It’s time for the fitness industry to change again. Of course, club operators might argue “haven’t we changed enough since 2020?” and they’d be right. But there are critical demographic changes and significant shifts coming in consumer behavior in 2024 that will have real impacts on which fitness brands and clubs make it, and which definitely don’t.
Let’s take demographic change for instance. While we might think of Gen Z still being teenage gamers at home with their parents, the oldest of the generation turn 27 this year with others aging quickly into a time of life that means more seniority at work, more spending power and a key customer category for gyms and clubs that want to grow.
Why’s that important? Two reasons – first, according to a new 2024 study by McKinsey, 56% of Gen Z consider fitness an important priority. And second, they are a generation that highly values wellness, balance and the convenience that technology brings.
As you plan the year ahead for your club, gym or fitness brand, it’s going to be essential to look at three areas of focus: how do you target, engage and satisfy your changing member demographics, how does fitness become overall wellness, and what role does technology play in everything you do?
These observations and strategies can help.
Member Engagement: Adapt to shifting consumer behaviors and preferences
The heart of any fitness business lies in its members. As membership interests evolve, so should club offerings and business strategies. McKinsey's Future of Wellness survey reveals that over 50% of US consumers prioritize wellness in six dimensions that appeal to all member demographics.
As you review ways to adapt to member needs, consider each of these areas as stand-alone offerings but also how they integrate to provide an overall exceptional member experience.
That of course means cutting-edge equipment and clean facilities, high energy and experienced instructors that can fill class after class, but it also means balanced nutrition, healthy food and snacks in your cafes and an overall approach to wellness offerings too.
As health, fitness and wellness continue to intersect, it may be time to invest in, and promote, spa treatments, wellness massage and other offerings that make the club an oasis beyond just a place to work out.
Enhanced Content Programming: Diversify wellness programming everywhere
We’ve come a long way from on-demand and virtual fitness content being an alternative to going to the gym. Easily accessible, on-demand fitness and wellness content is an absolute must have, both for younger members who’ve grown up as digital natives and older members with busy schedules and a real need for convenience.
But it’s also time to bring on-demand content out of the dedicated fitness studio at your club. Pre-packaged, short form exercise circuits running on displays in your free weights areas can help to keep often uninspiring weights workouts for members fresh and more inspiring.
Use flat screens to run instructor-guided stretch in recovery zones, or some content libraries now offer sports news and atmospheric wellness content for club lobbies, spas and other central member meeting areas that can be packaged with ads and club announcement to keep members informed.
Employ all of these strategies to integrate digital content into your club environment but also look to promote and increase popular instructor-led live classes by streaming to members at home or on the go.
There’s a growing trend toward things like Taylor Swift-themed cycling courses and glow-in-the-dark HIIT classes that turn regular, instructor-led classes create into events and streaming opportunities that engage members and grow interest and loyalty in your live club offerings.
Operational Efficiency: Harnessing automated technologies
Building a long-term business involves creating lasting efficiencies, and technology plays a pivotal role. Automation tools can streamline front desk check-ins, scheduling, billing, and membership renewals, saving administrative time. And advanced AI-assisted systems can now collect and analyze member data in near real-time, offering detailed insights into behavior, workout times, and preferences.
These insights enhance on-site efficiency and contribute to more informed decisions in including class scheduling and staff allocation. Invest in appropriate tech improvements, allocate resources for staff training or data gathering tools and AI, and transform your business into a data-driven, nimble, and efficient entity to engage members and drive membership and services sales.
Digital Engagement: Activating members with mobile tech
In a world where 81.6% of Americans own smartphones and spend over five hours daily on content consumption, embracing mobile-first member communications and marketing is now a business imperative.
Too many clubs buy an off-the-shelf app or underutilize its capabilities for engagement and brand development. Start by undertaking a review of your current app usage, engagement periods, and popular features. Then create a comprehensive strategy for app usage by capitalizing on member engagement patterns.
Utilize push notifications, promotions, streaming classes, short-form workouts, and social media groups to keep members engaged both online and in the club. Ensure too that every digital touchpoints is optimized to build a strong sense of community and connection between members and your front of house, trainer and instructor teams around the club.
Inclusive Approach: Focus on broader demographics not just new members
Gen Z members may be on the rise, but it’s worth noting that members aged 55+ still represent the fastest growing segment of the gym-going population. Part of this is driven by a continued post-pandemic focus on wellness and health for increased longevity, but it’s also a reflection of changing patterns globally.
By 2030, one in six people around the world will be over the age of 60. So it’s critical to balance new member acquisition and accommodations with services and programming that cater to an all-ages membership.
An easy, and inexpensive way to keep activities focused on all age needs is to conduct a start of year review of offerings and fitness content. While implementing changes in live studios and the calendar and mix of classes and activities may take time, you can instantly diversify on-demand and mobile streaming content by collaborating with your on-demand partner. Work with them to organize an on-demand and streaming content library that of course includes HIIT and specialty exercise, but increasingly includes collections of regularly updated core and flexibility content, stretches for improved range of motion and balance, and overall wellness content like meditation, Pilates and yoga.
As 2024 unfolds, invest the time, energy and focus in making sure your club or brand doesn’t stand still. Track the trends, meet member needs and keep moving to keep growing.
Andy Peat is a visionary with a rich background in product innovation, operational management, business expansion, and over 10 years of leadership experience in the fitness industry. He spent a couple of years refining his strategic and management skills as the Chief Product Officer at Lift Brands, before pivoting to expand upon his leadership skills and passion for fitness as the CEO of Fitness On Demand.