April 18, 2019 Faith Christine Lai
Millennials, they do things differently.
Whilst many throw their hands up in despair at a generation criticised for being coddled and having no staying power, the reality is very different.
The truth is, there are certainly challenges when it comes to understanding how to market your gym to millennials and how to retain these tricky customers. But there are also huge rewards for those who get it right.
Just like the Baby Boomer generation came to define an era and became a massive source of revenue for canny marketers, the Millennial generation are in the process of transforming how the gym industry targets its offerings. How well they do this will determine how successful they are.
One of the big challenges gyms have to face when it comes to attracting millennials is price. One study found that over 70% of millennials think gym memberships are too expensive. Instead they’ve been drawn to the experiential appeal of outdoor endurance events like Tough Mudder, or the community vibe of cycling studio programs like SoulCycle.
The thing is, it’s not that millennials are reluctant to spend money, it’s that they understand that exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, and they expect high value in exchange for their money.
Millennials are super into fitness. In fact, millennials do more exercise than any other generation. A 2018 study by the Physical Activity Council found that nearly half of millennials participated in high-calorie burning exercise and only 25% were sedentary.
Not only that but fitness is more important to millennials than to any other generation. According to therapist Rachel Kazez:
“It seems like [fitness is] a more active part of their lives, something they do intentionally and as a priority rather than an afterthought. It also seems like they try to make it more enjoyable and colorful, many being willing to spend money on memberships and specialty fitness activities.”
This insight gives us an idea of how you can attract and retain millennials in your gym.
Psychotherapist Nathalie Theodore believes that, “While Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are still mostly working out to burn calories, millennials are turning to fitness as a means of making friends, meeting potential love interests and networking.”
She argues that technology and social media has lead to increased loneliness in millennials, who are now turning to exercise to connect with people and gain a sense of community.
The gyms that will succeed in retaining millennial members will be the ones that are able to make their facilities socially and culturally appealing to members in search of a sense of community and belonging.
Millennials are also more aware of the relationship between exercise and mental and physical wellbeing than any other generation. That’s why spa services like the Stone Creek health club have seen 12% annual growth in revenues, offering services like massage therapy and full body exfoliation treatments. A growing number of its members are millennials (adults aged under 35).
As gyms begin to adapt to the more sophisticated needs and interests of millennials and younger adults, they’ll reap major rewards. This is the largest cohort on the planet, worth $2.4 trillion globally. And a survey by the International Spa Association found that 60% of respondents are invested in their own personal wellbeing and 56% already attend spas.
We’re not suggesting you turn your gym into a spa, but introducing spa-like services like massage therapies, body treatments and so on may help attract more millennials to your fitness club.
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This is because millennials can be exceptionally loyal gym members if they believe they are getting a superb value proposition for their money.
Smart gyms are realising that it is possible to provide a space where a sense of community can be established, where people feel supported and nurtured in the club environment. According to Derek Brettell of The Club Gym:
“When we were building the club one of the most important things we wanted was for it to be a place where people enjoyed going. A place where people knew they would see familiar faces, be comfortable and feel supported. We wanted people to know that we cared and that they were more than simply a number to us.”
This sense of community can play a big role in gym retention.
You can foster community in your gym by doing the following:
If you want to engage and retain millennials then gone are the days of one size fits all exercise options. You have to start customising your fitness offerings to suit a wide range of members, and be willing to put the time into personalising exercise programs to individuals.
This means you can’t always operate on mass, sometimes it really pays off to focus on building smaller communities of gym members, because if you get it right your gym’s reputation will increase and that will do wonders for your Net Promoter Scores.
This brings us to how to handle fitness retention. You have to understand the diversity of millennials; this means operating at a niche level as well as looking at the bigger picture. Because of this you need a sophisticated and granular way to manage retention.
This helps you easily monitor and target different segments of your gym membership, pay close attention to their attendance and exercise patterns, and automate your outreach in a granular way. You can use retention software to monitor the Net Promoter Scores or your members. This means you can target promoters for referrals and upselling and you can focus on detractors by solving the pain points they are encountering with your gym.
At the end of the day, millennials are not strange creatures from another planet, they are young people looking for value, purpose, community and personal growth. The more you understand the world from their perspective the better you will be at offering them services that will keep them coming back for more.