Emerging TechnologyAIHow Planet Fitness plans to gain a competitive advantage with AI

How Planet Fitness plans to gain a competitive advantage with AI

When people fail to see results at the gym, many of them stop going. Planet Fitness plans to improve its retention rate by introducing AI-powered virtual coaches who motivate members by monitoring their individual progress.

With January 1 around the corner, millions of people are getting ready to hit the gym… for 39 days. Analyzing its check-in data, Gold’s Gym found that February 9 is the “fitness cliff,” when many people stop going. Why?

For Planet Fitness, it’s not about convenience or cost. The gym is famously omnipresent and affordable, with more than 1,400 locations and $10 monthly memberships. Planet Fitness members leave because their motivation drops, according to Craig Miller, Chief Digital and Information Officer. And artificial intelligence (AI) is how he plans to turn that around.

“We now have the ability to have every piece of fitness equipment connected and collecting data on usage,” says Miller, who spoke at the AI Summit in New York last week. “In fitness, unlike most other industries, technology plays a role in the actual consumption of the product.”

Artificial inspiration

Struggling with retention isn’t unique to Planet Fitness. People fail to see any progress and stop exercising, no matter where they do it. Part of that is due to lofty, unrealistic goals. New members can also find the whole experience overwhelming and give up.

Planet Fitness plans to address those concerns with an AI-powered digital coach that motivates people in a personalized way. With connected equipment, Planet Fitness can see how people use the machines, giving the coach a starting point.

“Everyone’s metabolic makeup is different and biometric data can be connected into a full feedback circle,” says Miller. “The coach works as an adaptive recommendation engine. It can tell you how well the program is working for you. It adapts and makes adjustments, both exercise and nutrition, based on your performance.

The virtual coach will enhance every digital touchpoint, including mobile apps and connected equipment. It provides all the benefits of a personal trainer, such as external motivation and customized plans, without the potentially crippling costs. The national average for an hour of personal training is about $102, equivalent to 10 months of membership at Planet Fitness.

Miller believes utilizing AI will only add to Planet Fitness’ success. The company’s revenue grew by 136% over the last five years. And that’s with all the people who have lost motivation and cancelled their memberships.

Building the digital plumbing

Miller is relatively new to Planet Fitness (he’s been with the brand since August) but not to AI. He wrote his college thesis on AI, recognizing its game-changing potential long before it was considered a business necessity. Miller’s marketing technology background spans industries—he’s worked at Pepsi, Bank of America, and Sonic, to name a few—giving him an expertise in how to apply AI at Planet Fitness in a practical way.

“Vendors pop up and work with each other to integrate, and then come to us with the value proposition. But then we’re constrained by the speed of innovation,” says Miller.

“We want to create the connected ecosystem that collects all the data, and then have them plug into us,” he adds.

The first step is building an integrated data network that serves as “digital plumbing.” Working across locations, vendors, service providers and member touchpoints, the plumbing enables Planet Fitness to collectand own—their data. More importantly, it will allow the brand to stay connected to members, in and outside the gym.

Getting over the “fitness cliff”

In a few weeks, millions of people will vow to lose weight and get healthier. Miller’s New Year’s resolution is to help them do that, with a “dynamic personalized fitness experience” assisted by AI.

“The ability to connect, collect and synthesize data will become the winning formula,” he says.

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