The Future of Wellness: How Mindbody Uses AI/ML to Drive Enterprise Growth
Today’s consumers expect seamless self-service, more personalisation, and less friction. Enter artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML).
AI/ML is helpful tech with the ability to: automate business and operational tasks; predict KPIs critical to the business in an actionable way; recommend valuable products, services, and actions; automate interventions for better value; and provide insights to help run a business better.
Artificial intelligence reinvents the way organisations meet customer needs and accelerates the success of their own sales, marketing, and customer service efforts. This is especially true for wellness brands creating exceptional experiences at scale.
How does Mindbody use AI/ML to empower wellness business owners? I sat down with our very own VP of AI/ML and Distinguished Engineer Prasad Saripalli to learn more. Read on for our insightful conversation.
Ivonne Smith: You have one fancy title, Prasad! Tell me about your background and your team’s focus.
Prasad Saripalli: Our team builds AI/ML enhancements and automation into Mindbody’s products to help our customers—fitness, beauty, and wellness providers—run their marketing, sales, and business operations more efficiently and profitably. In turn, this helps consumers enjoy their services. In partnership with our product team, we proactively discover opportunities to address customer needs and pain points, and build AI/ML engines to address them.
These days, the New Mindbody Experience is our focus. Advancements in Mindbody’s core software are designed to accelerate growth by empowering our customers to reach, attract, convert, and retain clients at scale; enhance ROI and revenue; and measure business performance and act on it.
As far as my background, I led similar AI/ML missions in the healthcare industry, and helped design and build similar platforms and products at IBM, Microsoft, Citrix, and a couple of smaller companies as their CTO. I also teach AI/ML and cloud engineering in Silicon Valley.
Ivonne Smith: We’ve heard AI/ML is the backbone of the Mindbody platform. Can you expand?
Prasad Saripalli: Mindbody, if you will, is an AI/ML-powered fitness, beauty, and wellness matchmaking platform. We bring highly personalised, effective, and affordable experiences to consumers, while also providing a best-in-class management software for wellness businesses.
Here’s our vision for the new Mindbody enabled by AI/ML:
For wellness brands (B2B), Mindbody is like Shopify and GoDaddy: a comprehensive platform to manage daily operations.
For consumers (B2C), Mindbody is like Spotify: a platform that provides access to a desirable product or service.
For both parties (B2B2C), Mindbody is like eBay: a value-driven, marketplace platform that connects the two together.
AI/ML is key to reinventing how wellness businesses and their consumers experience our platform every step of the way. This includes: marketing, lead management and sales, smart scheduling and bookings management, payments, and point of sale. A more seamless and personalised experience leads to higher customer satisfaction and retention all around.
Ivonne Smith: How is Mindbody’s AI/ML strategy helping our customers?
Prasad Saripalli: Our AI/ML is built on a two-pronged strategy:
In the short term, we’re adding efficiencies and cutting losses for business owners by improving the registration and onboarding process, recommending optimal pricing strategies, enabling smart scheduling powered by AI, and more. We’re also upgrading the overall experience for consumers with recommendations of valuable intro offers, personalised search and discovery of wellness services, and smart scheduling to optimise bookings at convenient times and optimal price points.
Longer term, our AI/ML platform with deep learning, NLP (natural language processing), AR (augmented reality), and VR (virtual reality) capabilities will help customers jumpstart their AI/ML product journey. Features like Lead Management and the clients-at-risk widget help brands convert and retain consumers from day one.
Ivonne Smith: When it comes to AI/ML, is Mindbody the industry leader?
Prasad Saripalli: Without a doubt. Mindbody has been the industry-leading technology provider for the past 20+ years. Our access to over two decades worth of data gives us a tremendous advantage. Data is the oil that fuels AI/ML-based intelligence and optimisation—and we’ve got the data.
Our AI/ML enablement is the first comprehensive, smart wellness ops platform of its kind. With access to our data and a talented team of AI/ML and ML Ops (or machine learning operations) engineers, we built a comprehensive ML Ops platform and data infrastructure. This allows us to design and build AI/ML features as microservices and ship them quickly.
Today, we have AI/ML engines designed to:
Automate and optimise booking and scheduling workflows
Offer personalised recommendations in engaging ways
Provide leads and insights for both business owners and consumers
Ivonne Smith: Can you share a bit more about what’s in the works, AI/ML-wise?
Prasad Saripalli: There are seven types of fundamental AI/ML engines we're building now:
Insight engines provide data to both brands and consumers on how fitness services, specifically, serve them, and help identify opportunities for improvement.
Prediction engines use ML to predict how a brand will track to a particular key performance indicator in the future, with and without intervention.
Recommender systems offer personalised recommendations to consumers related to schedule, class types, trainers, last minute offers, and so on. There are virtually hundreds of these types of recommenders we plan to build and sprinkle throughout the consumer journey.
Cutting edge personalisation algorithms and a match-maker balancing approach, which protects the interests of both our consumers and customer.
Personalised search engine for better discovery of our businesses’ offerings. When we serve up the right offering at the right time, consumer satisfaction and retention increase.
Intelligent bots and chat bots are essential to this AI journey. Messenger[ai] is a fabulous example of how AI automation is helping both our customers and their consumers with a better transactional experience. We’re expanding the use of such agent-based AI efficiencies into our various product lines.
Automation of AI-recommended interventions, whether it’s dynamic pricing, last minute offers, or smart schedules. This is done via RPA, or robotic process automation. That means we don't just make a recommendation, we automatically take actions to positively affect the outcome via smart marketing campaigns, scheduling and booking actions, etc.
Ivonne Smith: In terms of AI/ML, what does Mindbody have planned next?
Prasad Saripalli: Well, I don’t want to give away all my secrets. That said, I do think AI-led smart scheduling and booking present exciting opportunities in the near future, to accelerate our customers' growth and consumers' satisfaction with their wellness experiences. We certainly have the team and the resources to lead the charge on that front, too!
Mindbody customers are already enjoying the ease of Messenger[ai], an AI-powered front-desk assistant. It automatically responds to missed calls, fields questions, and helps clients book and buy services.
“At its core, it’s a chatbot,” Lanman says, describing the technology. “It’s a widget that you put into your site. So, on your business webpage, when a prospect comes in, it can ask them questions like, ‘What availability do you have for an appointment?’ A client can actually go all the way through the booking process just by interacting with the chatbot.”
Users are already appreciating the automatic texting capabilities of this new feature. Messenger[ai] responds to customers immediately after a missed call, answers questions, and follows up after a visit to rebook—all via text.
“I don’t feel bad missing calls anymore. Whether I’m greeting a customer or already on the line, I know our AI has it covered,” says Mindbody customer Morgan Mateer of Takamichi Hair.
Lanman and his team of engineers believe that the efficiency of Messenger[ai] not only saves businesses on staffing and overhead but responds to the current customer landscape of Millennial and GenZ consumers.
“Younger consumers want to be able to just chat, they don’t want to have to pick up a phone to book an appointment or a class,” Lanman explains. “It also means you don’t need to have somebody at the front desk to get a booking.”
Clients at Risk
Our teams have also spearheaded a new feature called Clients At Risk, which uses AI to identify members who are likely to stop coming to class.
“The AI shows customers the folks it thinks are losing their motivation before you’ve actually lost them,” Lanman says. “That gives you time to act. Go have an intervention with that person, give them a phone call, send them an encouraging text or give them an offer for a discounted personal training session or appointment to hook them back in.”
This feature, currently available to select Mindbody businesses, could be a gamechanger for one of the fitness and wellness industry’s biggest hurdles: customer retention.
“In the fitness industry, especially in wellness, retention is as big a priority as customer acquisition, because people lose their motivation for wellness and fall out of their routine,” Lanman explains.
And so far, the early results of the Clients at Risk tool have been “spectacular”, according to Lanman. “The businesses using the feature are seeing 30% of those clients be more engaged after just exposing the feature to them,” he reveals.
Big Spender Analysis
An exciting feature in development is designed to predict which new customers are more likely to be engaged, committed clientele. Lanman currently refers to this tool as “big spender analysis.”
“When a prospect walks into your door, how do you know if they’re going to be one of the big spenders, one of the people who really buy into your business and stays active?” Lanman asks, noting the problem many Mindbody businesses face.
This feature plans to identify these “big spender” customers from the outset, saving business owners time and guesswork. Similarly, our teams are working on an AI tool to help studios evaluate which instructors are likely to attract the most clients.
Our AI/ML superpower: data
Mindbody is at the forefront of putting AI/ML advances to use for our customers, but there’s a pivotal distinction that sets us apart from other technology providers: our access to 20+ years of data—and growing every day.
“The key is, which players have enough data to make the AI good? Mindbody has the biggest platform. Because of our scale, we have the data to do things with AI that our competition can’t,” Lanman explains.
Data powers AI/ML-based intelligence and optimization, and our access to over two decades of data gives us a significant advantage.
“We already grow businesses more than any other platform, we already have more features than any other. We also have AI that no one else can do because they don’t have our data scale,” says Lanman. “And then you add to that, software that’s getting faster, more reliable and more usable.”
We've pioneered AI/ML to become the leading wellness ops platform, and with an immense data pool, the future looks bright, seamless, and profitable for Mindbody business owners.
What new tech can we expect on the horizon? Our engineers have hinted that we might see the software take on NLP (natural language processing) capabilities, as well as more enhanced search and recommendation functionality. Whatever comes next, we’re sure that it will be good for business.