How do you learn how crowded a service provider such as a gym (or a bar in Santa Fe) is without going? There is clearly some value in getting information on how congested the service provider is. At least some customers would come in to the gym if they knew it was very likely they would be able to get on their preferred piece of equipment while others would stay away if they knew the place was busy. The service provider arguably has an interest in providing some information. In a one-off setting in which the customer doesn’t deal with the service provider repeatedly, the customer may be dubious of a claim that the wait is short (for more on that, see here). For something like a gym, however, in which customers subscribe and have the option of switch providers, the service provider should have an incentive to provide information over time if congestion information allows customers to get more value from using the service and thus increases their chance of sticking with the service provider.
And now there is an app for that (Now There’s An App For Beating The Crowds At The Gym, Business Insider, Jul 11).
Enter GymFlow, a new startup created by four current and former students from the University of Southern California.
GymFlow launched at USC’s Lyon Recreation Center earlier this year in February. Within a month of launching, peak hour traffic decreased by about 20%, but the same number of people were still going to the gym, GymFlow’s business development manager Nhi Duong tells Business Insider.
GymFlow works by tapping into the gym’s IT center to provide real-time traffic data, since a lot of them require you to swipe a card at the turnstyle. GymFlow also uses that data to predict how crowded the gym will be in the future.
This is a pretty cute use of technology — particularly since the necessary data is already being collected. It should largely be a question of gathering a enough data to build solid models of how arrivals this hour convert into arrivals in the next hour.
What really caught my eye on this story was actually down in the comments.
Gyms, and other service-oriented locations, see attendance follow very precise daily patterns. It really isn’t that hard to figure out those patterns and plan accordingly. For a gym, any time before 7am and after 7pm will see manageable crowds die down. Restaurants are even easier to figure out. …
I don’t need an app telling me this and I can’t see gyms really getting value from this either because no matter what they try, people will always revert back to their preferred natural times (on the way to work, and on the way home from work).
So this is an interesting question. There is no doubt that gyms, restaurants, hospital emergency rooms etc follow predictable trends in arrivals. Do you really need an app to figure that out?
I would argue that the additional information can still provide value. Without information everyone decides on whether to go at a particular time base solely on averages — but the averages don’t always hold. Sometimes the gym will be busy at 2:00PM but kinda dead at 5:30PM. Unless you have a way to observe the situation remotely, you have no way of knowing. That the app provides some value is shown from the results that customers have actually shifted how they go to the gym.