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.
The majority of
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.
April 5, 2019 Faith Christine Lai
There are tons of tips out there on how to boost your gym membership retention. But it’s hard to find a guide on how to create a killer gym retention strategy. In this blog, we try and redress the balance by telling you how gyms came to design membership retention strategies that work for them.
Firstly, let’s break down the crucial elements that go into any gym retention strategy, and look at how you can optimise them for maximum retention. There are some core elements involved in building a solid member retention strategy:
Now, there is no one-size-fits-all gym membership retention strategy you can magically apply to your site. Each gym is different and your retention strategy will have to factor this in.
If you run multiple gym sites, the first thing to do is to get a solid understanding of the membership retention needs of each facility. Each gym will have a different set of customers, different priorities, and perhaps even different budgets and resources. What works for one facility might not work for another.
The first thing you want to do is take a look at your retention across all your venues.
Pull up your membership details and analyse which demographics are at risk of churning.
Here are some at-risk groups to consider:
You need to start categorising your member lists for a more targeted approach – it will help!
You should also monitor how effective your current membership plans are.
Segment your members by plan type and compare and contrast attendance rates. Send out surveys to see how members find their current plans. Action any feedback you can to make your plans work right for your members. Having an inappropriate membership plan is likely to end up with members leaving for one of your rivals. And you don’t want that, especially if you could have avoided this outcome by adjusting your membership offerings.
Sound like a lot of hard work? Well, the good news is that there are tools made exactly for this job, like Keepme which can automate this part of the process for you.
It’s important that you have the right range of workout classes and fitness programmes to suit your members’ requirements. It’s a good idea to send surveys finding out what your members want from your gym, and making any relevant changes so that working out in your gym is an attractive proposition for your members.
By now you should have an understanding of retention and attrition data across your gym location, and you’ve made all the infrastructural changes you can (if people are complaining about filthy changing rooms/ faulty air conditioning, etc., you should sort that out pronto).
The next step is to separate all this retention data into different risk groups. Although you should have an outreach plan that reaches every member, you should create content that specifically targets at-risk groups.
Running engagement campaigns is an ongoing process. Over time you should monitor whether your members’ retention scores improve or get worse, and change your campaigns accordingly. Often the problem will be that you’re not being targeted enough and your messages may be too
You are probably familiar with the concept of Net Promoter Scores (NPS), the measure of whether your members are “promoters” or “detractors” of your gym.
You should send out NPS surveys to your members and then segment
Detractors could then be sent to your outreach team for some TLC, whilst promoters can be used as contacts for testimonials, or to be part of a referral scheme, and so on.
As you can see, there are lots of factors that go into planning fitness membership retention strategies. At the end of the day, each gym’s strategy will look different. The tips in this article should help put you on the right track, as long as you look at your data in a segmented way and keep monitoring retention risks and NPS scores you will be able to come up with a strategy that gives your gym a head start on the competition.
March 28, 2019 Faith Christine Lai
Has the introduction of group exercise classes improved gym member retention rates, and if so should gym owners and employees be encouraging members to join them?
In the past, joining the gym was a fairly solitary experience.
A person could sign up, and then they were free to use the equipment as and when they wished. However, there was little interaction between gym goers and staff (unless hiring a personal trainer), and the communication between members themselves rarely extended to more than a sweaty grimace as they queued for the water cooler.
Individuals were responsible for their workouts, set their personal goals and if they didn’t achieve them it was nobody business apart from their own.
Nowadays, however, the landscape of the fitness industry has changed dramatically, and gym members now face many choices. While there is still the option to workout solo, with the introduction of classes and group exercise sessions, it seems like almost every week there is a new trend for an exercise class that promises to give attendees their dream bodies in no time at all. But do these classes live up to the hype, and are they helping or hindering gym member retention?
Is it possible that the introduction of group exercise has helped to improve member retention rates? Or does choosing to participate increase possibility of failure, create confusion and a loss of ownership of one’s own workouts? Let’s examine the pros and cons of each:
Group exercises encourage members to do their best. Those who work out with peers around them are more likely to push themselves further, so their workout is more productive. People don’t want to be the first person to drop out or refuse to participate appropriately, and research demonstrates that the healthy actions of others do influence us. A study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found that participants gravitate towards the exercise behaviors of those around them.
Group exercises can be helpful to those new to exercise as they can try different kinds of classes out and see which ones suit them best. Group exercise gives people the opportunity to socialise while working out and gives newbies more confidence and knowledge without having to hire a personal trainer. A 2016 study published in the journal Obesity reported that overweight people lose increased amounts of weight if they spend time with their fit friends, and weight loss continues to grow the more time they spend together. People who workout in group sessions also feel more accountable to others and are therefore less likely to skip workouts and will keep coming back for more.
A group exercise class can help those lacking in motivation feel encouraged and energised. The ‘we’re in this together’ mentality of a group exercise class means that participants are more likely to encourage one another, engage with one another and spur one another on to make it through to the end. The sense of satisfaction and achievement is also a shared experience which can help motivate members to commit to the class and continue to return to the gym to participate.
Researchers from the University of Southern California found that people who worked out with friends (or a spouse or co-worker) reported that they took more enjoyment in their exercise than those who worked out solo. The variety provided by the range of classes also mixes things up, keeping workouts fresh and exciting and helping members improve their health, fitness, body shape and strength in different ways.
Group exercise can have an adverse effect if people start to view the class as a punishment and a chore rather than a fun and social activity. If members begin to feel pressurised and guilty, this could be a recipe for disaster, and they may start to avoid the classes to negate these feelings.
Group exercise classes could also negatively affect retention rates if a member starts to feel as though they can’t keep up, or begins to compare themselves to others in the class. A study reported that exercising in mirrored environments could make some women feel more self-conscious.
Lack of individual attention
In group exercise classes instructors rarely have the time to give participants individual attention, and therefore there is the increased chance of injury if an individual does not perform an exercise correctly or pushes themselves beyond their limitations. The lack of personalised attention could also result in some participants not having their needs or goals met. Classes are usually created around the based common needs of everyone who takes part, and therefore there is less scope for members who wish to push boundaries beyond this.
Increased focus/ reduced distractions
Those who choose to work out in the gym alone may find that they have more focus than participants in a group setting. They can work on personal goals and don’t have the distractions of others around them so can zone in on their workouts and prioritise their unique fitness goals.
Classes can sometimes focus on just one area of fitness, those who choose to work out in the gym alone can take advantage of all the different machines to add variety to their workouts. If there is a particular area they want to focus on, they can choose the equipment and exercises to allow them to do so, rather than being dictated to by the class instructor.
Can workout at own pace and set personal goals
Group exercise classes cater to the needs of the masses where those gym members who have specific, individualised goals can create their own workouts to maximise effectiveness and achieve them at their own pace with no external pressure.
The solitary nature of just working out in the gym alone can have an adverse effect on members motivation. Without the social aspects and feeling part of a community, if gym goers don’t see their desired results they could quickly become at risk for cancelling their membership. They may feel less connected and loyal to the gym and therefore may find it less affecting to stop coming to the gym than members who feel as though they are part of a community and enjoy the social aspects of their workouts too.
By not getting involved in group exercises a gym member has no one to be accountable for their workouts other than themselves. There is no one to encourage them, nor anyone to make them feel guilty if they choose not to attend. This can result in those gym only members to slowly decrease their attendance until they stop coming altogether.
It shows that by encouraging gym members to attend group exercise classes, retention rates should improve. Therefore gym owners may wish to consider investing more time and resources into providing and marketing group exercise classes to their members and motivating employees to sell these classes to gym goers.
It is important to note, however, that there are downsides to group classes that could also result in a negative impact on retention, for example, if a member pushed themselves too hard and got injured or felt as though they couldn’t keep up and became demotivated. Therefore gym owners should take care when pushing group exercise classes onto members and should really target the right cohort when encouraging either group or solo
March 21, 2019 Faith Christine Lai
A healthy membership retention rate is absolutely vital for any businesses’ success, especially in the increasingly competitive fitness industry. After all, acquiring a new customer can be up to 25 times more expensive than retaining an old one – membership retention doesn’t merely affect who walks through your doors, it also affects your bottom line.
Member loyalty and member retention are often seen as heavily synonymous. If members are staying with your brand, that means they’re loyal, right? Not necessarily. Membership retention measures whether or not an existing customer continues to do business with you. In contrast, loyalty measures a customer’s attitudes towards your brand. Do your customers actively prefer your brand over your competitors, or are you at risk of losing their business to that new business on the block?
Of course, there is still a relationship between retention and loyalty, since a loyal customer will almost every case also be a retained customer (barring factors such as a sudden inability to pay). Furthermore, there is a relationship between retention and rewarding loyalty – a staggering 82.4% of respondents said they would be “more likely” or “much more likely” to shop at stores that offered loyalty programmes.
It’s not hard to imagine why this is the case. When people are rewarded for loyalty, they feel appreciated, something that is being increasingly important in business – 68% of customers said they left a company because they believed that they were not cared about.
If customers are not rewarded for their loyalty, they have less incentive to be loyal, particularly in an industry like fitness where new competitors crop up every day with attractive deals designed to draw new customers through the door. A loyalty programme also helps to cultivate a sense of community and belonging in members. For instance, Harley Davidson customers, who call themselves “hogs,” frequently develop bonds with their community members. When customers strongly identify with a brand, they are less likely to switch to a competitor.
Loyalty programmes take many different forms. In its most basic form, a loyalty programme is a points-based system, such as UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s Nectar Points scheme. However, many businesses are adding on to the classic model, providing special features to members as well as points. For example, the wildly popular Sephora Beauty Insider scheme, which has over 17 million loyal members, organises exclusive member events and makeup classes. The Starbucks Rewards™ scheme gives members free in-store refills and the ability to order drinks in advance. For a gym, non-monetary incentives like exclusive fitness classes and the use of special facilities like saunas or access to sports therapists could also be extremely effective. One might also consider pricing strategies that directly reward loyalty as another way to signal to loyal members that you value their business.
However, according to The Loyalty Report 2017, the average consumer is involved in 14 loyalty programs but only has the capacity to engage with half of them. Companies lose money on time and effort, and customers get no more value from the businesses to which they are “loyal.” Here are two important things to remember when designing a loyalty rewards scheme:
1. Keep it simple
If you can’t explain your loyalty programme to a customer in two sentences, it’s probably too complicated, and it will probably be ineffective. Keep things simple and easy to understand! For example, one H&M Club has designed their programme so that one point is worth $1. Structuring your rewards scheme in an easy-to-understand way means that customers are more likely to understand what’s in it for them, and subsequently more likely to engage with the loyalty scheme.
2. Offer a personalised experience
Increasingly, customers are demanding personalised services. Think with Google discovered that 63% of people expect brands to use their purchase history to provide them with personalized experiences. Every demographic is different, and you must first know what your customers actually want. If you don’t, there is likely to be a mismatch between the rewards you offer and what would actually incentivise your customer base to stay loyal.
Rewarding loyalty can be an extremely effective way to boost customer loyalty, and consequently, customer retention. Take the time to assess what sort of loyalty rewards scheme will work best for your demographic, keep it as simple as possible, and you’re likely to see great improvements in both loyalty and retention.
March 15, 2019 Tina Ahmed
“The Keepme product captured my full attention from the minute I first heard about the concept. The service delivers on every aspect of members communication, engagement, and retention that I have worked towards over the last fifteen years.”
Nasta comes to Keepme with 15 years of experience in the retention management field. Most recently, Nasta worked as Director of E-Commerce & Marketing for UK gym chain, Xercise4Less, where he helped to drive the gym’s ambitious expansion programme around the region. Previous positions have seen him as COO of Retention Management LLC, and Sales Director for Matrix Fitness.
Nasta combines his expertise in consulting with many other relevant skills, such as public speaking at core fitness industry events (The 2018 IHRSA European Congress & The Scottish Leisure Network Group), implementing effective loyalty/ rewards schemes and improving communications & engagement with health club members. Nasta’s knowledge and commitment to retain members within an industry that faces challenges to achieve a consistent retention strategy, is inspiring. His passion, experience and work ethic will be an asset for Keepme, and we are thrilled to have him on board.
March 7, 2019 Faith Christine Lai
Artificial intelligence (AI) has, in recent years, continued to develop and infiltrate many aspects of the fitness industry and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Be it through sales and marketing, customer service, or data collection, the influence of AI is extending its reach and affecting how gym owners and other fitness industry operatives create more meaningful retention strategies to keep existing members renewing their gym membership contracts time and time again.
The Encyclopedia Britannica definition of AI is “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.”
However, in reality, the term AI is much more fluid then this and, over time has been adapted and modified to better match the goals that a particular system is designed to achieve.
But how does the fitness industry make use of this technology? And is it necessarily a good thing?
People who join the gym are interested in their health and fitness and self-improvement. For a gym to be invested in AI and to be willing to utilise this new technology to improve their systems, to gather data, to inform them on customer satisfaction, and to tailor their service to better suit the needs of the individual is likely to appeal to gym goers across the board.
The implementation of AI in the fitness industry can not only serve to attract new members with its shiny, hi-tech promises but also convince longer serving members to continue to use the gym as they see it reacting to their ever-evolving needs.
According to Gartner Inc., only 2% of businesses in 2017 used virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology for customer service and support, but by 2020, this figure is expected to increase to 25%.
AI can also be used to gather intelligence on messaging interactions, phone conversations, gym attendance records, and other communication between a club and its members. This information enables marketing teams to identify when customers might be at-risk and to act by creating personalised incentives to draw customers back in and keep member retention rates high.
Gyms are also beginning to see how the application of AI could be used to offer virtual personal training programmes to members, lowering the cost for them of hiring an actual personal trainer while giving them a similar option for customised workouts and even individual motivational strategies delivered in a virtual form.
By using a mobile app, gym owners can gather data on how individuals workout – which machines they use and how long for as well as other useful information such as their heart rate. This data can be used to devise bespoke training programmes as well as other nutrition and fitness advice tailored to the individual.
As AI continues to improve members can expect even more specific advice, for example when coupled with motion sensing technology, suggestions on how to improve movement to make the most from a workout are possible. This kind of personalised experience is likely to help members remain motivated and engaged in their workouts and renew their gym membership when the time comes.
Wearable technology and connected fitness machines will allow trainers to get real-time information on gym members activities both inside and outside the gym. This data again can be used to help identify less engaged gym members and to flag up at-risk members thus informing retention strategies to help keep those members motivated.
The development and refinement of AI opens up a whole wealth of possibilities in the fitness industry increasing productivity, gathering and analysing unprecedented amounts of data and taking over routine tasks which could free up gym owners and their employees to spend more time improving customer experience.
However, there are some drawbacks. For a start implementing AI doesn’t come cheap, and for low-budget gyms purchasing the necessary equipment and systems to apply any meaningful AI into their club may, for now, be out of reach.
It is also important to note that humans crave human contact, communication, and company and the importance of face-to-face interaction with customers cannot be underestimated. As Mina Chang writes for Forbes: “you do business with people, not entities. The beauty of communication is found in the nuance that’s only felt in face-to-face conversations.”
This sentiment rings true for gym members who rate having no gym buddy, lack of guidance and feeling out of place as their top three reasons for wanting to quit, problems that are hard to rectify without human contact.
AI certainly has its place in the fitness industry, and it is up to health club operators to strategise how they can implement the technology available to them to best effect.
If they can successfully implement AI systems to automate the more routine conversations or demands that take up employees valuable time, while simultaneously gathering data to improve facilities and offer personalised experiences they could have the best of both worlds. Intelligent, productive systems that inform sales and retention strategies in addition to a team with more time to be out there communicating, motivating and engaging with customers and providing that irreplaceable ‘human touch.’
February 4, 2019 Faith Christine Lai
The verdict is out – anyone who wants to run a successful and sustainable business should be focusing on retention. After all, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one, and increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Poor retention is a particular problem for enterprises in the health and fitness industry. In this article, we’ll discuss the practice of risk scoring. Risk scoring is the act of
Some customers or customers segments are inherently more prone to churn than others. This is expressed in patterns of customer behaviour, with some patterns indicating a higher probability to churn than others. However, without a risk scoring system, it is extremely difficult to identify these behaviours, and who high-risk customers might be. It is even harder to proactively take the necessary steps to prevent these ‘high-risk’ customers from leaving. An effective risk scoring system will not only identify who high-risk customers are, but will also be able to do it in a timely fashion for your to make the necessary changes before it is too late.
The practice of risk scoring assesses the probability (or risk) that a given customer or segment of customers will churn, ceasing to do business with you. There are a variety of factors that come into play in determining the risk of a particular customer or segment of customers churning. While the specifics will vary between contexts, some factors that are likely to be important include how often they attend the gym, their purchase history, and how long they have been a member of the gym.
Risk scores can also be aggregated. Aggregating risk scores is particularly helpful for individuals who run several clubs or facilities at the same time. By comparing clubs’ overall risk scores, it is easy to tell at a glance which clubs are doing better than others at retaining their members and to swiftly respond to that information.
In addition, most risk scoring systems will also be able to segment your customer base based on their risk scores, and provide you with a visualisation of the composition of your demographic relative to these segments. Here’s an example of two personas that you may see in your gym:
With insights into the profile of your customers, you will be able to develop marketing and communications strategies that effectively meet your demographic.
One of the best ways to utilise risk scoring in retention management strategy is through the practice of micro-segmentation marketing and communication. Micro-segmentation refers to the practice where customers are divided into niche personas or ‘segments’ based on several specific characteristics such as demographic information or behavioural attributes.
Micro-segmentation marketing, in turn, refers to a marketing strategy that creates “hyper-focused campaigns” to accurately satisfy the needs of each of these varying types of customers. This strategy is incredibly effective because one of the best ways to retain high-risk customers is to meaningfully engage them and help them to understand the value of what your business offers. Remember ‘John’ and ‘Jane’? Here’s an example of how two different types of strategic communication could be developed based on their risk scores:
In this article, we’ve discussed two simplified examples how risk scoring can work to improve your membership retention rate. However, in reality, the various personas you find in a given facility are bound to be more numerous, and the precise communications strategy required more nuanced and sophisticated. Indeed, risk scoring is a very complicated, and potentially tedious process for human hands. The work necessary to carry out accurate and effective risk scoring as a part of retention strategy is exorbitant, and unfeasible for most businesses.
Fortunately, predictive analytics, big data, and other sophisticated technologies have been shown to be effective at risk scoring in some industries. Should a business in the health and fitness industry implement a fitness-specific risk scoring technology, they are bound to see their retention rates quickly improve.
It is crucial to understand how effectively you are (or are not) retaining your client base. In their 2018 NPS and CX Benchmarks Report, CustomerGauge discovered that “a shockingly high” number of companies can’t report how many customers they are losing annually, with 44% of respondents and 32% of senior management not knowing their retention rate. This is unacceptable. Tracking and managing member activity is a vital component of managing a business and sustaining membership retention in the health and fitness industry. Risk scoring, which we’ve discussed today, is an important part of getting to grips with your member demographics and, accordingly, improving your business’ membership retention.
October 25, 2018 Faith Christine Lai
So, you’ve got the fitness company of your dreams. You’ve pushed through hours of conceptualising your brand and business model, creating the best facilities, hiring the best employees. You’ve even been successful at getting customers in the door. All the hard work is over now, right?
Wrong. The key to real, sustained success in the fitness industry is not member attraction, but member retention. This article will explore why this is the case, why it’s not necessarily easy to achieve a healthy membership retention rate, and why you should make improving membership retention a top priority, starting right now.
You probably don’t need to look at your bank book to know that a strong membership base is really important for any health and fitness business. However, if you do, you’re likely to see that membership fees account for around 80% of overall revenue, as Helen Watts discovered was the case for a significant proportion of businesses studied in her paper “A Psychological Approach to Predicting Membership Retention in the Fitness Industry” (2012). This means that member fees are a vital component of revenue (and consequently, profit) generation for fitness businesses. And yet, according to the Fitness Industry Association’s figures in 2002, the average retention rate for a fitness club is 60.6%. This means that each year, a club loses approximately 40% of its members! It is unsurprising, therefore, that the IHRSA has referred to membership retention as the “Achilles Heel” of the fitness industry.
“But who cares?” You might question. “Even if people leave, new members will just come in and replace them.” However, the statistics indicate that this may not necessarily be true. The 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report shows that the rate of growth of the fitness industry is slowing – during the 12 months to March 2018, the number of fitness facilities increased by 4.6 percent, as compared to increases of more than 5 percent in the previously recorded period (March 2016 to March 2017). IBISWorld, an international market research company, has made a similar warning, recently predicting that Australia’s gym market may reach saturation in the next five years. This means that there is no guarantee that there will always be new members to make up for the revenue (and love) lost if your current members leave.
Additionally, apart from ensuring the longevity of your business, there are also inherent benefits to higher membership retention rates. Firstly, focusing business strategy on retaining existing members rather than attracting new members is likely to result in some real costs savings, since, as the Harvard Business Review notes, the acquisition of new customers entails unique costs. For example, the costs associated with advertising, new member discounts, and the practice of giving ‘free trials’. These costs are not incurred with the retention of existing customers. Thus, a shift in business focus towards retention will bring about costs savings, and accordingly, higher profits.
Secondly, improving your membership retention rate can also improve your rate of growth. With a more consistent consumer base, meaningful relationships between these regular members (and even between staff and members) are more likely to develop. This sense of belonging can drastically improve the member experience. As Phillip Mills once said, “people join to get results and motivation, but they stay because they make friends”. When people enjoy and have confidence in your business, they are more likely to recommend your business to others, bringing new customers to your door! Retained customers, therefore, could also be a valuable form of word-of-mouth advertising for your business.
In the first part of this article, I showed that membership retention is really, really important for any successful health and fitness business, and that it is often a problem for businesses within the fitness industry. Why might this be the case? I suggest three reasons.
Firstly, fitness culture is changing. The concept of holistic fitness is becoming more popular, people are demanding greater variety in their fitness regimes, and companies such as ClassPass and GuavaPass are stepping up to meet that demand. This means that the idea of long-term commitment to just one type of fitness facility or workout is becoming increasingly unattractive to consumers. In the Internet age, there are also an increasing number of resources available for free online that allow people to work out from the comfort of their homes, without spending any money!
Secondly, staying fit isn’t easy. At almost every point of one’s fitness journey, there is the temptation to quit. At the beginning, fitness is difficult because one hasn’t yet developed the habit of regularly turning up to the gym and working out. Even when that has been overcome, the motivation to keep exercising diminishes as one becomes more experienced, and session-to-session progress slows down. In addition, people often undergo life changes that make it difficult to keep up with their fitness routine – people go away to college, start demanding new jobs, or have babies. There are many exogenous factors that can make someone leave a fitness gym or facility, membership retention strategies aside.
Thirdly, and most importantly, health and fitness businesses simply aren’t doing enough to ensure that their members stay in the long-run. If businesses don’t actively prioritise membership retention, they won’t account for it in their business and resource allocation strategy. Many businesses even actively divert energy and resources into attracting new members rather than retaining existing ones. As has already been discussed, this is a big mistake, and is likely to be a significant source of the retention problem in the industry.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably interested in improving your health & fitness business’ retention rate. Although every situation is unique, one thing to be mindful of is the existence of ‘first-mover advantage’. First-mover advantage is the advantage gained by the initial significant occupant of a market segment. Although this phenomenon usually refers to the gaining of technological leadership or resources, it is also applicable when a business emphasises membership retention amidst an industry that does not. As illustrated earlier on in the article, low membership retention is a striking problem throughout the health and fitness industry as a whole, and businesses haven’t caught on yet. But you have.
So, start thinking about your membership retention today. Look closely at your demographics, the people behind your profit line. Think about how to make them feel happier, more included, and more engaged. Think about developing relationships with them for the long-run, not just for the now, and start considering the resources you may need to do so. Start today, get that first-mover advantage, start retaining your members, and watch your business grow!