A decade ago Apple coined the phrase "there's an app for that", and ever since brands have clamored to design that identifiable icon that will be tapped daily.  But with ‘Mobile First’ development now taking hold, many are left wondering, are apps still necessary?

The answer is ‘yes’ - and ‘no’.

First - what is “Mobile First’?

You’ve probably heard this new buzzword, and you may have even received requests from your board or other stakeholders to think about the role of mobile at your club. In a Mobile First strategy, a company's web presence is designed for mobile devices first and desktop second. A Mobile First strategy facilitates connections with your members, because, let’s be honest, smartphones are always close at hand and for many are the first thing people grab in the morning. In our research, we’ve found that Next Generation Leaders are prioritizing Mobile First to support their member experience programs.

It’s important to note that “mobile” can apply to mobile, responsive web (content available on the web being easily accessible and viewable from any mobile device) as well as mobile applications (apps specifically designed and downloadable on our mobile devices), with both aspects being equally important for any modern club. While mobile apps reduce the distance to your members, allowing for personalized interactions, mobile web should not be ignored. So mobile apps are necessary - and so is mobile web.

But does it really impact your club?

Yes. By 2019, the number of mobile users is expected to exceed 5 billion. I’d wager there’s a percentage of that 5 billion that belong to your club - or might one day belong to your club. We understand that your club may have a ‘no phone zone’ policy but outside of the club, and when they arrive or leave the club, checking in with their phone is a member’s first to-do. Having a solid mobile strategy in place allows you to engage with your members the way they want and grow with your future members in mind. Our Next Generation leaders view mobile as their primary digital tool for member engagement.

So where do you start?

Mobile First can certainly sound like one of those ‘techy’ terms that require IT teams and developers, but you can actually break your Mobile First strategy into 4 stages. We’ve researched several industries as well as the private club space and have found that clubs align with 4 maturity stages; developing, emerging, strategic, and leading. Adoption of Mobile First programs also align with these stages.

Stage 1: Developing - Increased Member Engagement

Clubs in the Developing stage are committed to better member engagement and retention. Our research has shown that these clubs are prioritizing a mobile app for their club. The Clubessential Mobile App is the club industry’s first location-aware mobile app which delivers a personalized experience to members, allowing for easy access to make reservations, manage their account, and receive instant club communication via push notifications. These mobile capabilities are crucial for establishing an omnichannel member experience.

Stage 2: Emerging - Improved Member and Associate Experiences

Clubs in the Emerging stage are focused on an improved Experience for both members and associates. As we’ve seen, your members and associates are becoming increasingly mobile, so offering a more convenient way to solve their day-to-day tasks with ease is a great way to win loyalty. We’ve found industry leaders are deploying programs like Clubessential’s Mobile Point of Sale (POS) solution to improve the speed, accuracy, and overall flexibility of a traditional, terminal based point of sale system.  Taking orders at the pool, beverage cart, or other a la carte dining locations is easy for associates and members’ service-level expectations are exceeded by offering food and beverage services anywhere on your property.

Stage 3: Strategic - Your Club. Everywhere.

Desktops don’t travel (unless you’re the guy that sets up an entire computer in Starbucks, but that’s another story). Mobile devices such as cell phones, tablets, and watches are used for shopping, surfing the internet and social media while on the go. A club that is mobile-first has built a culture of providing the best experience possible on these devices while being virtually anywhere at any time. Strategic clubs are leveraging tools like Clubessential’s mobile CRM capabilities to addresses member relationship management needs at the recruit, engage, and retain stages of the membership lifecycle - from anywhere. Using a mobile device, your associates can then track contacts through the sales funnel, enhance your member onboarding by following key checkpoints in the onboarding process, and identify member interest and experiences and use that data to drive meaningful interactions. You can also begin to identify those disengaged members that may require personal outreach.

Stage 4: Leading - Simplified Communications

Easier communication is something every club yearns for - from membership directors, to controllers, to general managers. Mobility creates easier communication for all parties, employees and members alike. Through our research we’ve found that Leading clubs have matured one step further by streamlining mobile first engagement into their accounting and POS solutions. This ensures all associates have access to necessary information, reporting is clear and collecting from all member engagement touchpoints, and engagement with members contains context from their (and their family’s) reservations and buying behaviors across the club.

Mobile first is all about relationship building. Whether it be through a mobile app or a POS application, conversations and connections happen through mobile. Your club should be building relationships with members and associates by speaking their language.