The 6 traps to avoid when taking your business digital

Wexer Blog

13 November 2019

Most companies know they need to go through a process of digital transformation; such is the pace of change across all sectors, with the lion’s share of disruption and growth coming from tech-centric ventures, that it would be hard to dispute this fact.

And yet many businesses continue to drag their heels: in a recent piece of cross-sector research, only 30% of respondents felt they had a competitive advantage in digital innovation.

This percentage is likely lower still in the global fitness sector, with most digital innovation coming from outside of the industry – the likes of Google, as well as a wide array of start-ups.

So, why is this? What’s stopping us from taking the digital bull by the horns?


Inside-the-box thinking

A large and growing proportion of the workforce already possess the skills needed to see their respective companies through the process of digital transformation. The problem is, these employees tend to be more junior, whereas – with apologies for any stereotyping and acknowledging the exceptions to this rule – senior management of traditional companies tend not to be digital natives.

The knock-on effect: the serious decisions about digital transformation are being made by individuals who lack the in-depth understanding required to make them effectively. Presented with the options – take a leap into the unknown, or stick with tried and tested (and often still successful, for now) models – many CEOs opt for the old way of doing things. This in spite of how quickly disruption has already rendered traditional models obsolete in other sectors.

Without the necessary buy-in at every level of the company – including support, and indeed leadership, from the very top – any attempt at digital transformation is doomed to failure.

It’s about putting the right people in the right roles, then empowering, supporting and trusting them to do their job.


Lack of insight

One major problem is that a large number of operators simply do not understand the member journey – or rather, journeys – in all their complexity.

Without this in-depth understanding of all points of contact, it is impossible to build an effective, customer-centric digital ecosystem. Operators need to get much, much better at analysing and using member data.

But there’s another related point, which is collaboration between departments. At present, the different departments in a typical club – personal training, F&B, studios, membership sales and so on – all operate in silos. Digital transformation forces them all together – but the mindset and company culture needs to be ready to accept and accommodate this, and the systems need to be in place to support it.


Investment structure

In many cases, the investment structure within the fitness sector leads to a very short-term perspective, which by its very nature means little investment in genuine future-proofing. There’s no looking 10 years down the line to pre-empt needs and trends, and to prepare now for those longer-term scenarios.

This short termism also tends to drive a low tolerance for making mistakes. Yet innovation – true, disruptive innovation – comes from being allowed to experiment and make mistakes.

A longer-term outlook and a willingness to push the boundaries are vital to effective digital transformation.


Kneejerk responses

Where digital innovations have been introduced, this has often been done in isolation: a bolt-on that hasn’t been properly integrated with other systems and processes, or even with the broader thinking and ethos of the company. Essentially launched within traditional business models, these innovations then – unsurprisingly – struggled to fly.

In turn, the decision-makers adopted a ‘once bitten, twice shy’ mindset in regards to any future digital transformation projects.

The key here: make sure digital is a tool that you use to achieve your strategy, not the strategy in itself.


The membership model

The prevalent business model of health clubs today – sell memberships, then don’t worry if members get results or even attend the club – is sadly deeply entrenched, and this is a big reason why digital transformation hasn’t swept through the sector: because digital doesn’t allow this to happen. Digital brings with it too much data, too much scope to track, too much inbuilt accountability to allow this.

To move into the digital era, clubs therefore have to be ready to change their whole model – and their level of accountability to the member – and this, for many, is an uncomfortable prospect.


‘Them versus us’

Back to the stat noted above – the 30% of respondents who feel they have a digital advantage – and it’s clear many businesses are conscious they’re already behind the curve. There’s almost a sense of intimidation: digital leaders seen as being way out there, set up with agility in mind; other businesses somehow relegated to second place, too entrenched in their old ways to keep up.

This mindset needs to change: while the journey is no doubt harder when there are existing, often complex, structures and business models in place, change is possible.


And we’re here to help. To discuss ways in which Wexer can help your business to digitally transform, please contact

AuthorPaul Bowman