Tivity Health leadership earlier this year announced a digital transformation that will launch its fitness and holistic health offerings on a consumer engagement platform to more deeply engage with its member base through data and communication tools.
The move came as the pandemic sent most of the Franklin-based company’s business — senior fitness offerings — into lockdowns and forced newly-instated CEO Richard Ashworth and his team to transition service offerings to the digital space — fast.
The Post sat down with Ashworth to discuss how the impending technology will complement Tivity’s current service offerings, and how his team intends to use data to inform member engagement. The conversation has been edited for brevity.
What does the company hope to achieve with the implementation of a digital platform and new products in the social determinants of health space more broadly?
SilverSneakers has always been this preeminent fitness brand and we have always helped seniors find fantastic gym locations to go to where they live or in communities that has created a strong physical and social network through that work. And what we realized was that from a strategic perspective we can do more on behalf of these members. They tell us they want us to do more when we survey them, so we thought about how we can engage them beyond fitness and look at how we can engage them in many other different ways. Maybe fewer in-person events, maybe we can help them with mental enrichment, maybe we can help them with volunteering, you know, all the social determinants.
The only way to really engage them that way is through the platform. And it’s digital first, but it’s not just digital. It will also be physical and local, too. The concept is simple and that’s: Let’s get the tools in place to have a compelling platform, so we have to have data capabilities, we have to have omni-capabilities, and we have to have marketing capabilities. So we are building all of that, and that will be up and running by the end of Q2. And essentially, that will help us know our members better and engage with them differently.
Was this transition a product of the pandemic or part of a longer-term strategy?
In reality, the pandemic helped create the environment for us to go and do this. I don’t think if COVID would not have existed we would have gone as big and bold and to the digital platform, we probably wouldn’t have. We probably would not have done it for all the reasons you think — I’m not sure our user base will know how to do it, I’m not sure this is how they want to engage with us — I think COVID just created that environment.
This created a new way to engage that we didn’t have before. What we are seeing now is when you become a SilverSneakers member, and you start to go to the gym, about 18 percent of the group that’s going to the gym are first-timers. On our digital platform, it’s double that. So, 36 percent of the people that are engaging with us digitally are first-timers, and the reason for that is actually quite simple: It’s less scary than going to the the gym for the first time in 20 years, not knowing how to use the equipment, not sure who is there — where do I park? What do I do? All these things are real detractors for going to the gym. You underestimate it but it’s real.
Now you have full control doing it in your living room. You don’t like it? Shut it off. You’re in full control, and they love the digital channel. So I think in the future what you’re going to see is a combination of both. You’re going to see physical, because people like being together, we are very communal beings, but they’ll also like to use digital for when they are not feeling well or if its raining or snowing. So I think it’s going to be a really cool incremental channel to drive more engagement.
How do you integrate your other service offerings — Wisely Well, Prime and Whole Health Living — with the platform as well?
The way I think about it is the platform is the way people come into the SilverSneakers ecosystem. It knows more about you because we survey you and we get second-party and third-party data. It helps us know more about who you are.
So as you come into the platform, we can then say, ‘Oh, you’re someone who would be interested in our food program.’ or ‘Maybe you need something from our alternative medicine business.’ Whatever over-time services that are more non-clinical, with health and wellness front-end oriented, the platform just helps us know more about you and bring the right activity and experience for you to drive your wellness.
So, all of our businesses will benefit from the engagement tool because we got to know more about our members and we’re going to be able to contact them at their own preference. We will. Know how you like to be communicated with and you’ll give us permission to contact you. And that’s very powerful with the senior population where there’s a little bit more restraint against people having their information.