Introduction

Why read this guide?

Whether you're thinking of switching from your current membership platform, you're not yet using one, or you need a more integrated approach, there's a lot to consider.

We've built this comprehensive guide to membership management software to clarify and simplify the endless options and features available to you. If you're a fitness business owner, a manager, or a team member who uses gym software regularly, this guide will be useful to you.

Here at GoCardless, we partner with a large number of the most popular fitness membership platforms available in the UK and globally to provide flexible Direct Debit for fitness businesses. Our position gives us a great overview of what's available and how it can help your gym, club, studio or service.

Why is fitness membership management software so important?

The fitness industry is going through a major transition, moving away from rigid contracts to providing more flexibility for members. This is, in part, due to changing member expectations, with potential customers expecting more engagement from the gym or club they choose to join.

We recently surveyed 1,000 millennial gym members on how they prefer to pay for exercise. The results prove the dramatic shift in attitude:

  • 84% surveyed would be more likely to sign up for a gym if it didn't tie them into a long-term contract
  • 60% surveyed would pay higher monthly fees to ensure they could end their memberships at any time
  • 83% surveyed are put off joining a gym by the prospect of being chased by debt collectors for breaking contract
  • 75% pay attention to online reviews from members when joining a gym

Membership software is one way you can effectively respond to changing demands, as it allows you to bring your acquisition and engagement processes under one roof.

Without some form of membership management software, you may have the intention to better engage members (and potential members), but you'll lack clear insight and capability to do so.

What does membership software actually do?

The answer to this question depends entirely on what your fitness business wants to achieve. Do you want more insight on how members are actually using your gym? Do you want to be able to take payments more easily? This step needs to come first, but there are a number of key functionalities and features that make up most membership management software.

At its core, most membership software will allow you to manage your memberships all in one place, including setting up and tracking payments, managing class and individual member attendance, as well as gathering data and providing analysis on all of these key aspects.

One key benefit of any membership software is the potential reduction in admin through automation.

Automation in action: Les Mills

One of the largest fitness service businesses in Europe, Les Mills, moved to GoCardless to improve its ability to take Direct Debit payments from members. Payment processing is just one aspect of membership management, but the business saw immediate benefits:

GoCardless has allowed us to completely automate the process of our instructors signing up and paying online using SEPA Direct Debit.

Frank Mair, Technical Lead at Les Mills

What does it not do?

Importantly, membership management software is not a substitute for strategy. Like any good investment, it can make your life easier and add value to your business. However, you obviously still need to actively engage with members and provide a first-class experience.

Do I need membership management software?

Trainers renting out space for a handful of weekly classes, or very small gyms with little focus beyond providing equipment for use may not need membership software from the outset. It's worth noting that some software providers offer 'lite' versions of their product that are perfect for users who do not need the full range of features the complete version of their product provides.

However, for most gyms and clubs, it's more of a question of the what range of features the software needs to have (which usually corresponds with the cost of the software).

If you already have software and are deciding whether you need a new platform, you should consider how many systems you're currently using and how well they integrate into your current set up. For example, do you have any of the following?

  • Any sensitive member stored in spreadsheets
  • A separate bureau for taking Direct Debit payments
  • A separate tool for paying staff
  • A lack of insight into how often members use your gym or club

The more siloed every system you use is, the harder it becomes to join everything up. In turn, this creates an admin cost because of the intensive human intervention needed.

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Key considerations for your membership software

While many of the major health and fitness membership software providers have high levels of capabilities and flexibility, they can't be all things to all gyms. Therefore, before comparing potential providers, it's important to know what your fitness business is looking to achieve and what features it needs to achieve this.

To work out what features are important, you need to ask yourself:

  • What does your gym offer now?
  • What does your business want to offer in the future?
  • What is missing that stops you from bridging that gap?

The following are a number of the key considerations when choosing new membership management software and how you can be sure you're optimising for all the ones that matter to you.

'Build or buy?' title icon

Build or buy?

There are two main reasons you would choose to build membership management software rather than buy an existing platform.

  1. Your requirements are so simple, an existing platform would be an unnecessary spend. A very small gym, for example, may be able to build a simple website, and advertise classes on Facebook.
  2. Your needs are so complex and your customer base is so large that no existing solution can offer a full solution. This problem is reserved for only the largest gym franchises, and even then you may want to consider a bespoke version of an existing platform (see below).

However, this is only a solution for a very small number of businesses, and software platforms are becoming evermore adept at meeting the unique needs of the vast majority of gyms and clubs.

'Out-of-the-box vs. bespoke?' title icon

Out-of-the-box vs. bespoke?

Most software platforms offer an out-of-the-box solution, which means all businesses using them will have (or be able to pay for) access to the same number of features. That isn't to say that out-of-the-box means inflexible. Platforms will offer a varying number of features that may or may not be useful for each user.

Why go bespoke?

If your fitness business has a unique set of demands that no platform can fully cater for, it may be worth approaching the platform that best suits your needs with a view to tailoring their offering or adding in a feature that you require.

The time and resources needed for a bespoke build tend to mean this option is only viable for enterprise-level gyms and clubs.

'Coverage' title icon

Coverage

Coverage is simply where the platform is available. All the platforms in our comparison (see part 4) are available in the UK. However, if your business is expanding, you may want to consider what other countries can be managed using each platform. This is especially important when entering territories with different language requirements and regulations.

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Reviews

This is a very sensible way of working out whether each platform's claims stack up against reality. Dedicated sites like Capterra compile detailed reviews and analysis on all of the main platforms.

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Pricing structure

It's important to choose a pricing model that best represents your own business model. For example, If your business has and will continue to have a steady number of members, it doesn't matter too much what pricing structure you choose. On the other hand, if you're growing rapidly, you would need to calculate whether a platform where the price rises with your demands can continue to be cost effective.

Flat fee

A flat fee structure is where the monthly or annual cost of your subscription to a membership management platform stays the same regardless of your usage or features. This can be useful as it will allow your gym to have a much more predictable schedule of costs, even if you take on a lot of new members.

On the other hand, flat fee structures can be inhibitively expensive for smaller and growing gyms.

Tiered membership

Tiered memberships are a common pricing structure for many membership management platforms, as it allows you to gain access to a set of features that is appropriate to your size, but also upgrade your membership for greater control and flexibility when you reach a certain threshold of members.

The downside is that the list of features available in each membership bracket will usually be fixed, so you may be forced to choose a higher-cost subscription to access one or two key features.

Pay-per-member

Another way to pay for a membership management software is to pay a small fee for each member (or bracket of members). While there will often be a 'starting' price no matter the member count, this structure allows for a much more steady increase in cost as your membership grows. A similar variant, which involves paying per staff member, is also a common pricing structure used by membership platforms.

Choosing the features you need

Once you've decided on the core functionality that's needed for any membership platform to meet your key requirements, you can move on to the additional features that can really elevate your business.

Whether you want to market your gym or club better, or want to offer more to your member, it's worth considering how the following features can help with your individual needs and requirements:

'Reporting functionality' title icon

Reporting functionality

As well as being able to manage memberships, take payments and organise classes, a vital part of any membership platform for most fitness businesses is reporting. This is also true if you want insight and data into what's going well and what's not. Using this reporting, you can make informed decisions in how to correct problems or double down on key revenue drivers.

Some common reporting functionalities include:

Revenue, profit and loss

Unsurprisingly, these are key metrics that gym owners and managers need a constant overview on. Many platforms will not only give you a snapshot of the current status, but also use trends to predict future numbers.

Member attendance and engagement

A key reason to use a membership platform is to be able to better serve your members and ensure they continue to attend your gym or studio, and renew their membership when the time comes.

Appropriate reports will tell you which members are engaging, which members are approaching renewal dates and which members are in danger of leaving

Payment statistics

Connecting your new platform to your payments provider (or choosing a platform that has a built in payments solution) allows you to track exactly how members are paying, including billing cycles and payment methods.

These payment-related insights can give you a greater probability of collecting late or missed payments. With GoCardless, for example, you'll receive automatic notifications for cancelled member mandates, meaning you can attempt re engaging and reactivating the membership before it's too late.

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Support

When moving to a new membership management platform, the last thing you want to do is upset or negatively affect members. To avoid a negative membership experience, the setup and implementation of your new software needs to be smooth and quick. With that in mind, it's important to choose a level of support that allows you to do exactly that.

Onboarding support

While it's important to have ongoing support throughout the entire relationship with your new membership management platform, some will have dedicated support when setting up the platform in the first place. This is particularly useful if switching from an existing platform, as the process can often be complicated and technical.

Support documentation

While speaking to a human is reassuring, an extensive library of documentation can help save you time when troubleshooting and educate you further on the software.

App/chat support

Does the platform offer support through and app or chat service? This can be very useful for quick answers to smaller problems. Check what hours the service is available, as late-night or 24-hour clubs will need round-the-clock support to match.

Phone support

This is very similar to app or chat support, but simply allows you to pick up the phone when you have a problem. While often more costly, it is useful when explaining more complex issues.

Dedicated account manager

The highest level of support is having a dedicated account manager as a consistent point of contact whenever you need to ask questions or get a problem fixed. This level of support is usually reserved for large enterprise gyms and studios.

'Software integrations' title icon

Software integrations

Some membership platforms have in-house features that other platforms require external integrations for. Whichever membership platform you do choose, you need to be sure that any additional tool or software you want to form part of your membership ecosystem has an existing integration.

Payment processing

Some platforms will have a partner of choice for processing payments. When deciding it's important to know that you can offer all the payment methods you need to meet your members' demands. At the very least the platform you choose should be able to effectively process Direct Debit and card payments. If you have an existing payments provider, be sure an integration to connect the two together already exists or can be made quickly.

Email marketing

In an effort to both increase revenue from potential and existing members. Platforms like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and others can act as standalone tools, but work better when integrated with your membership management software, as you can then send campaigns based on class attendance or use email to try and reactivate lapsed members.

Sales tools

Do you want your membership software to help you track and close leads? If so, choose software that can track visitors to your website and identify those who are looking at relevant pages. This can help your sales team manage their time and reach out to potential members who are primed and ready to join your gym.

Hardware and POS

If you use or are planning on using hardware, such as POS systems or access cards, it's important to connect these to the wider membership management software. A number of platforms have dedicated support for exactly that.

'Software integrations' title icon

Individual member features

If you're looking to build a strong brand around your gym or club, you will definitely want to consider the following member features.

Access control

You can give your members more control and a sense of freedom by allowing them to use self-check in. This is usually done through an app displayed at the gym reception, and may be useful to your gym if staff are often on the gym floor and different membership options require different levels/times of access to the gym.

Member app

A member app can act as the hub of your member's interaction with the gym. It is especially useful in gyms or studios where the ratio of members to staff is high and you need another way for members to feel taken care of. The member app can also offer functionality to book classes and make payments.

Nutrition/fitness plans

A common way for gyms and clubs to really increase engagement is to offer unique training or nutrition programmes. By choosing a platform that can integrate these plans into a member app, you and your members can much more easily track goals and progress.

Automated messages and notifications

Another key engagement booster is to send friendly reminders and motivation to members. Whether that's because a member hasn't been to the gym in some time, or because they've been every day of the past week, you can set up automated messages to congratulate or motivate them.

This kind of functionality can also be useful to send reminders about payment or subscription renewals.

The complete list of the best fitness membership software

Now you have an idea of what you are looking for from a membership platform, you can compare the best options available on the market. The following is a guide to the most popular gym membership software and what you can expect from each one:

ClubRight

Integrates with GoCardless

What's new?

ClubRight is launching a brand new enterprise version of its platform called Proright, with more powerful services and features for fast-growing and demanding gyms.

In their own words:

"ClubRight knows the gym and leisure businesses inside and out. ClubRight's Founder & CEO wanted to overcome the daily challenges of the typical gym owner. It's all about making a simple seamless solution, which gives time back to our customers so they can grow their business and profits."

You should choose ClubRight if:

You're looking for a membership platform that's been built and developed by a gym owner who knows the challenges of running a club or studio.

Coverage

As well as the UK, ClubRight is available across Europe and the US.

Great for:
  • Personal trainers
  • Gyms and studios
  • Martial arts clubs
  • Yoga studios
Top 5 features:
  • No contract or set up fees
  • Unlimited members for one flat fee
  • Specialist switching service and data transfer
  • Marketing portal
  • Extensive reporting capabilities

ClubManager

Integrates with GoCardless

What's new?

A new office is now open in Melbourne serving Australia and New Zealand. A partnership with Barclays has been created to deliver a platform across East Africa, and the platform has also introduced new session calendars to provide group and individual calendars.

In their own words:

"ClubManger is a reliable company and the software is reliable. This peace of mind for gym owners and managers is how we've grown over the last ten years."

You should choose ClubManager if:

If you want an easy-to-use, straightforward and reliable system that still comes with a range of features more commonly found on pricier solutions.

Coverage

ClubManager is available across the globe, with offices in the UK, Kenya, South Africa and Bahrain.

Great for:
  • Gyms and studios
  • Martial arts schools and instructors
  • Personal trainers
  • Dance schools
  • Gymnastic clubs
Top 5 features:
  • Unlimited members and staff for one flat fee
  • Fully accessible via smartphone
  • Full class/room booking and scheduling
  • Access control and validation
  • Fully brandable to your gym or club

Clubworx

Integrates with GoCardless

In their own words:

"Too many gyms and fitness centres are weighed down by complicated gym management software that's time consuming and hard to use. On the other hand, some gyms have simple software that's far easier to use but the features are too limited and restrictive. At Clubworx we bridge this gap by providing feature-filled software that's easy to use and has a clean and uncomplicated design."

Coverage

As well as the UK, Clubworx is available in a growing number of locations including Australia, USA and Canada.

Great for:
  • New and growing gym and fitness centres
  • Yoga and pilates studios
  • Martial arts studios
Top 5 features:
  • Attendance tracking
  • Email and SMS integrations
  • Student and prospects list and corresponding reports
  • Automated payments capabilities
  • Customisable website for users

Fisikal

Integrates with GoCardless

In their own words:

"Fisikal provides integrated software that helps clubs to increase profits and reduce operational costs whilst maximising customer engagement. Over the last 7 years clients all over the world from health clubs, studios, personal trainers and fitness education companies have asked for more features and the software now has over 50 separate modules."

Coverage

Fisikal is available in several locations all over the world, including the UK and Europe.

Great for:
  • Gyms and fitness studios
  • Personal trainers
  • Academies
Top 5 features:
  • Real time bookings
  • Payment solutions
  • Member engagement (branded mobile and web channels)
  • Staff management systems
  • Business analysis and programming tools

Gladstone MRM

Gladstone MRM combines a number of solutions for businesses in the health and fitness industry. In addition to features like automation, booking systems and CRM capabilities, Gladstone MRM also specialises in GDPR training.

Glofox

Integrates with GoCardless

What's new?

Glofox's new lead management tool gives fitness studios an all-in-one place to manage member relationships. The tool allows studios to powerfully segment, target, prioritise and convert leads into new members.

In their own words:

"Glofox is laser focused on fitness, and our passion shows. Our software is constantly evolving with the boutique fitness space, and all our product updates are inspired by our customers and their needs."

You should choose Glofox if:

You're a class/group-focussed studio or club that needs the flexibility to incorporate its member management software into its existing community and brand.

Coverage

In addition to the UK, Glofox is available in more than 25 countries, including USA, Australia and Germany.

Great for:
  • Yoga studios
  • Gyms with classes or group activities
  • Small gyms and clubs
  • Enterprise gyms and clubs
  • Clubs with multiple locations
Top 5 features:
  • Custom branded web integration and mobile app
  • Lead management tool to help increase member acquisition
  • Flexible tiered pricing to suit gyms of all sizes
  • Multi-location supported for large and franchised gyms
  • Easy member billing through Direct Debit and recurring card payments

GymMaster

Integrates with GoCardless

What's new?

GymMaster is launching a fully redesigned app, based on extensive feedback from existing customers. The new app will allow members to make bookings, see their workout history and track key progress metrics.

In their own words:

"GymMaster has many customisable features, and we also offer free one-on-one personalised training to suit each client's unique needs. This ensures the software is tailored to help your specific business realise your own version of success."

You should choose GymMaster if:

You want a fully-customisable solution that can scale with you as you grow your membership base, while incorporating all the key aspects of gym ownership into one membership ecosystem.

Coverage

GymMaster is fully available across the globe.

Great for:
  • Enterprise gyms and studios
  • International gym franchises
  • Small gyms and studios
Top 5 features:
  • 24/7 access control
  • Seamless point-of-sale integrations
  • Flexible tiered pricing structure
  • Full online membership acquisition and memberships
  • Built in marketing automation

Legend

Legend is a traditional platform that specialises in front office, back office and online solutions for all manner of gyms, clubs and studios. The platform is useful for gyms that are looking for one system that can handle everything from access control and member apps to the likes of machine maintenance and even energy management.

Martialytics

Integrates with GoCardless

In their own words:

"We're laser focused on helping school owners automate repetitive tasks like billing and communications using smart technology that's super easy to use. We're a small, family-based business so customer service is extremely important to us."

You should choose Martialytics if:

You're a martial arts school that wants a platform that can automate the repetitive day-to-day tasks, yet still allows you to increase member engagement and retention in a more powerful and customisable way.

Coverage

Martialytics is available in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and 45 other countries.

Great for:
  • Small gyms and clubs
  • Martial arts studios
  • Community-run clubs
  • Personal trainers
Top 5 features:
  • Detailed student and member management and tracking
  • Traffic light grading management system
  • Segment and event-based email marketing with powerful automation
  • Lead tracking and nurturing features
  • Online waivers

Mindbody

Mindbody is a comprehensive membership platform, with a large range of features used by beauty, health and fitness businesses. Features include marketing tools, online booking functionality, POS systems, reporting and automation.

OpenPlay

Integrates with GoCardless

In their own words:

"OpenPlay's technology takes care of your administration, so you can enjoy running your business."

Coverage

OpenPlay is available in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and more.

Great for:
  • Sports and health clubs
  • Universities and local authorities
  • Leisure centres
Top 5 features:
  • Facility and class bookings
  • Integrations with multiple payment gateways and currencies
  • Reporting suite
  • Access control integrations
  • Streamlined staff management

Perfect Gym

Integrates with GoCardless

In their own words:

"Perfect Gym is an all-in-one club management software suite made and customised for fitness professionals to measure, develop, and achieve their business goals. Run your club with confidence. Accelerate business growth. Learn more about your members."

Coverage

PerfectGym is available across the globe including in the UK, Europe, US, Canada and Australia.

Great for:
  • Large enterprise gyms and clubs
  • International gym franchises
Top 5 features:
  • Extensive club management tools
  • POS software integrations
  • Lead generation tools
  • Mobile app
  • Client portal

PTminder

Integrates with GoCardless

In their own words:

"PTminder excels in providing an intuitive, complete business management solution for your fitness business."

You should choose PTminder if:

You're a personal trainer or owner of a class-based studio looking to efficiently manage your business while providing your clients with a seamless experience around bookings and payments.

Coverage

PTminder is available in the UK, much of Europe, USA, Australia and more.

Great for:
  • Personal trainers
  • Boutique fitness studios
  • Class-based gyms and clubs
  • Small gyms and studios
Top 5 features:
  • Calendar scheduling and online bookings
  • Flexible payment processing for online payments and memberships
  • Client management, including customisable workout and nutritions plans
  • Reminders and notifications
  • Mobile apps for personal trainers and their clients

Sport Solution

Integrates with GoCardless

In their own words:

"Sport Solution's member management software has been developed in collaboration with gyms and leisure clubs to help meet the needs of the team and members alike."

You should choose Sport Solution if:

You're a personal trainer or owner of a class-based studio looking to efficiently manage your business while providing your clients with a seamless experience around bookings and payments.

Coverage

Sport Solution is available in the UK, Denmark and Sweden.

Great for:
  • Fitness startups
  • Scaling gyms and clubs
  • Enterprise gyms and clubs
  • Small gyms and studios
Top 5 features:
  • Member engagement tools
  • Mobile app and webshop
  • Reporting and performance data
  • Online video training modules for new users
  • Customer support

TeamUp

Integrates with GoCardless

What's new?

TeamUp has produced a range of brand-new resources for gym owners and managers, packed with research and analysis of various aspects of the member journey.

In their own words:

"We pride ourselves in a rapid response time. Just give us a call and we'll pick up the phone. Our UK and European customers love not having to think about time zones when they need us."

You should choose TeamUp if:

You're a small or independent gym or club that needs a blend of easy-to-use features and powerful customisation, all with the peace of mind of top notch support.

Coverage

Available in 12 countries including the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada.

Great for:
  • Independent fitness studios
  • Class-based gyms and clubs
  • CrossFit, yoga, pilates, martial arts businesses and more.
Top 5 features:
  • Commitment to customer service
  • Easy to use regardless of technical or digital expertise
  • Full feature access for all users
  • Unlimited instructors with flexible levels of access
  • Member-friendly user experience

Virtuagym

Integrates with GoCardless

What's new?

Virtuagym has recently launched a new analytics module, which allows gyms and clubs to better analyse and optimise member engagement and revenue streams.

In their own words:

"Virtuagym provides a complete software solution for member engagement, coaching and management. With Virtuagym, health clubs and trainers have everything they need in one environment. Virtuagym is an open ecosystem, giving you a single platform to manage your business, through connections with leading software providers, but also a variety of hardware solutions - from club audio systems to cardio lines to access control."

You should choose Virtuagym if:

You need a powerful solution that can be tailored to suit the exact needs of your fitness business.

Coverage

Virtuagym is available globally and in 12 languages.

Great for:
  • Enterprise gyms and clubs
  • Boutique fitness studios
  • Personal and bootcamp trainers
Top 5 features:
  • Exercise and nutrition guidance
  • Member engagement and communication
  • Feature-rich mobile apps
  • Scheduling and management solutions
  • Extensive third-party integrations with hardware and software

Tips for a successful implementation

While many membership platforms try to make the implementation process as smooth as possible, with many employing dedicated onboarding teams to help, it still involves a lot of technical considerations and planning to make it happen.

We've spoken to some of the biggest membership platforms for their top tips on making sure your switch to new software goes to plan.

Identify key pain points

Selecting software is a big decision. Business owners often focus on features over experience, and then are disappointed when they don't achieve their goals. One of the most important things to consider is how your members are affected by any change. Early on, identify the key pain points you want to solve, before considering other non-essential features.

TeamUp says: "member experience should be your primary goal in selecting software to ensure that the process adds value to your business, with efficient payments being one of the most important considerations."

PTminder also advocates for this approach: "Once you've established a good system for (the key pain point), you can dive further into the software's other functionality to help improve processes even further for both your business, and your clients' experience."

Look for the right software team

Once you know what pain points you are looking to solve, evaluate which company is best to work with. Ask your peers for recommendations, and listen to those who run similar businesses to yours. Facebook groups are a great tool for this research.

TeamUp suggests "Choose your software based on the people running it. If you can't pick up the phone and get help quickly, it's going to be frustrating for you if something goes wrong. The right company will help you do all the technical things."

Timing is everything

Timing is an important consideration when implementing a new software system. Do members have existing payments that need to be considered, can they be imported, or do they need time to set them up again? Does your chosen system offer an import service to assist with migration?

GymMaster also recommends working with your new platform to create a transition plan so each party knows their responsibilities and timeframes.

The key message from Glofox is similar: "Take your time with the onboarding process. Software is going to be the foundation on which your business grows and you want to know how to use it optimally to grow the business."

Train the entire team

While you may be the person deciding on and implementing any new platform, the entire team at your gym or club will have some interaction with the new software. Therefore it's key to make sure staff understand both how to use it and why it's so important.

As Virtuagym puts it: "Train your staff, collaborate with the provider's support team and take the time to investigate the best practices of the new system. Then roll out features incrementally, so you don't get a 'shock' in business processes."

Draw a line in the sand

One of the most common pieces of advice from the providers we asked is to use the opportunity of implementing a new membership platform to turn over a new leaf.

Martialytics suggests drawing a line in the sand and starting from scratch: "Go cold turkey. Don't try to get all the historic data from your old system (or systems) into your new one. Keep it like you would a time capsule and start fresh in your new software from day one. You'll get cleaner data, better reports and you'll be able to directly compare how your systems and processes have improved."

Want to know more about how GoCardless can help you take recurring payments?

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