prioritising developments, making the onboarding process seamless and efficient. It has worked exceptionally well for us, and we look forward to continuing this approach.

Ant Martland, Co-Founder and CCO at GymNation

GymNation's Approach to Achieving Operational Excellence

A prominent and rapidly growing fitness chain like GymNation, catering to the needs of over 60,000 members 24/7, needs a reliable and robust management system at its core to ensure operational excellence. Perfect Gym has proven to be a strong foundation for achieving this goal, recognised for its user-friendliness across all organisational levels. Ant Martland attests to the system's efficiency, stating:

We found Perfect Gym to be extremely user-friendly for all levels of people within the organisation, not only from Senior Management but all the way to reception teams and sales teams. Everyone has visibility on the operational aspects that they need, and we couldn't have a system that's easier to manage and easier to run with.

An Impressive 33% Year-on-Year Surge in Membership 

A 33% year-on-year increase in the membership base stands as a testament to GymNation's robust growth strategy. William Rasmussen-Dean, Country Director at GymNation, affirms that this substantial rise is attributed not only to the opening of new clubs but also to continuous improvements in their systems. Among the standout solutions contributing to this success is Perfect Gym’s Point of Sale.

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laptop with point of sale system

POS is an easy-to-use system supporting reception staff in streamlining administrative processes and providing an exceptional customer experience. GymNation strategically utilises it to enhance operational efficiency and add a personalised touch, aligning with the brand’s commitment to providing a welcoming environment for its members. Highlighting the role of the Point of Sale system in enhancing customer experience, William admits that:

POSweb helps to streamline and give members a better experience. When somebody checks into our gym, you can see their name flagged up on a screen, which allows us to welcome them properly.

Elevating Security and Member Experience through Platform Update 

Having a secure cloud-based platform is a pivotal foundation for a modern and agile fitness business, ensuring information integrity, accessibility, and operational efficiency. As a data-centric company, GymNation places a high priority on safeguarding its data. Perfect Gym, an ISO 27001 Certified and GDPR Compliant cloud-based platform assures GymNation that its info is safe and protected.

One of the elements contributing to this was the implementation of a secure access control system, ensuring convenient, fully automated 24/7 entry to GymNation’s facilities. Previously relying on RFID cards and fingerprint readers, the company faced challenges such as card sharing among members and ineffective fingerprint recognition, particularly during the pandemic.

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gymnation reception

Source: GymNation

Transitioning to Perfect Gym, GymNation now provides members with safe and convenient access through modern Gantner hardware. The secure QR code, accessible via the EGYM app integrated into the entire system, has streamlined the access process, enhancing security and member experience.

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mobile app amination

Source: GymNation

The second key aspect that GymNation aspired to achieve was incorporating the Arabic language into its mobile app. Recognising the importance of catering to the linguistic preferences of its members, GymNation partnered with the EGYM app, acknowledging that Arabic is the first language of the vast majority of the region's population.

GymNation's Robust Digital Presence Strategy 

In today's business landscape, maintaining a strong digital presence is imperative for staying relevant and competitive in any industry. Acknowledging this, GymNation “adopts an omnichannel approach. We try to be everywhere we can at all times. It's very important for us to be where our customers are,” emphasises Ant Martland.

Their dynamic marketing strategy spans various platforms, including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, X and YouTube. GymNation not only maintains an active, informative and engaging online presence but also ensures round-the-clock availability for its members across virtual channels.

This commitment to a seamless customer journey extends to GymNation’s approach to transitioning potential clients into active gym members. Leads generated from various channels smoothly flow into Salesforce CRM, which is fully integrated with Perfect Gym through an open API. The sales team leverages automation to contact them and direct prospects to sign up on GymNation’s website. It takes a couple of seconds to transfer new members’ data to the Perfect Gym system, create a membership and grant them immediate access to the facilities. This integration ensures a hassle-free and efficient customer journey.

At the forefront of GymNation’s innovation stands Karl Foster, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer. With a 15-year background in the fitness industry and expertise in developing artificial intelligence for the financial sector, Karl specialises in crafting advanced business intelligence and AI systems for the commercial fitness sector.

Karl values performance and reliability in the technology solutions that he develops, making Perfect Gym's API a crucial component of GymNation's innovation strategy.

Two significant aspects where we extensively use Perfect Gym are the API and Webhooks. These provide us with live data, empowering our backend systems. The rating I would give on the API is extremely high because of the speed and the support that we've had from Perfect Gym. We've had zero downtime, which has been fantastic for us because we're heavily relying on data.

Taking into account member preferences, GymNation chose to work with Telr, a local payment provider and connect it with the Perfect Gym platform. This strategic partnership facilitated the customisation of the integration to cater to the clients' specific needs. Explaining the process, Karl highlights:

What Perfect Gym was able to do is allow us to build our own middleware software, use Telr for our payment gateways, and integrate that seamlessly across.

Digital Evolution: Advancing Experiences through BI and Partner Ecosystem

Data-driven decision-making is at the heart of GymNation's strategic approach, enabling them to better understand market needs, identify gaps, and ultimately position themselves as industry leaders. To fortify analytical capabilities, the fitness chain integrated Tableau, Salesforce's powerful Business Intelligence tool enabling them to realise the full potential of their data.

Tableau is powering all of our Business Intelligence capabilities, AWS is our cloud infrastructure, holding our middleware and machine learning applications, too. We gather all of our data from Perfect Gym to feed it into our BI systems, which enables us to build our strategies. Perfect Gym has really helped us streamline our business because of the functionality it offers, especially the API infrastructure. So, all of that data is feeding our backend in real-time, and it has allowed us to develop, innovate, and build. Karl Foster, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer at GymNation

GymNation's Data-Driven Approach to Member Retention

GymNation is all about building strong and lasting connections with its members, focusing on maintaining high retention rates as a pivotal key performance indicator. They leverage data to enrich the customer journey, foster engagement and ensure members' sustained progress and satisfaction. This approach significantly reduced dormancy, leading to a notable 1% improvement in retention and contributing to GymNation’s overall success. Karl explains,

At GymNation, retention is a massive KPI for us. We heavily engage in gamification, rewards, and efforts to understand our members' progress, offering them valuable feedback. For instance, we leverage data from the API, augment it with our data, and feed it back to members. This includes assessing their consistency, calories burned, visit frequency, and any changes week-to-week. It's a way to check in with members, acknowledging their achievements or offering assistance to get them back on track.

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gymnation mobile app dashboaard with workouts overview

Source: Karl Foster

GymNation's Use of Emerging Technology for Business Digital Transformation

GymNation stands out as a leader in the fitness industry, pioneering innovative solutions and setting a benchmark for digital transformation in the sector. With an impressive score of 93/100 in the ukactive’s Digital Futures assessment, the company showcases exceptional digital maturity and forward-thinking strategies. 

We're already a digital business, we're not transforming into one. The only transforming we're going to do is to become an even more digital business, use data and technology better than anyone else in the industry, and ensure we can set the standard for that.  Ant Martland, Co-Founder and CCO at GymNation

Achieving 87% Accuracy in Predicting Member Churn with Machine Learning 

GymNation excels in the industry due to its adoption of emerging and innovative technology to enhance the overall fitness experience for its members.

At GymNation, we've developed many integrations with Perfect Gym, primarily leveraging AI and machine learning capabilities as well as managing automation in our cloud architecture. Perfect Gym's cloud system was fundamental to some of the advanced functionalities we've implemented. For instance, we use language models for hyper-personalisation with our members, enabling more effective communication, offering customised programs, dietary advice, and assistance with customer service inquiries. Karl Foster, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer at GymNation

GymNation's commitment to data-driven decision-making is exemplified through its machine learning models, a significant component of which receives valuable data from Perfect Gym. Remarkably, one of these models has achieved an impressive 87% accuracy in predicting churn, a standout achievement in the fitness industry. This high precision level underscores GymNation's dedication to employing cutting-edge technology to anticipate challenges and enhance member retention strategies. 

Hyper-Personalisation with Albus and Jenny AI

At GymNation, the integration of artificial intelligence goes beyond operational efficiency, extending into a personalised and member-centric experience. Leveraging advanced language models, GymNation has developed Albus and Jenny, AI-driven companions available to its clients around the clock. These innovative solutions contribute to a seamless and interactive relationship with customers, offering hyper-personalisation in communication. Karl Foster says:

Jenny is a voice language model that can contact a prospect on average within about 12 seconds. It transfers their data directly to Perfect Gym, creates an account, and sends them access within about 2 minutes. Albus communicates with our members through multiple channels. It's very impactful in getting our members to get back in the gym or increase their training frequency.

Jenny streamlines the member journey by handling calls and transferring data to Perfect Gym, ensuring personalised assistance around the clock. Albus offers real-time responses to members' queries on the website and WhatsApp, providing not just information but also tips, support and motivation. This dynamic interaction adds an extra layer of support, enhancing the overall member experience.

GymNation's Tech-Focused Future: Vision and Plans

GymNation stands at the forefront of industry innovation, and the company's vision for the upcoming years is to build upon its advanced foundation. With an unwavering commitment to providing more people affordable access to its cutting-edge fitness facilities, GymNation's mission is to continually redefine industry standards, enhance its services and expand its presence internationally.

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gym with yellow neon and qorkout equipment

Source: GymNation

International Expansion

As GymNation continues to redefine the fitness landscape, the roadmap for the future involves a strategic and ambitious expansion plan. Ant Martland shares insights into the upcoming ventures:

This year, we've got five more UAE locations that will take us to 15 locations within the UAE and probably from that membership base of over 80,000 members. We've also signed six new locations in Saudi, so we're looking forward to getting into a brand-new market out there.

Supporting GymNation's expansion into a new market, Perfect Gym seamlessly facilitates the Saudi QR code fiscalisation and e-invoicing program, ensuring compliance with mandatory requirements for simplified tax invoices.  

Perfect Gym takes pride in its partnership with GymNation, actively supporting its growth by providing an open platform that facilitates international expansion.

In terms of technology, Perfect Gym can scale with us, so, no matter how many new gyms we open and no matter which geographies these gyms are located in, Perfect Gym can support us where needed for continued growth. Ant Martland, Co-Founder and CCO at GymNation

Investment in Digital 

GymNation's innovative strides mark just the beginning of its tech-forward journey. Engaged in remaining a leader in the ever-changing tech landscape of the fitness industry, the company plans to stay at the forefront through ongoing adaptation and proactive dedication to emerging technologies. According to Karl Foster, the groundwork for their progress lies in their systems.

The innovation that we've done at GymNation has only been possible because of the setup that we have in the back end. First and foremost, getting all of the data sources that were fragmented before, centralising them on our Cloud servers, which Perfect Gym is feeding and then being able to use that data intelligently to develop further innovations.

GymNation is ramping up its digital efforts, heavily investing in technology, and further expanding its team to enhance technical capabilities, as emphasised by Ant Martland:

 We're directing our attention towards the tech and data side more than ever. We're bringing in dedicated developers and specialists in AI to take us to the next level, ensuring seamless integration of Perfect Gym and other solutions. This focus on technology and data will maximize the overall value we derive from our entire technology stack.

Customer-Centric Approach

GymNation prioritises elevating customer experiences through its commitment to digital excellence. Karl Foster shares the key strategies that will define the company's direction:

At GymNation, we've got three key strategies that we'll work on in the near future. The first one is the gamification of our members' progress visit streaks. The other one is loyalty, rewarding our members for staying with us, and the third one is integrating wearable data so we can build a 360° picture of your progress in and outside the gym.

Ant Martland underscores the company's dedication to continual improvement, extending beyond operational enhancements to address member-facing aspects:

In addition, we're making continual improvements, not just behind the scenes but also in member-facing aspects. GymNation has noticed a significant trend towards integrating wellness and health. In the next few months, they are set to launch recovery solutions and integrate health offerings within the gym, with a particular focus on mental health and well-being.

Perfect Gym is a comprehensive solution that acknowledges the importance of connecting with a diverse range of software and apps beyond its own stack. It enables building an ecosystem of experiences that fulfils the specific needs of gym operators worldwide. If you are looking for a scalable open software partner, book a demo with our expert to discuss how our solutions can accelerate the digital transformation of your business.

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