Member retention is the one major ongoing challenge in the fitness industry. For the past years, the market has been in a state of flux, with gyms losing market share to budget chains as well as high-end gyms and boutique studios, especially in the medium segment. Add to that the emergent trend of online fitness, and it's clear that competition for members is fierce and retention is more important than ever.
While large budget chains can safely bet their business model on "sleeper" members (who maintain an active membership but hardly visit the gym), this is often not an option for medium and upper segment businesses, since membership fees are less easily ignored.
For these businesses, the key to retention is member engagement. This is essentially the degree to which members are willing to invest time and money in your services, in exchange for value.
Think about it: someone who pays 15 bucks per month for a membership has a lower engagement threshold to keep up payments. If your membership fees are in the $50-$100 range, your members need to be significantly more invested in order to keep them on board.
A larger time investment is conducive to an increase in motivation. In turn, motivation is the cornerstone of habit formation, since habits only form over time and as a result of consistent behavior. And people who have an intrinsic habit of going to the gym do wonders for member retention.
Members who invest in your business both time-wise and money-wise provide better opportunities for cross and up-selling. After all, membership retention and cross/up-selling go hand in hand when it comes to increasing the CLV.
Boosting member engagement can be a time-intensive process if you have a large number of clients. In today's tech-savvy world, customers are calling for more personalization and customized experiences. Furthermore, mobile tech has created expectations of flexibility and 24/7 options to get in touch - on the consumer's terms.
To engage your members, you have to use technology. The key is to be omnipresent. Use the whole array of channels at your disposal to create an online presence so clients can reach you however suits them best: your website, social media channels, email, a dedicated mobile app, or whatever other channels are heavily-used by your audience.
Of course, don't just be present. There's a lot of noise out there and you don't want to blur in with the background. You should have a solid content strategy in place to provide members with regular touch points so they won't forget about you.
To boost engagement further, focus on enhancing your client experience. For fitness businesses, there are various tailored solutions that help with member engagement:
Mobile fitness apps, which allow flexible guidance
Client coaching and communication tools, for around-the-clock service
Wearables, for increased insights in activity in performance and progression
The tactics above focus on increasing your members' time investment. To boost their money investment, the focus should be on adding meaningful value. The key to doing this is to gain data-driven insights in your members' wants and needs. Analyze which classes are popular, what your peak hours are, best-sellers in your point of sale or online store, etc., so you can make informed business decisions based on the resulting insights.
Again, there are various solutions that can help you with these challenges:
Scheduling software, to increase service level while gaining insights into class performance
POS software to make cross-selling and up-selling easier (and to connect this with enhancing the client experience: wearables present great opportunities for extra revenue)
Club management software, to gain crucial insights in acquisition, churn, and other types of client data.
Member retention is one of the major challenges in the fitness industry. A sure-fire tactic to overcoming this challenge is to focus on member engagement. To help you keep members engaged both money-wise as time-wise, there are various tech tools that can help you get the job done without investing a lot of your own time. To find out what these solutions have to offer, check out GetApp's reviews of club management software
About the Author
Pieter Verschuren is Communications Manager at Virtuagym, provider of all-in-one fitness software for coaching and club management.