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The Leisure Media Company Ltd | Fit Tech promotion
The Leisure Media Company Ltd | Fit Tech promotion
features

Talking point: Everyone's talking about menstruation

Periods are sometimes viewed as taboo, but with menstruation proven to have a powerful impact on exercise, it’s time the fitness industry got comfortable with the conversation finds Kath Hudson

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 9

Olympic gold medal winning heptathlete, Jessica Ennis-Hill has helped raise awareness about how women’s hormones fluctuate throughout the course of every month and how to work with them. Her app, Jennis, helps women understand their pre-menstrual symptoms and their cycle length so they can plot workouts and rest days throughout their cycle to optimise their training and physical wellbeing.

Should all women be scheduling their workouts according to their menstrual cycle, and should operators be educating their female members and both male and female staff and trainers about this?

How much of an impact do periods have on female activity levels and would knowledge of cyclical training help? Or is there a wider issue here? We ask the experts.

Dr Jackie Mills
Chief creative officer, Les Mills

Menstruation can make it tough to maintain consistent training habits. Surveys show that 79 per cent of women skip workouts when their period starts, and 75 per cent of female athletes suffer negative side effects based on their cycle – a figure thought to be even higher among non-athletes.

Understanding the influence of their menstrual cycle can allow women to unleash their full potential and get the most out of their workouts, rather than letting their period derail their training habits. Recognising this, Les Mills has launched a free toolkit to help women optimise their training cycles, which will empower them to create consistent training habits, as well as shed light on an issue which is often ignored.

Guided by the principles of cyclical training, this series of workouts and educational resources are aimed at navigating the physical and mental challenges of the menstrual cycle. Cyclical training helps people tailor their workouts to the different phases of hormonal activity throughout the month, encouraging them to tune in to their bodies and create stable training habits before, during and after menstruation. Resources available on the Les Mills+ streaming platform include a customisable diary for tracking how cyclical training works, bespoke training programmes and advice on nutrition.

Cyclical training is all about getting to know your body and using your intuition to adjust the intensity to suit your cycle. The menstrual cycle is divided into two phases, the follicular and luteal, with each having unique effects on the body. The oestrogen spike in week two makes it the perfect time to crank things up, allowing for more intense training. The days where women have heavy bleeding or cramps can be used to taper and practice kindness towards their minds and bodies, noting the focus should be simply on movement.

Understanding the influence of their menstrual cycle can allow women to unleash their full potential and get the most out of their workouts
Periods can derail a female’s training habits / photo: Les Mills
Sophie Lawler
CEO, Total Fitness
Lawler: Women can feel uncomfortable in the gym / photo: Mike Hornby

This isn’t just about periods. We need to take care to expand the debate beyond that subject for three reasons. The first is that talking about periods alone is just not comfortable – for anyone – and it can stifle rather than open the topic. Secondly, it denies the rich and diverse experience it is to be a woman at all times, not just when they’re on their periods, if they have them at all.

Cisgender women need to workout differently – in type and not just intensity – around the ever-shifting balance of hormones and I would encourage all women to explore this further and consider it for themselves. It’s both fascinating and important. Thirdly, we need to recognise that it goes way beyond exercise modality to the gym environment itself.

On this point, once you begin to ask the right questions and listen with curiosity and intent, you recognise how badly served women are both in terms of equipment and space. It’s something you don’t see straight away. I certainly didn’t until recently. I’ve been working out in gyms for about 25 years and am hugely desensitised and, worse, congratulated myself for that fact. An unwillingness to face into the facts means I may well have been a part of the problem all along.

My CEO role has given me the permission and confidence to challenge existing thinking, including my own. Listening to our women members and non-members and witnessing a surge in demand for a women-only product (up 240 per cent since pre-pandemic) has made me exceptionally clear-eyed about the problems women face in a gym environment. They don’t feel comfortable, the experience doesn’t work, and they hack their way to a good workout, often working out despite of – rather than because of – the gym. Gyms are simply not built, designed, or equipped with women in mind and our lack of ability to speak openly about it means we have a homogenised product, which feels unwelcoming. When you go on that journey you can’t unsee it.

In an industry doing its best to promote uniformity, Total Fitness is proudly leaning-in to start building new products to serve these unmet needs. Women are telling us the gym doesn’t serve them well and we’ve responded to this with our re-imagined Women’s Gym, which will launch in late 2023.

Women are telling us the gym doesn’t serve them well and we’ve responded with our re-imagined Women’s Gym, which will launch in late 2023
Women have been underserved in the gym environment
Baz Moffat
Co-founder, The Well HQ
photo: The Well HQ

The subject of female health has been overlooked in the health and fitness space because women have essentially come into a male fitness system and individuals have traditionally had to adapt to the fitness offering.

Things are changing though and now it’s the other way around and health club operators are increasingly meeting people where they are.

Not all women are going to want to talk about menstruation, or train around their cycles, but what’s really important is that we normalise female health and allow women to feel safe in the knowledge that if they want to talk about it, their trainer will be able to hold that space. Men have to be comfortable talking about this too, which means health clubs need to start training all their staff in female health.

It’s important to start promoting body literacy: where everyone has an understanding of their own body. Encourage members to track their own cycles, either in a notebook, or an app: it’s their own lived experience of their cycle which they need to tap into, because every woman is different.

While it’s important for fitness professionals to be educated in women’s health, it would also be useful to educate members too. Our book The Female Body Bible is a great place to start and our CPD courses are full of downloadable resources that can be displayed in club.

Hosting information evenings, talking about female health in newsletters and socials, recommending books and podcasts all helps to normalise the conversation and remove the taboo around women’s health in western society.

We need to reclaim the lost art of talking about female health.

Men have to be comfortable talking about this too, which means health clubs need to start training all their staff in female health
Athlete Ennis-Hill has raised awareness around menstruation
Hazel Eatwell
Senior physiotherapist, Nuffield Health
photo: Nuffield Health

Women face significant barriers to fitness compared to men and unfortunately menstruation can be one of them. Nuffield Health’s recent survey of more than 2,000 girls aged 11 to 16, and their parents, revealed 84 per cent of teenagers felt less interested in sport and fitness once their periods started, and 23 per cent say they feel embarrassed to take part in physical activity during their periods.

This trend extends into adulthood, with our Healthier Nation Index revealing 23 per cent of women claim the menstrual cycle at all life stages – including everything from periods and symptoms of the menopause – is a barrier to them with it comes to undertaking more physical activity.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to training during the menstrual cycle. It’s important to educate women to track their own cycle and develop their own awareness about how they feel throughout the month – noticing any patterns and working with their body rather than against it.

A 2020 meta-analysis found it’s not currently possible to make general guidelines about what types and intensities of exercise are best suited to particular stages of the menstrual cycle, as we’re all different and so we need to take an individual approach.

The most important thing to remember is that periods are a vital and useful sign of health, and menstruation should not be a cause of embarrassment, so let’s get talking! Females should also be empowered to seek medical support if their symptoms of periods are severe, their periods have stopped for more than three months, or if they haven’t started by the time they’re 15.

Nuffield Health is working to address all these barriers through regular Ask the Expert free events and educational sessions at our gyms and hospitals. Pelvic health physiotherapists, PTs and gynaecologists provide advice and discuss issues such as painful periods, as well as other taboo pelvic health topics, including urinary leakage, prolapse and menopause symptoms which are also common barriers to exercise for women.

In an effort to address the barriers faced by girls, we’ve launched Move Together – a free year-round programme of exercise classes in communities across the UK. Hosted in local parks and community venues and run by our instructors, classes are aimed at building girls’ strength and confidence, getting them moving, and enabling them to have fun.

Nuffield Health is working to address barriers through regular events and educational sessions with pelvic health experts at gyms and hospitals
Women and girls can see their cycle as a barrier to exercise / photo: Nuffield Health
FAST FACTS: Menstruation & exercise
• DAYS

Only 13 per cent of females report a 28-day cycle, the length of cycle commonly ranges from 21 to 35 days and even 40 days in some teenagers

• YEARS

The average woman spends 40 years of her life with a menstrual cycle, that adds up to 450 cycles

• THE CYCLE

The cycle is divided into four phases: i) menstruation ii) the follicular phase iii) ovulation iv) the combined luteal and pre-menstrual phase. Each month the body prepares for pregnancy and the fluctuating hormones signal the release of an egg, the thickening of the womb lining and the shedding of the lining if the egg is not fertilised. The shedding of the lining leads to bleeding from the vagina

• THE START

The first day of bleeding marks the first day of the menstruation cycle. This can be accompanied by abdominal cramps, headaches, back pain, mood changes and fatigue. Recovery from exercise might be reduced. Low intensity exercise such as yoga and Pilates is recommended

• POWER DAYS

The follicular phase is when eggs are produced in the ovaries. This is a great time to train, as the body has more potential for muscle adaptations and recovery is improved, motivation and energy will also be at their highest

• OVULATION

The ovulation phase is when the dominant egg is released for potential fertilisation: usually around day 14. This creates a slightly higher body temperature which can have a detrimental effect on exercise and endurance

• PROGESTERONE

If fertilisation doesn’t happen, the egg is shed and the body prepares for the next cycle. Higher levels of progesterone during this time lead to enhanced mood and lower anxiety. It also promotes sleep, meaning rest and recovery may feel easier

• PMT

When an egg isn’t fertilised the production of oestrogen and progesterone falls rapidly which can lead to irritability, anxiety and a desire for food. Restorative exercise can be good, as well as spacing meals to avoid blood sugar dips and avoiding caffeine and alcohol

• THINGS TO TRACK

When bleeding starts and ends, how heavy the flow is on each day, physical symptoms, quality of sleep, mental health fluctuations, temperature fluctuations, changes in cervical fluid, exercise performance

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
More features
Editor's letter

Into the fitaverse

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Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact
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Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
Fit Tech People

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
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We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
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Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
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We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
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In today's rapidly evolving fitness industry, where many online courses promise secret formulas for entrepreneurial success, the reality is that few provide the necessary knowledge to thrive in this fast-changing profession.
Keepme is the industry innovator delivering AI-integrated sales and membership solutions to fitness operators globally....
Taylor Made Designs (TMD) is a ‘leisure specialist’ provider of bespoke leisure workwear, plus branded ...
Core Health & Fitness: level up your HIIT game
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Looking to level up your HIIT game? Meet the dynamic duo that’s about to revolutionize your workouts: the StairMaster HIIT Rower and HIIT Ski! Read more
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Digital
Lockers
Cryotherapy
Flooring
Spa software
08-10 Oct 2024
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features

Talking point: Everyone's talking about menstruation

Periods are sometimes viewed as taboo, but with menstruation proven to have a powerful impact on exercise, it’s time the fitness industry got comfortable with the conversation finds Kath Hudson

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 9

Olympic gold medal winning heptathlete, Jessica Ennis-Hill has helped raise awareness about how women’s hormones fluctuate throughout the course of every month and how to work with them. Her app, Jennis, helps women understand their pre-menstrual symptoms and their cycle length so they can plot workouts and rest days throughout their cycle to optimise their training and physical wellbeing.

Should all women be scheduling their workouts according to their menstrual cycle, and should operators be educating their female members and both male and female staff and trainers about this?

How much of an impact do periods have on female activity levels and would knowledge of cyclical training help? Or is there a wider issue here? We ask the experts.

Dr Jackie Mills
Chief creative officer, Les Mills

Menstruation can make it tough to maintain consistent training habits. Surveys show that 79 per cent of women skip workouts when their period starts, and 75 per cent of female athletes suffer negative side effects based on their cycle – a figure thought to be even higher among non-athletes.

Understanding the influence of their menstrual cycle can allow women to unleash their full potential and get the most out of their workouts, rather than letting their period derail their training habits. Recognising this, Les Mills has launched a free toolkit to help women optimise their training cycles, which will empower them to create consistent training habits, as well as shed light on an issue which is often ignored.

Guided by the principles of cyclical training, this series of workouts and educational resources are aimed at navigating the physical and mental challenges of the menstrual cycle. Cyclical training helps people tailor their workouts to the different phases of hormonal activity throughout the month, encouraging them to tune in to their bodies and create stable training habits before, during and after menstruation. Resources available on the Les Mills+ streaming platform include a customisable diary for tracking how cyclical training works, bespoke training programmes and advice on nutrition.

Cyclical training is all about getting to know your body and using your intuition to adjust the intensity to suit your cycle. The menstrual cycle is divided into two phases, the follicular and luteal, with each having unique effects on the body. The oestrogen spike in week two makes it the perfect time to crank things up, allowing for more intense training. The days where women have heavy bleeding or cramps can be used to taper and practice kindness towards their minds and bodies, noting the focus should be simply on movement.

Understanding the influence of their menstrual cycle can allow women to unleash their full potential and get the most out of their workouts
Periods can derail a female’s training habits / photo: Les Mills
Sophie Lawler
CEO, Total Fitness
Lawler: Women can feel uncomfortable in the gym / photo: Mike Hornby

This isn’t just about periods. We need to take care to expand the debate beyond that subject for three reasons. The first is that talking about periods alone is just not comfortable – for anyone – and it can stifle rather than open the topic. Secondly, it denies the rich and diverse experience it is to be a woman at all times, not just when they’re on their periods, if they have them at all.

Cisgender women need to workout differently – in type and not just intensity – around the ever-shifting balance of hormones and I would encourage all women to explore this further and consider it for themselves. It’s both fascinating and important. Thirdly, we need to recognise that it goes way beyond exercise modality to the gym environment itself.

On this point, once you begin to ask the right questions and listen with curiosity and intent, you recognise how badly served women are both in terms of equipment and space. It’s something you don’t see straight away. I certainly didn’t until recently. I’ve been working out in gyms for about 25 years and am hugely desensitised and, worse, congratulated myself for that fact. An unwillingness to face into the facts means I may well have been a part of the problem all along.

My CEO role has given me the permission and confidence to challenge existing thinking, including my own. Listening to our women members and non-members and witnessing a surge in demand for a women-only product (up 240 per cent since pre-pandemic) has made me exceptionally clear-eyed about the problems women face in a gym environment. They don’t feel comfortable, the experience doesn’t work, and they hack their way to a good workout, often working out despite of – rather than because of – the gym. Gyms are simply not built, designed, or equipped with women in mind and our lack of ability to speak openly about it means we have a homogenised product, which feels unwelcoming. When you go on that journey you can’t unsee it.

In an industry doing its best to promote uniformity, Total Fitness is proudly leaning-in to start building new products to serve these unmet needs. Women are telling us the gym doesn’t serve them well and we’ve responded to this with our re-imagined Women’s Gym, which will launch in late 2023.

Women are telling us the gym doesn’t serve them well and we’ve responded with our re-imagined Women’s Gym, which will launch in late 2023
Women have been underserved in the gym environment
Baz Moffat
Co-founder, The Well HQ
photo: The Well HQ

The subject of female health has been overlooked in the health and fitness space because women have essentially come into a male fitness system and individuals have traditionally had to adapt to the fitness offering.

Things are changing though and now it’s the other way around and health club operators are increasingly meeting people where they are.

Not all women are going to want to talk about menstruation, or train around their cycles, but what’s really important is that we normalise female health and allow women to feel safe in the knowledge that if they want to talk about it, their trainer will be able to hold that space. Men have to be comfortable talking about this too, which means health clubs need to start training all their staff in female health.

It’s important to start promoting body literacy: where everyone has an understanding of their own body. Encourage members to track their own cycles, either in a notebook, or an app: it’s their own lived experience of their cycle which they need to tap into, because every woman is different.

While it’s important for fitness professionals to be educated in women’s health, it would also be useful to educate members too. Our book The Female Body Bible is a great place to start and our CPD courses are full of downloadable resources that can be displayed in club.

Hosting information evenings, talking about female health in newsletters and socials, recommending books and podcasts all helps to normalise the conversation and remove the taboo around women’s health in western society.

We need to reclaim the lost art of talking about female health.

Men have to be comfortable talking about this too, which means health clubs need to start training all their staff in female health
Athlete Ennis-Hill has raised awareness around menstruation
Hazel Eatwell
Senior physiotherapist, Nuffield Health
photo: Nuffield Health

Women face significant barriers to fitness compared to men and unfortunately menstruation can be one of them. Nuffield Health’s recent survey of more than 2,000 girls aged 11 to 16, and their parents, revealed 84 per cent of teenagers felt less interested in sport and fitness once their periods started, and 23 per cent say they feel embarrassed to take part in physical activity during their periods.

This trend extends into adulthood, with our Healthier Nation Index revealing 23 per cent of women claim the menstrual cycle at all life stages – including everything from periods and symptoms of the menopause – is a barrier to them with it comes to undertaking more physical activity.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to training during the menstrual cycle. It’s important to educate women to track their own cycle and develop their own awareness about how they feel throughout the month – noticing any patterns and working with their body rather than against it.

A 2020 meta-analysis found it’s not currently possible to make general guidelines about what types and intensities of exercise are best suited to particular stages of the menstrual cycle, as we’re all different and so we need to take an individual approach.

The most important thing to remember is that periods are a vital and useful sign of health, and menstruation should not be a cause of embarrassment, so let’s get talking! Females should also be empowered to seek medical support if their symptoms of periods are severe, their periods have stopped for more than three months, or if they haven’t started by the time they’re 15.

Nuffield Health is working to address all these barriers through regular Ask the Expert free events and educational sessions at our gyms and hospitals. Pelvic health physiotherapists, PTs and gynaecologists provide advice and discuss issues such as painful periods, as well as other taboo pelvic health topics, including urinary leakage, prolapse and menopause symptoms which are also common barriers to exercise for women.

In an effort to address the barriers faced by girls, we’ve launched Move Together – a free year-round programme of exercise classes in communities across the UK. Hosted in local parks and community venues and run by our instructors, classes are aimed at building girls’ strength and confidence, getting them moving, and enabling them to have fun.

Nuffield Health is working to address barriers through regular events and educational sessions with pelvic health experts at gyms and hospitals
Women and girls can see their cycle as a barrier to exercise / photo: Nuffield Health
FAST FACTS: Menstruation & exercise
• DAYS

Only 13 per cent of females report a 28-day cycle, the length of cycle commonly ranges from 21 to 35 days and even 40 days in some teenagers

• YEARS

The average woman spends 40 years of her life with a menstrual cycle, that adds up to 450 cycles

• THE CYCLE

The cycle is divided into four phases: i) menstruation ii) the follicular phase iii) ovulation iv) the combined luteal and pre-menstrual phase. Each month the body prepares for pregnancy and the fluctuating hormones signal the release of an egg, the thickening of the womb lining and the shedding of the lining if the egg is not fertilised. The shedding of the lining leads to bleeding from the vagina

• THE START

The first day of bleeding marks the first day of the menstruation cycle. This can be accompanied by abdominal cramps, headaches, back pain, mood changes and fatigue. Recovery from exercise might be reduced. Low intensity exercise such as yoga and Pilates is recommended

• POWER DAYS

The follicular phase is when eggs are produced in the ovaries. This is a great time to train, as the body has more potential for muscle adaptations and recovery is improved, motivation and energy will also be at their highest

• OVULATION

The ovulation phase is when the dominant egg is released for potential fertilisation: usually around day 14. This creates a slightly higher body temperature which can have a detrimental effect on exercise and endurance

• PROGESTERONE

If fertilisation doesn’t happen, the egg is shed and the body prepares for the next cycle. Higher levels of progesterone during this time lead to enhanced mood and lower anxiety. It also promotes sleep, meaning rest and recovery may feel easier

• PMT

When an egg isn’t fertilised the production of oestrogen and progesterone falls rapidly which can lead to irritability, anxiety and a desire for food. Restorative exercise can be good, as well as spacing meals to avoid blood sugar dips and avoiding caffeine and alcohol

• THINGS TO TRACK

When bleeding starts and ends, how heavy the flow is on each day, physical symptoms, quality of sleep, mental health fluctuations, temperature fluctuations, changes in cervical fluid, exercise performance

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
More features
Editor's letter

Into the fitaverse

Fitness is already among the top three markets in the metaverse, with new technology and partnerships driving real growth and consumer engagement that looks likely to spill over into health clubs, gyms and studios
Fit Tech people

Ali Jawad

Paralympic powerlifter and founder, Accessercise
Users can easily identify which facilities in the UK are accessible to the disabled community
Fit Tech people

Hannes Sjöblad

MD, DSruptive
We want to give our users an implantable tool that allows them to collect their health data at any time and in any setting
Fit Tech people

Jamie Buck

Co-founder, Active in Time
We created a solution called AiT Voice, which turns digital data into a spoken audio timetable that connects to phone systems
Profile

Fahad Alhagbani: reinventing fitness

Let’s live in the future to improve today
Opinion

Building on the blockchain

For small sports teams looking to compete with giants, blockchain can be a secret weapon explains Lars Rensing, CEO of Protokol
Innovation

Bold move

We ended up raising US$7m in venture capital from incredible investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Primetime Partners, and GingerBread Capital
App analysis

Check your form

Sency’s motion analysis technology is allowing users to check their technique as they exercise. Co-founder and CEO Gal Rotman explains how
Profile

New reality

Sam Cole, CEO of FitXR, talks to Fit Tech about taking digital workouts to the next level, with an immersive, virtual reality fitness club
Profile

Sohail Rashid

35 million people a week participate in strength training. We want Brawn to help this audience achieve their goals
Ageing

Reverse Ageing

Many apps help people track their health, but Humanity founders Peter Ward and Michael Geer have put the focus on ageing, to help users to see the direct repercussions of their habits. They talk to Steph Eaves
App analysis

Going hybrid

Workout Anytime created its app in partnership with Virtuagym. Workout Anytime’s Greg Maurer and Virtuagym’s Hugo Braam explain the process behind its creation
Research

Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact
Editor's letter

Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
Fit Tech People

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
Fit Tech People

Adam Zeitsiff

CEO, Intelivideo
We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
Fit Tech People

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
Fit Tech People

Mike Hansen

Managing partner, Endorphinz
We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
More features