Has the role of technology changed, or just been accelerated? There’s been plenty of discussion on the increasing role of technology during the pandemic.

Many brands have been applauded for their ability to quickly implement solutions that serve their customers and offer extended value. But I’ve struggled with this narrative. Often these stories are positioned as ‘innovations’, when in reality the technology existed for a long time and the brand’s use of it was catalyzed by the pandemic. Or better yet, the brand used the technology all along but now it’s viewed as a competitive differentiator. Look at Domino’s PULSE system. They invested in that technology to improve the customer experience and streamline their supply chain back in 2001. Domino’s continued to invest in enhancing the solution as the expectations around customer experience evolved. 

Innovation or Evolution?

When we look internally at the Private Club industry we see a similar trend. Websites and email tools, reservation and tee time systems, mobile ordering and mobile POS solutions, and SMS and mobile app channels have been around for many years. When clubs were impacted by the pandemic, clubs with those tools already in place found themselves in an envied position, while others quickly implemented the systems required for improved engagement. It was also exciting to see clubs identify new uses for these tools in order to manage capacity restrictions and contact tracing. 

If we dive deeper into the Private Club industry we see these same trends playout across marketing and communications. Many clubs have extended the use of mobile apps, email marketing, SMS, and virtual tour systems. Staff can communicate with current and prospective members utilizing digital body language. With tools like email marketing and SMS, virtual communication can be more frequent, consistent, and relevant. Creating virtual tours with drone footage or Google’s Virtual Tour Creator means staff can still market the amenities of the club at a safe distance. These same tools can also be used for communicating among staff. Clubs can also ensure that all staff are clear on procedures and adjusted operations by sending push-notifications through the club’s app, as well as email and SMS. 

The Internet of Behavior

With more and more communication trending towards digital channels, clubs can also gain insight into the behavior of groups of members and individual members. This might be one of the most exciting trends for many clubs. For years it was difficult to understand who was really participating at your club and determine which members may be at risk of leaving at your club using real data.  Now with new data points and tools like predictive analytics, clubs can determine member engagement, quickly predict and identify unengaged members, and take action before they leave. 

Member Experience has Become a Team Sport 

For a while, only those individuals who directly engaged with members were tasked with member experience responsibility. In 2020 this all changed. It’s ridiculous for clubs to give lip service to member experience by simply assigning a few people to it and think they’re done. A member-first mindset is much different than hiring a great GM or Membership Director and thinking the work is done. In 2020, clubs utilized technology to expand their member experience to encompass everything they do, from hiring and leadership development, to marketing, payments and billing, logistics, and IT infrastructure. Gaining this in-depth engagement knowledge about members is possible because technology is allowing clubs to collect Voice of the Member data, and bring out valuable insights from that data with speed and precision.

Merging Xs and Os

One additional marketing and communication trend accelerated by technology during the pandemic is operational data creating room for experience data on dashboards. Over the last decade, clubs have been inundated with data to help them optimize club operations. However, this valuable O-data (operational data) is typically fragmented, stored in various systems, and difficult to align into a narrative that informs the board and club decision-making. To further complicate matters, the Experience Economy is forcing clubs to look beyond the O-data and also evaluate the X-data (experience data). This X-data is providing the insight behind ‘why’ things happen. Spending on experiences has grown 4X faster than spending on goods and services. As clubs have evolved how they operate in the pandemic-clouded experience age, standardization is essential. In 2020, clubs implemented solutions that fully integrate their X- and O-Data, collected information across their club, and provided best practice methodologies, controls, and tools. By combining X- and O-Data clubs are seeing the impact of their improvements on key metrics like revenue, sales, profit, engagement, attrition and much more.


What's Ahead?

It’s evident that technology has accelerated inevitable change. It’s also certain that much was learned in 2020. The challenge for clubs in 2021 will be to harness that data into learnings that drive decision-making. Clubs will need to derive clarity through these continued times of uncertainty, discover the role technology can play at your organization.