by Jason Williams | June 22, 2020 | Blog
“Which gym management software is best for my business?”
MINDBODY or Zen Planner? Pike13 or Wodify? PushPress? Arbox?
At Two-Brain Business, we’ve been helping gym owners answer questions about software for years. And the answer isn’t always the same. Two-Brain Business mentors have talked to thousands of entrepreneurs, and their needs change quickly as businesses evolve and new products appear on the market.
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Our mentoring team is always discussing the best gym management software. And our clients—among the top gym owners in the world—bring up software solutions and pain points almost daily in our private Facebook group for Two-Brain Business clients.
Our constant research has led us to dozens of presentations, demos and software trials. Every company wants to know how it can help our huge pool of clients, and each one promises improvements to existing platforms soon. Some have asked us to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Beyond software providers, we’re constantly surveying hundreds of clients around the world. We want to know what they need to make their business successful. Is their software supporting them or letting them down?
We’ve invested $35,000 to answer that question here.
People are usually concerned with two things first:
1. Point-of-sale payment processing and automated billing. Cash flow is critical.
2. Membership management—essential to client tracking and retention.
Other critical elements: a powerful database, robust reporting, seamless automations and third-party integrations, appointment scheduling and facility management, check-ins and reservations, administrative features, and retention systems.
Also important: general functionality, cost of service, ease of use, customer support and mobile apps.
So which gym management software is best for you and your business?
We’ve compiled our research on the key players in the gym software industry to help you decide which system will work for you, your staff, your clients and your growing business. You are investing in a service, and your need to see a return on your investment.
Our review is unbiased: We have no partnerships of any kind with any of these companies.
Below, we rate each of the major software providers from 1 to 10 in a few critical categories:
Function—Does the software meet the basic needs of a gym? These are the must-have elements: payment processing, scheduling (appointments, classes and staff), membership packages and so on.
Reporting—Are the reports useful? How easy is it to find the data you need? Can you create and run your own reports based on what you need? Is it easy to do so?
Usability—Is the software easy to use by the owner and staff? How about by the clients? Is there an app? What about the user interface (UI)? Does it make you feel warm/fuzzy when you open it or does it give you a headache? Look and feel also factor in here.
Integrations—Does the software platform play nice with others? Does the program integrate with common management tools such as Mailchimp, SugarWOD, iCalendar, Zapier, etc.? Does it have an open API so you can add things as you see fit?
Bonuses—Does it have any useful extra features such as a killer workout logging app or a kick-ass customer relationship management system (CRM)? What’s the customer service like? How about the development cycle? Does the software stand out through any unique features?
We’ve included pricing info in US dollars, but in some cases rates are variable based on features you select, the size of your membership, and so on.
We’ve selected videos that will give you an idea of how each platform functions, and you can find others on each company’s YouTube channel (except for Pike13).
The maximum score for each gym software platform is 50, and our minimum standard is 35+.
In this article, we’ll tell you which platforms are ahead of the others and why. We’re not endorsing any platform yet or making blanket recommendations to our family of entrepreneurs.
But we really want to. We want to be able to tell our clients exactly which platform will help them grow their business and live their perfect day.
So we’ll keep evaluating and communicating the needs of the community to developers.
And when a platform finally does everything we need, we’ll recommend it to the Two-Brain family.
In the meantime, we’ll keep supporting the community with mountains of free content, advice and data people can use to grow their business and create their perfect day. For a package of our best resources, enter your email below.
Now, on to the software.
Chris Cooper’s Intro—Nikki Violetti was the first CrossFit business blogger back in 2006, and I learned about on-ramps from her. When she started FrontDeskHQ nearly a decade later, I was eager to join, but I was pretty entrenched with MINDBODY, and FrontDeskHQ’s initial payment processor didn’t work in Canada.
Handles the basic functions most gym owners need pretty well, with payment processing, class scheduling, appointment scheduling, a pro shop, etc. It has a basic sign-in app you can put up on a tablet so clients can sign in and fill out waivers. Pike13 also offers an app that allows clients to schedule appointments and check into classes, but it costs you an additional $20 per month.
Reporting functionality is OK. You can run your own reports and save them, but the data is tough to get to. A custom dashboard would be nice. When we’ve emailed to ask about reports we need, we often get confusing answers or a response like “we’re working on that.”
The platform is fairly basic, but most things are easy to find. Some steps require a lot of clicks, and the emails going out to clients can’t be edited.
Pike13 has an open API but limited integrations (Mailchimp, TrainHeroic, Emma). The API is OK, but it would be nice if we could use Zapier. You do not have the ability to use your own payment processor or Stripe.
Nothing extra makes Pike13 stand out.
Overall Score: 26/50
Pike13 is a solid app that can handle basic functions, and has a decent UI, if a bit dated. A decent option.
Cost: $199 per month.
Chris Cooper’s Intro—I’m going to be honest here: I wanted PushPress to win. I really like the team, and I like the product. The company is working on the few missing pieces. PushPress didn’t earn the highest score, but it was close. PushPress is the reason we decided to evaluate software platforms every year instead of once.
PushPress has most functions you’d want from gym software, but there’s a big missing piece: some sort of appointment system so you can book and pay for personal coaching. The company is working on an integration with Acuity, but it’s not in place at the time of writing.
Reporting is limited. Clients need the ability to create custom reports
The interface is simple and useful. It’s easy to sell stuff, create things, etc. The platform is basic and could use a little polish, but overall the look and feel are solid.
PushPress integrates with everything via Zapier and uses Stripe as a payment processor. Open API: We wish all software were so flexible.
The apps are pretty cool and easy to use, and there are client, staff and front-desk apps.
Overall Score: 32/50
For a small company, PushPress really hit on a lot of nice stuff. We’d like to see more polish, and, most importantly, an appointment system.
Cost: $139 per month.
Chris Cooper’s Intro—Think about the negative reviews you read about MINDBODY: “It’s too confusing.” No one ever mentions missed payments, over-billings or absent features. There’s just too much stuff, and it takes a while to learn. I started with MINDBODY in 2006, when it was simple, so I missed the feature dumps over the years. But Orangetheory Fitness uses this system for a reason, and the integrations are pretty amazing for coaches. In the end, it’s easier to block the stuff you don’t need than to fill the gaps the other systems are missing.
MINDBODY has everything you could possibly want to run a gym—appointments, pro shop, scheduling, etc. It’s been built over many years, and MINDBODY has tons of clients, so they’ve added a lot. However, things aren’t exactly easy to find.
The gym software keeps data on everything and allows you to create and save custom reports. The reports aren’t pretty, but you can get all the info you need.
The biggest drawback of MINDBODY is that it can do everything, but it’s really tough to use. A rating of 3 might be generous here. You’re always clicking away, and weird refreshes happen on pages. It’s a designer’s nightmare. Ideally, the system would offer fewer options so users can focus on only the things they really need.
MINDBODY integrates with lots of systems, and if you don’t find an integration for the one you want, it has a very robust open API. The only drawback: limited payment processing options—but this seems fairly standard in the industry.
Apps, integrations, custom development—MINDBODY offers a lot of bonuses. It also supports outside development: Several custom apps for things like keycards, email marketing and workout tracking have been built specifically to integrate with MINDBODY.
This is a well-developed, well-established system. MINDBODY is a leader in the industry, and it shows. Unfortunately, the UI is terrible, which means the time to get going is not ideal. However, you’ll never find yourself looking for gym software with more options. If you can customize the system for your needs, this is the one to choose.
Cost: $129-$349 per month.
Chris Cooper’s Intro—I went to visit Zen Planner in Denver a few years ago, and the company built a custom reporting feature for Two-Brain Business gyms. Zen Planner also claims to have the largest support team in the industry, and I’ve never heard a complaint about response time or access to support.
Zen Planner offers scheduling, appointments, payment processing, and staff management, and it works reasonably well. But it’s not always easy to do everything. For example, some clunky features make it tough to sell a T-shirt to a drop-in client. Customers have reported issues with double billing in the past.
Zen Planner’s reports are flexible, and the company seems willing to customize reports based on need. It offers a custom Two-Brain Business dashboard you can access if you request it.
The package looks nice, but the functionality can make it confusing or hard to use for customers. There are extra clicks for things like checkouts in the pro shop, adding a client or the user app.
Zen Planner does not offer an open API, it has only one choice for payment processing, and integrations are limited. If you use Zen Planner as a base system but want to add on programs from industry leaders to handle workout tracking, texting/emailing clients and so on, you are limited to the options Zen Planner chooses.
Workout tracking is a nice bonus, as is a client app, but Zen Planner doesn’t have a ton of other “wow” features. Support is great, but the company promises a lot of features that have yet to be delivered.
The lack of an open API or connectivity with some apps really limits what Zen Planner can provide. While the gym software does cover the basics and is always improving, the limited expandability makes it tough to commit to Zen Planner if the package isn’t perfect for you right out of the box.
Cost: $129-$996 per month.
Chris Cooper’s Intro—I visited Wodify in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, last year. Very recently, I did an hour-long seminar to help their support team learn to help gym owners more. The new dashboard features Two-Brain metrics such as length of engagement (LEG) and average revenue per member (ARM), and the gym software has the clarity that most other platforms lack.
On the surface, Wodify has everything a gym owner needs. When you dig a bit deeper, little things don’t quite work as you’d expect. Missing features related to appointments, messaging, membership set-up and the app make you wish for better functionality.
Again, it feels as if Wodify has everything, but when you dig in, the reports can be inflexible or not particularly useful. For example, it’s really cool to have reports on client performance, but they feel unnecessary when you’re trying to look at the health of your business. Reporting issues could be solved if Wodify tailored its reports to create the data that’s most useful for gym owners.
It’s fairly easy to use and find things, and the side menu bar is useful. The big drawback: The app is primarily focused on workouts first and gym management second. In the grand scheme of things, entrepreneurs are more concerned with revenue, profit and retention than workout performance. Business data should be more prominently displayed.
Pretty damn good! Wodify integrates with Zapier and others such as Stripe, Facebook, Mailchimp and WordPress. The developer API allows access to workouts but not much else. You get the impression the developers would work with you if you had something creative you’d like to do.
Wodify offers an app, a screen cast and integrations with other workout-tracking apps such as MyPulse. Because the company started with workout tracking, it’s the primary focus, and Wodify does it well.
Wodify is a solid gym management software system that’s been developed from the ground up for CrossFit-style gyms and functional training facilities. If you want an all-in-one solution, Wodify is the choice. The biggest drawback: So many features that everything isn’t perfect. This means Wodify has 80-85 percent of what you’d want, but some aspects—reporting, appointments, etc.—are not quite up to code. If Wodify continues to develop and improve, it could become the top choice.
Cost: $79-$299 per month.
Chris Cooper’s Intro—We put Arbox on the list because they have a great product and their team works really fast. They just received a ton of new funding, so we think you’re going to hear a lot from them in 2019 and 2020.
Arbox is one of the upstarts on the list. It’s a small company in Jerusalem, Israel, with about 500 clients. Right out of the box, it has almost everything you’d need: scheduling, texting, pro shop, messaging. The biggest drawback: The screens are slow to load, which might be a function of servers based on the other side of the world from our testing.
This is where Arbox shines. The reports are slick and easy to modify. They can’t be fully customized, but the developers are quite responsive and seem to add reports all the time.
An area of strength. The UI is easy to use and navigate. Loading times are an issue—especially for an American with a short attention span.
Arbox doesn’t offer a ton of integrations but gets points for an open API and a responsive development team that has volunteered to build integrations we might need.
Arbox offers a host of features you’d want right out of the box—a big bonus. It has a client app that allows people to sign in for classes, plan workouts, etc., and you get the feeling that this element will grow along with the company.
Take note of Arbox as an up-and-comer in the world of gym management software. The company has grown quickly, and its development cycles are fast and useful. We have hopes that these guys will be an industry leader in time.
Cost: $149 per month.
Many members of the Two-Brain Business family asked us to evaluate their favorite platforms. Our mentors can help clients who are using any gym management software, and our Two-Brain reporting systems don’t require clients to use a specific product.
We had conversations with 20 platforms total, and we chose to focus on what we consider the top six.
For one reason or another, we chose not to add more companies to our main report in 2019. Some just weren’t ready, some weren’t interested, and some didn’t meet minimum standards for greater consideration.
Right now, no single platform is so far ahead that it’s worth the pain of switching.
Some platforms have features you might find more important—such as scoreboards—but we’d prefer that you stick with systems that provide good reporting and metrics.
But all the main software packages are so close that it might not be worth switching—yet. If one platform offers you something the others don’t and offers to move your clients over, that’s valuable.
In the end, the best system for you is the one you’ll use. If you can’t get your basic metrics, or if the gym software can’t book appointments or collect money, the platform isn’t giving you what you need as a box owner and entrepreneur.
We’ll stay in touch with these companies—and others—and keep letting them know what box owners, gym owners, studio owners, personal trainers, coaches and clients need. As the providers grow and improve their products, we’ll let you know which ones we believe are best for you and your business.
Read More: “What’s Wrong With Your Website” by Chris Cooper