Improving Member Engagement in Your Gym

Membership engagement is pivotal for gym retention. Dive in to learn how the real challenge lies in converting engagement theories into actionable techniques. We'll look at how artificial intelligence (AI) is the bridge that enhances personalization efforts and how the marriage between zero-party data and first-party data is paramount.
August 24th, 2023
Improving Member Engagement in Your Gym

All gym and fitness operators accept that membership engagement is an essential component of membership retention. According to IHRSA, gyms with engaged members enjoy a 33% higher retention rate than other operators. This isn't just a testament to hardworking staff; it's a nod to the strategies in place that keep members actively involved. 

Understanding those strategies and how to apply practical solutions to deliver them is key. Operators need to translate the theory of member engagement into tangible techniques that keep members coming back for more.

Once the engagement engine is running smoothly you will start to see that all-important boost in retention, reduced costs and improved profit margins.

As such, membership engagement is fundamental to the long-term success of your gyms and fitness centers. So, the real question isn't whether engagement matters but how to harness its power to create a thriving, loyal community for your club.

Personalization in Membership Engagement

The personal touch is an integral part of the gym-going experience. Familiar faces, friendly staff, and skilled personal trainers are the fabric of your gym community.

However, consumer behavior has evolved, accelerated by the sense of disconnection many felt during, and immediately after the pandemic. Now members want an increased level of engagement from your wellness center. Because individually we all crave and want to maintain a sense of connection.

Specifically, gym members want to feel like operators know them on a personal level and understand their needs. For the staff that interact physically with members, that’s relatively easy as they have face-to-face conversations. 

But for gym marketers or the wider business, that’s a challenge. Especially for multi-site operators where those in charge of communications may not come into contact with members at all.

Fortunately, modern communications provide you with plenty of methods with which to engage with your gym audience. A lack of viable channels isn’t the challenge, it’s knowing that the person receiving the email or SMS wants to feel like their gym really knows them. But how do you do that with conviction?

Addressing members by their first name in emails isn’t enough anymore. Your members are looking for you to craft an experience that resonates with their unique aspirations and preferences. 

Consider how one of your members might respond to a workout plan or a class suggestion tailored to their fitness journey. Then compare it to a member who receives an email blast with some generic workout suggestions. While there may be some value to the second option, there’s no guarantee that every suggestion will be relevant or practical. It’s clear which version your members would appreciate and interact with more. 

Epsilon reports that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. 

The Devil is in the Data

The good news for fitness operators is that you have a wealth of membership data at your fingertips. Including zero-party data which is information members have willingly volunteered. 

This can be anything from demographic information to their specific fitness goals, expressed interests, and fitness history. It can also include information about their health, any medical conditions, their weight, and their BMI.

You also possess first-party data which is related to actions members have taken, which can include:

  • How often your members attend the gym

  • How long your members spend at the gym per session

  • What classes your members booked

  • What classes your members attended

  • How much they spend on ancillary services

  • Their preferred brand of fitness wear

  • Their clothing size

  • How much they spend on food and beverages

  • Their favorite flavor of drink or snack

  • Any pay-as-you-go premium services

  • Whether or not they have trialed or used a personal trainer in the past

Combining these two data sets creates a powerful and insightful member profile. With it, you can create a complete picture of each member and understand motivations, aspirations, and actions.

It is from this wellspring of information that operators of gyms and fitness centers can heavily personalize their communications.

Demonstrating this level of insight about your  members will make them feel valued, understood, and seen by your gym. This fosters trust and deepens the relationship members have with your brand. 

Significantly, when members feel a sense of belonging the club’s community strengthens, and gym retention rates increase

The Role of Artificial Intelligence

The challenge that comes with having mountains of valuable data, is how to use it effectively. To manually create personalized email or WhatsApp campaigns would be a mammoth task. Many do it that way, and many fail as a result.

Artificial intelligence can revolutionize your communications. To be clear, AI isn't about replacing human interaction; it's about augmenting it. The beauty lies in its ability to analyze immense amounts of data, pinpointing trends and behaviors that human eyes might miss. 

AI within the context of membership engagement has the capacity to suggest workout modifications based on an individual's progress. Or analyze member behavior to identify members who are at risk of churn or more likely to engage with a personal trainer.

But that’s only part of the issue. Identifying ways in which your members can be communicated with is incredibly beneficial but it doesn’t unburden your staff. 

So how do you lighten their load?

AI-powered content generators can write the communications for you. Integrating AI-powered membership engagement solutions into your CRM or membership management system gives you proactive options for taking action where it counts.

Segmented membership data and a means to communicate in one place is a powerful combination. Tools like Keepme Creator are capable of learning tone of voice by analyzing your existing content. 

This ecosystem of capability allows for a seamless member experience. Coupled with the ability to identify interest and predict intent, your gym’s communications can become also become authentically hyper-personalized. In terms of membership engagement, membership retention, and even acquisition, it represents a major competitive advantage.

Moreover, it frees up capacity across your business so your staff can focus on deepening the connection members have with face-to-face interactions.

The introduction of artificial intelligence into member engagement allows operators to deliver greater value, more frequently and at scale. This increases member satisfaction and fosters deeper interpersonal connections with your staff in every department. From the front of house to the restaurant, gym floor staff and clinical teams.

How Engagement Increases Retention

Let’s be clear. The objective behind member engagement is to increase member retention, right? But it’s equally important to understand the other benefits. Especially if you’re going to put time, effort, and budget into transforming your existing membership engagement strategy.

Engaged members tend to be happy members. A report from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) found that engaged fitness club members are 25% more likely to renew their memberships. That’s not a boost any club can afford to ignore.

That represents a substantial uplift when you consider the average attrition rate for gyms and fitness clubs sits at around 40%!

IHRSA also highlights that members who visit their fitness clubs at least four times a month are 53% less likely to cancel their memberships. So member engagement has a very real impact on member behavior.

But member engagement doesn’t just support retention. Boxrox reports those attending three to five classes a week are significantly more likely to recommend their gym to others. The point being, engagement feeds retention that spawns referrals. 

Higher referral rates don’t just boost revenue but reduce the cost of acquisition making the business more profitable. What’s not to like?

The math is simple.

Drive Member Engagement 

Member engagement isn’t just making members happy. Recognizing the value of your club having an engaged member base is crucial. Using it as a strategic tool to drive revenue is ‘smart’

Member engagement is something operators can play lip service to if they choose, but with the data readily available and the benefits clear, it represents a tremendous opportunity that should be harnessed. Not only can you turn your centers into thriving communities but you can become more profitable in the process. 

When operators take the leap and dive into the data and embrace personalization, that’s when the transformation really happens.

And, by adopting AI as a complementary ally, gyms can create experiences that go beyond mere transactions. Engaging your members isn't a one-size-fits-all approach; it's a dynamic journey that changes with each member interaction. 

As the fitness landscape continues to evolve, engagement strategies will help gym operators create sustainable, repeatable success.

To learn more about how to leverage member data and artificial intelligence to drive member engagement and retention, click below to request a demo.

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