Member Retention. Since the dawn of health clubs, improving member retention has been one of the fitness industry’s greatest challenges. Retention is only getting tougher because of the variety of activities consumers have available to them now.
Consumer expectations are rising as more fitness opportunities and activities become available. In addition, members are no longer bound by rigid long-term contracts. To keep members, you must have a detailed retention strategy in place to be successful.
But there’s good news from the digital world! Digital technology can actually be a tool for improving member retention for any fitness center, gym, studio and health club.
Here, we outline six secrets for improving member retention, and explain how these secrets become even more potent in a digital world.
6 Secrets For Improving Member Retention
1. Know your members
The first step to keeping your members is to get to know who they are. By that, we don’t just mean their name, age and membership package, but to really, really know each and every member.
How did they come to you in the first place? Why did they join? How often do they attend the club and what do they do when they’re there? Are they class regulars, and if so, which classes? Do they come alone or with family or friends? How well are they progressing towards their goals? What do they spend money on in your club? Do they interact with you away from the club–and how? What NPS score do they give you? How many referrals have they made? Have they ever made a complaint and was it resolved to their satisfaction? What conversations and interactions have they had with your team members? What’s their current lifetime value (LTV)?
Ultimately, the more you know about your members, the more you can create products and services that meet their needs. Then you can create targeted marketing messaging to provide a personal touch.
Sound daunting? It needn’t, because this is where technology comes in. You’d be stunned by how much of this member data already exists in your operation. Most fitness businesses have a wealth of knowledge if they are using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software system. Most give you easy access to customer surveys, internet reviews, class bookings, training evaluations, exercise equipment usage, virtual class usage, app interactions, and even providing stats shared from members’ own fitness tech wearables.
Health club technology systems are rich repositories of customer data. The problem is, much of the member data remains untapped in a typical fitness center.
In addition, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation makes using data easy.
With AI, the number of actionable insights you can extract from your data will astonish you about what your members want. Really get to know your target customer with programming and messages.
Add automation technology to your toolkit and you’ll be in a position to serve up personalised communications at scale. For example, you can automatically send emails or text messages with targeted messages for each member or by the service they use. Far from undermining the personal touch in your gym, digital technology offers the potential to enhance personalisation exponentially.
Secret #1 Member Retention Solution: Mining your data for member insights.
2. Refocus From Sales To Member Retention
Equally important, the fitness industry must finally shift its focus from membership sales to member retention.
We know that acquiring new customers can be up to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing customers. We also know the fitness industry’s median member retention rate is around 70%; some sources place it closer to 55–60%.
Rather than constantly re-filling a chronically leaking bucket, it’s time to shift our attention to retaining the members we already have. With AI, we can really identify the high LTV member profiles to enable you to focus on customer satisfaction, meeting member needs, and exceeding their expectations by forging strong relationships and creating an experience that’s valued to a point where members won’t give it up.
Improving member retention significantly impacts clubs’ bottom line by reducing acquisition costs. Satisfied members also spend more money in your club, act as unpaid ambassadors for your brand, and refer friends, family, and colleagues. Those prospects are likely to be similar in profile to the member and will result in less marketing costs. High LTV customers become the perfect prospecting tool.
Indeed, this process can help to sell new members. By first creating an accurate ideal member profile and then marketing to that precise profile, you are wasting costs marketing to the wrong profiles. Once again, digital marketing technology enables you to fine-tune messaging to that targeted consumer segment.
3. Build Relevant Customer Experiences
Let’s now look at creating an experience your members won’t want to give up, which starts by harnessing your new member insights to give members exactly what they want all the time.
First, let’s acknowledge the big difference between customer service and customer experience.
Customer service is a single event within the customer journey as when the customer reaches out for support.
Customer experience refers to all the interactions a customer has with your brand across every digital and physical touchpoint.
To improve member retention, every one of these touchpoints has to be designed around the very specific needs, desires, and aspirations of the members at your club(s).
So, what do your members want, and crucially, where do they want it? Note that digital and virtual services shouldn’t always be a membership add-on. For an integrated customer experience, we must weave together digital and physical touchpoints into the very fabric of the in- and out-of-club journey.
In-club, digital touchpoints might include virtual group exercise, facility access control, cashless payment, or personalised notifications triggered by GPS.
Out-of-club, they might include on-demand fitness content, fitness apps, class bookings, club newsletters, nutritional advice, challenges and rewards, or remote personal training support. The possibilities to provide outstanding customer experiences are endless and the data from those generated from those touchpoints invaluable.
Of course, you’ll want to create experiences your members can’t get elsewhere. Be aware of competition and fitness trends to keep things fresh and members engaged. One word of caution: you’ll want to create experiences that are true to your brand. Make sure those services are not a fad and are a viable part of your business strategy to support your targeted customers. Never lose sight of the experiences you designed for your targeted members. Collaboration and consultation is key to creating a product your members value, and this perceived value is fundamental to improving member retention.
Finally, rising consumer expectations drive the need for Customer Experience with a capital E, so automate where possible. Digital technology and automation can free up your team to add value across all touchpoints of your experience, and free up budget for eye-catching wow factor value-adds.
4. Create A 24/7 Relationship With Virtual
We’ve covered this in secret #3, but it’s so important that it deserves its own secret entry. In today’s always-on digital world, clubs must have a relationship with their members that goes beyond club walls. This is critical to improving member retention, especially when there are so many other products and services vying to serve them away from the gym.
Not that gyms should try to be all things fitness and wellness to all members, but it’s OK to accept that your services are a part of people’s broader wellness lifestyles. You should have services available for your members whenever and wherever they choose to turn to you.
So, harness the power of virtual fitness content and mobile fitness apps to engage customers in new and innovative ways. Offer on-demand fitness, virtual group classes, and wellness content that supports convenience for members, complementing what they do with in your fitness facility. Give them the power to manage and bespoke their own experiences with your brand. Provide digital and virtual touchpoints, creating a 24/7 relationship without tying up valuable club resources and staff.
5. Reinforce Your Community
With group exercise (GX) a proven driver of member retention, clubs must maximise its impact and reach inside the club and out. Virtual group classes are a great way to do so cost-effectively. You can complement live instructor-led classes by making high-quality GX available around the clock. Not only will you provide more variety than the usual roster and times of live instructors, but you’ll increase your reach. Cue in the undeniable strength and depth of virtual content represented by Wexer Virtual’s 1,600+ classes, for example.
This not only maximises the yield of studio space, but also drives increased member satisfaction. Even pre-lockdown, before people became accustomed to following the lead of on-screen instructors, Wexer’s research found virtual GX offerings improved member retention and boosted membership sales. Now, with on-screen fitness an accepted norm, the demand for virtual GX is higher than ever.
Clubs must also recognise the power their own instructors and trainers now hold. They are part of the fitness content creation in your club and add value to your brand in the digital arena. They are also the faces your members know and community ambassadors in an increasingly digital world.
If you’re looking for an advantage over the big digital players and the global fitness influencers, your team becomes your local rockstars, whose relationships with members weld them to your brand and drive customer experience and member retention.
Every club operator should therefore maximise opportunities to put their in-house rockstars in front of customers by creating digital content with them. With Wexer’s digital technology and ecosystem, you can stream content both on-site with a big screen of the virtual studio, and directly to members’ own devices 24/7 for maximum ROI.
6. Review and Refine
Forget gut instinct. Forget what your experience might tell you. The joy of digital is that it hands you clear, usable data. You know exactly what they are actually doing, not just what customers tell you they do or would like to do.
Regularly review the data and refine your customer experience based on what members are doing and each touchpoint. What on-demand content are they watching, and does this differ in-club versus out? Are there any sticking points where members drop out of your online booking system? Which instructors are your in-person tribe-builders and who are your online superstars? Which sales channels are bringing you the highest LTV members who stay with you the longest?
With digital, you can see very clearly what’s working and allow you to do more of it – and with it improve member retention.
Find out how Wexer’s unparalleled technology and content library can help you implement these lessons to the benefit of your business in 2023: email@example.com