David Williamson leads the UK health and fitness accounts for Imagesound, who provide visual and audio solutions to over 22,000 sites in 139 countries.
We met with David to learn about how gyms and clubs can use sound to enhance the member experience and improve retention rates.
The Fitness Network
Why is it important for companies to put real thought into the music the play in their gyms and clubs?
If you’re trying to build a real brand and offer a particular experience and atmosphere, then sound has to be part of that. Not only do certain demographics have a preference for particular types of music, but sound also has a huge impact on energy levels within clubs, so ensuring that the right song is played at the right time is hugely impactful on the overall member experience.
The Fitness Network:
What would your advice be for a gym or club looking to optimise their sound strategy?
1. Have a clearly defined brand identity
This is where it all begins. Utilising music profiling is an opportunity to communicate the unique personality of your business, but that requires a clear brand identity. Without that the playlists will be (on the whole) generic and do little to build the member relationship to your brand. The sound of your brand should complement what you’re doing on the club floor with signage, customer service and member engagement provision.
2. Have access to card swipe data
Creating an optimised sound experience is dependent on being able to understand who your customers are. If you are capturing the right demographics data and associated gym-use patterns then this won’t be a problem. The more you know about your audience at any given time of the day, the more effectively you can customise the soundtrack and contribute to a positive well-being experience.
3. Consider regional variations
Of course if you are a multi-site operator there will be an element of profile consistency across your estate, but why not make the most of the data available by incorporating regional variance. For example, compare a city-centre club to a club in a rural setting where the pace of life and member demographic is different. There will be scope to include music genres and artists that members at either site will be motivated by, but drilling down into the data you can deliver a more optimised service by tailoring the track choices to match lifestyle.
4. Customise the playlist around the member usage during the day
This is known as dayparting – breaking down music profiles into segments which differ in music type and tempo to offer the right sound at the right time throughout the day. This will be based partly on who’s using the gym at different times (check your swipe data!), but it’s also about considering the shifting energy levels throughout the day. If you don’t take into account these changes and adjust day-parts or volumes accordingly, the impact of music can be lost in the ambient noise from busy treadmills during peak hours, or be perceived to be too ‘full-on’ during quieter times.
5. Invest in a quality sound system and focus on coverage
If you’re serious about optimising your music but deliver the sound of your brand through a sub-standard sound system, then the impact of your efforts will be reduced. There’s a wide range of solutions out there to accommodate all budgets without compromising on sound quality. Likewise, speaker placement should be a high priority. Consider how spaces are being used and how ambient noise from equipment will influence the sound of the space during peak times. You want to be able to have control over music volumes in these areas – zoning sound systems will help you make the most of your spaces.
6. Think carefully about music zoning
Zoning is not limited to the gym-floor space. Using different music profiles within defined areas of a site can be an effective way of delivering a positive member experience. For example, the member welcome from front-line reception staff can be enhanced by delivering a relaxed music profile, whilst in the changing rooms tempos can be increased via more upbeat genres in preparation for the workout on the gym floor. You’re effectively creating a ‘warm-up’ zone between the welcome and the workout which the body responds to, albeit subconsciously. Likewise a carefully considered profile in the café can help sustain the post-workout buzz in the morning or encourage members to relax in the evening. Being able to zone areas and create these shifting energy levels is essential for optimising the atmosphere at all stages of the member experience.
7. Find the right balance between staff input and central control
Getting staff input on the music strategy is key. After all, they understand the gym atmosphere better than anyone and are at the front-line of member feedback. However, once the strategy is agreed, you then need to retain a level of central control to ensure ongoing consistency. Take class music for example – a lot of gyms leave the music selection for studio classes to instructors, but that may not be their speciality. In fact many instructors get really bogged down in selecting music and poor choices could affect the perception of your brand and member experience. If it is centrally controlled this can be avoided. By deploying a solution that combines profiling expertise (influenced by staff feedback) with network-updated playout technology, you have a powerful tool that delivers the right balance.