Trends and Opportunities with Member Engagement in UK Fitness Industry

Discover key insights from ukactive's DIGITAL FUTURES 2023 report as we uncover challenges faced by operators in managing data, the role of AI in enhancing personalized engagement experiences, and the transformative potential of leveraging technology for efficient decision-making.
November 30th, 2023
Trends and Opportunities with Member Engagement in UK Fitness Industry

The UK fitness industry, as a whole, has been a late adopter when it comes to utilizing digital technologies to track, manage, and engage with their audiences. However, results from the Digital Futures Survey, conducted by ukactive suggest that positive trends are beginning to crest. The responses signal a collective move toward embracing the technologies to better engage with their members. 

Despite these virtual green shoots, the research suggests a dip in the 'data & insights' category, which points towards operators struggling to get to grips with what the mountains of data they are generating.

Considering the integral role that data plays in creating personalized experiences, this is something that UK operators need to rapidly get a handle on. Without the ability to manage their data effectively, many operators will struggle to utilize the technologies and methodologies available to them that can create personalized engagement experiences for their members.

Data Ingestion and Management

As the UK fitness industry moves increasingly towards a digital mindset, operators are realizing just how much actionable data they already have within their estate. Although they don’t necessarily have the means to fully exploit it.

Lead and membership data, ancillary sales data, member behaviour, and member activity data all exist within the systems of most operators, however disparate. It’s just a question of harnessing that data and putting it to the greatest use.

The drop in the 'data & insights' score indicates that, while data is abundant, its effective organisation and utilisation remain a hurdle. Adoption of the right membership engagement tools can help here, but there is a bigger issue around adoption as operators need to start thinking like marketers. Especially if they want to put their data to work.

Adopting Digital Strategies

The Digital Futures survey indicates a strong inclination among fitness operators to enhance their online presence, with over 70% expressing this desire. Additionally, more than 60% are keen on investing in their data infrastructure and leveraging data to enhance services or operations.

This trend is quite promising, especially since a robust online presence and efficient data management are complementary. Nevertheless, while a new website and adept data practices are pivotal, they form just a fraction of a broader scope.

When synchronized, these elements possess the potential to revolutionize how fitness centers present and communicate their offerings.

Fitness operators need meticulously crafted and executed digital strategies that are guided and powered by their data. A comprehensive strategy facilitates the comprehension and effective utilization of the extensive data reservoir accessible to operators.

Many operators are transitioning from a basic understanding of digital concepts to a stage where they can adeptly leverage their data. Consequently, both members and operators stand to gain substantial benefits.

Members can relish a digital experience akin to their preferred online retailers, while operators can cultivate a more engaged membership base. Engaged members exhibit higher attendance rates, increased renewal tendencies, and a greater inclination toward ancillary sales.

By learning to harness their membership data, operators gain the capacity to make well-informed decisions. This enables them to gain clearer insights into member preferences regarding their gym and estimate member retention rates.

These insights can then be integrated into a strategic framework to surmount challenges and fortify areas that already yield positive outcomes.

AI and Advanced Engagement Tools

Although a high proportion of UK fitness operators don’t yet know what AI technologies are available to them, an increasing numbers are either open to or actively experimenting with it.

A far smaller percentage of operators are at the forefront of adopting the technology. But this is still an encouraging sign as even the late majority will be adopting some form of AI within the coming years.

Those operators either experimenting with or integrating AI into their marketing are making it easier for those latecomers to adopt it too as they serve as the social proof needed to make the technological leap.

Artificial intelligence presents a significant opportunity for operators to efficiently engage with their audience on a larger scale. However, implementing membership engagement solutions for personalized communications based on intricate data segments demands a substantial volume of content creation, posing a challenge for most operators outside the industry giants with extensive marketing teams. Generative AI emerges as a solution, enabling operators to generate vast amounts of communications efficiently.

Moreover, it facilitates blog content creation, a crucial element for enhancing visibility on search engines such as Google. The more relevant content operators create for their members, the quicker their website ascends in rankings, driving increased traffic and thus, gym membership sales.

This shift reduces dependence on paid advertisements for lead generation, consequently reducing the customer acquisition cost. AI-powered content creation marks a pivotal advancement for the industry, delivering significant value to both new and existing members.

AI-powered Insights

The incredible thing about AI is - today is the worst it will ever be because tomorrow it will be better. AI can be used to create accurate models of your members and predict with 95% accuracy when those members will churn.

That gives operators two opportunities. The first is the opportunity to engage with those members early on to change their behaviour. This can be approached in a variety of ways, but utilizing their data to create a more personalised experience is a good start.

Secondly, if you know when members are going to churn you can plan to make sure your sales pipeline is sufficient to replace those losses. Although the ideal situation is to prevent those members from leaving in the first place.

Being able to make smart, data-driven predictions saves time and allows you to act, rather than being caught off guard. The more actionable information operators have at their disposal, especially when it can result in positive change, is incredibly powerful. And gives operators a major advantage over those gyms that lack that level of insight.

Efficiency and Informed Decision-Making

By leveraging 'this-gen' technology to access and fully utilise their data, forward-thinking fitness operators are changing the way they do business. They are overcoming the challenges posed by a lack of insight, and making their processes more efficient as a result. 

Although a proportion of operators may feel overwhelmed by the data, this is perhaps due to the volume of data they now have access to. The challenge with having so much information is knowing where to start and how to put it to best use. But this is where membership engagement technology can help.

Significantly, operators are effectively having to retrain themselves to think like marketers rather than business owners or fitness operators. However, with the data operators have in their possession, they can start to streamline internal processes and tailor member experiences.

Membership engagement platforms, data segmentation, marketing automation, and AI are all catalysts for positive change. The journey toward digital maturity in the UK fitness industry is marked by progress and challenges. 

While operators are navigating the complexities of data, the advent of advanced technologies, including AI, is lighting the way forward. 

The key lies in not just collecting data but in harnessing the power of technology to turn that data into actionable insights, ultimately creating a more engaging and personalised experience for fitness enthusiasts across the UK.

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