How Fitness Operators Are Using AI to Identify, Attract and Convert High Value Members in 2023

It has never been more important to spot, attract and convert loyal, high-adherence gym members when running a fitness business. Post-covid recovery is evident, but for many this period coinciding with the cost-of-living crisis makes 2023 a critical year where they must dedicate a fighting spirit to growth.
March 7th, 2023
How Fitness Operators Are Using AI to Identify, Attract and Convert High Value Members in 2023

With the fitness industry still firmly in bounce-back mode, 2023 is arguably the year to focus on retention. Make the value of your club’s core offering and additional services a hot topic through timely, personalized communications that will, in turn, fuel the creation, capture, and conversion of more referrals on a more predictable basis. Especially in markets like the UK where the backdrop of rising energy costs, stretched teams, and a financial downturn to boot are all burdensome variables to contend with.

In this article, I aim to shed light on the interesting strategies and tactics operators are using AI to optimize their share of loyal, high-commitment members year-round. Chat GPT has been a major buzz of late, and I hope this piece will help to illustrate that AI has been utilized for longer than you may think and is already helping innovative fitness operators to future-proof their businesses beyond chat scripts and natural language processing.

Adherence + Time = Extended Length of Membership

It doesn’t take an extensive career as a fitness operator or a membership retention guru, to understand that it is the ‘high-adherence’ members who are more likely to stick around for a longer period of time. 

Specifically, when we say ‘high-adherence’ members we’re talking about the long-termers; the members that help you sleep soundly at night knowing they aren’t going anywhere. They display behaviors consistent with frequent club attendance measured in a number of weekly check-ins and are bought into your club’s additional services such as PT and physio services. In addition to a steady cadence of class bookings, they may also respond favorably to your communications (via email, SMS, or WhatsApp) suggesting they are as engageable digitally as they are in person. The cherry on top? They are also likely to be your champions who will bring in the referrals we touched on earlier. 

To put this into a real-world context let’s go back to the adherence + time formula. This meant nothing to me until my late teens when I stood behind the reception desk at my family’s fitness club. There I’d watch in horror as swarms of members canceled due to the credit crunch; instead opting for pay-as-you-go vouchers as disposable incomes got squeezed. What this taught me is that the reliable, recurring revenue model that fitness operators depend on (monthly and yearly memberships) is only as dependable as the time members are willing to commit when times are tough. In this example they weren’t prepared to commit any time to a personal recurring outgoing; certainly nothing that would extend beyond a four-visit voucher. 

Adherence boosts the time operators feasibly have to take action. It enables teams to take more of the steps necessary to build long-term relationships as opposed to a fleeting membership term where that window of opportunity is shorter. This time variable is also invaluable in helping train data science models like Keepme’s, to achieve +95% predictive accuracy relative to churn prediction too. 

Smart fitness operators saw the opportunity in this adherence ‘time’ years ago and have since paved the way for dramatic improvements in the way AI is now helping clubs spot the best members, identify attrition risks, and automate actions that will future-proof their membership yield.

For a small sample of members, these relevant actions I mention are easy enough to measure and manage case-by-case. En masse (think hundreds of thousands of members), it’s a much bigger headache. Knowing the right intervention actions to take, to whom, and exactly when, all while nailing personalization is extremely time-consuming for humans to implement and next to impossible to scale without automation. 

Let’s take this a step further by shining a light on some of the strategies and tactics typically deployed by Keepme customers. I’ve supplemented this with some context on how they outmuscle their competition to optimize their share of high-value sales leads and high-commitment members using our +95% accurate predictive AI and intelligent automation.

1. They prioritize Machine Learning 

Why? So they can assess each member’s lead quality and attrition risk from the moment they first engage with the club.

There is business-critical data that, when rigidly captured from potential members (such as trial sign-ups or tour bookings), facilitates a customer journey towards high adherence and long-term commitment. This can include qualitative data such as basic fitness and wellness goals, interests, workout preferences, and the emotional hooks motivating them to consider this club specifically instead of another one down the road.

By understanding these small details at the front end, operators can train automation models to serve member journey communications that meet the unique behavioral traits of each individual, even before they begin to show signs of disengaging from their club’s proposition.

Capturing what may feel like ‘luxury information’ at the beginning of the member journey allows for the creation of an engaging onboarding experience that sets the tone for a successful relationship from day one. For example, you can use the data gathered during sign-up to tailor a string of digital workout recommendations or nutritional advice specifically for each member’s individual situation. This shows your commitment to helping them achieve their health and wellness objectives, and in turn builds trust between both parties, motivating them to stay with you longer.

Finally, building personas relative to emotional factors is an effective way of connecting with new members on a deeper level than just physical fitness results alone. Focusing on how accomplishing certain milestones makes people feel mentally such as increased confidence or having more energy, will further increase engagement while creating a sense of community within your club environment.

2. They put this advanced member insight to work, so they don’t have to

Gathering data for its own sake is a thankless task. If it doesn’t directly affect the communications being sent to your members, it is fruitless. For example, if your AI can spot members showing a sudden absence or drop-off in adherence and highlight them for you, that insight is only valuable if those very members receive interventions in the form of personalized marketing communications, written with empathy to their recent drop-off in attendance. These could be engaging call-to-action prompts designed to get them back on track with their most attended group exercise classes or booked in with their preferred personal trainer.

With the correct automated member marketing journeys in place, you can eliminate the need for humans to apply subjective guesswork to customers in need of such interventions. We know the manual, human approach is useless versus +95% precise AI because it typically achieves accuracy no higher than 51%, the equivalent of a coin toss! This also cuts out instances of ‘the scattergun approach’ in your fitness business whereby emails, texts, and other digital communications are blasted out to all members in the blind hope the messaging resonates and stops a few members from heading out the exit door.

3. They use AI to identify ancillary and secondary revenue opportunities

Optimizing the Lifetime Value (LTV) of your club members involves a deeper-than-usual understanding of their unique fit for other revenue streams in your club outside their typical recurring membership revenue. The likes of personal training, supplements and nutrition, recovery services, food and beverage, retail purchases, and kids swimming lessons are just a few of the examples we see.

The clubs that truly flourish at boosting members’ secondary revenue are the ones most astute at lining up personal interest data with promotional initiatives accurately and scalably throughout the year. A recent example of this in practice is Willows Health & Lifestyle Centre. They managed to do away with general promotions about their personal training packages after identifying that the communications sent to every member weren’t hitting the mark. After segmentation, prioritization and targeting of members they knew had previously shown an interest in personal training, they immediately saw a significant increase in their conversions, selling an unprecedented amount of PT packages with help from one simple automation in Keepme. 

This video resource is a great general overview of how this typically all comes together in an AI-powered system like Keepme.

To wrap it up…

With a wealth of untapped data already available in your membership management system, there is nothing stopping you from harnessing these three strategies and seeing huge improvements in sales and retention performance as a direct result.

We know that innovative operators have been adopting these methods for some time but it’s never too late to do the same and stay ten paces ahead of your competition in 2023.

Blending artificial intelligence, operational tools and a unique automation engine, Keepme supercharges and streamlines your efforts to attract, retain and re-engage members. Speak to one of our friendly team for a no-obligation preview of how Keepme is tried, tested and trusted by 350+ operators globally.

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