After the ups and downs of holiday scheduling and the frenzy of new member sign ups during the first couple of months of the year, you could be forgiven for wanting a breather. But classes are still packed, especially in cold weather states, new members are getting to grips with everything your club offers and there’s a long list of pre-spring to-do’s waiting for most club operators and their teams. In can be challenging but setting aside the time now to assess the year ahead holistically and begin making some simple changes will help optimize operations and actually make dramatic improvements to staff and member experiences. Let’s take a closer look at the new rules of engagement for clubs today.
Start with better experiences for member retention
IHRSA surveys show just two intentional and personal interactions between your staff and members per month cuts the member fall-off rate by 33% in the following month. And as 80% of new members leave within the first five months, a focus on retention should be at the heart of any new efficiency initiative in the way you operate. Retaining all members starts with building exceptional experiences. Invest time in training front desk staff to prioritize personal member connections at check in, and either encourage or incentivize personal trainers and your instructors to find opportunities to offer one-on-one help for members around the club or in class.
Improved member communications is important too for a couple of reasons: engagement and brand visibility for every member. Review all communications as you plan to streamline operations in the year ahead. What’s the open rate on member emails and can you improve engagement by offering deals, promos or content they can use? Are your social channels growing? Can you include more experiential content on your Instagram, TikTok or Facebook groups – instructor tips, how-to advice from trainers and stories about happy, engaged members. Organic video content drives 40% more consumer engagement than static images and should be a key part of your member communications in all forms.
Cater to all age fitness groups
20 years ago clubs catered en-masse to the most popular demographic: members in their 20s, interested in cardio and weights-based programs. Today industry stats show for club success and most crucially growth – it’s important to cater to all age groups. While it’s true younger members (18-34) account for the largest group of gym goers, older members 55+ actually represent the fastest growing demographic and visit the club more frequently than younger ones.
A big driver of this is the shift in consumer behaviors toward overall wellness – exercise, activities, diet and health programs that make them feel good about themselves – as opposed to simply looking and feeling good from a workout. The smartest clubs are broadening services and their member experience approach to cater accordingly. Think about adding more flexibility, core and strength classes to your roster of HIIT and other cardio sessions – as older members need to work on balance, posture and strength as much as burning calories and toning. Your on-demand content library should offer a mix of more instructor-led cardio workouts but also factor in growing member interests in, and need for, flexibility conditioning, yoga and short form recovery exercises that are now booming in popularity.
Expand access to digital tools to engage more members
Most clubs now offer some form of virtual fitness experience or digital content to members, but ask yourself is my library of content working hard for my members? What could we improve? Start by reviewing offerings of scheduled on-demand classes and ensure you have a good rotation of cardio, cycle, core strength and specialty classes that echo what you’re providing in live instructor sessions. Then think about more holistically integrating digital content and virtual experiences into your in-club model as it can provide benefits for both day to day operations and member experience. Focus on these three engagement ideas:
- Make on-demand workouts and short form exercises a part of everyday workouts. Some members find it intimidating or a lot of effort to go into a dedicated digital fitness studio and workout. But more clubs are beginning to bring a new generation of easy-to-use stand-alone fitness stations like SO1O by Fitness OnDemand into open and multi-use spaces around the club. Intuitive and loaded with all kinds of short-from exercises and technique workouts as well as flexibility and wind-down they can create member engagement in stretch and recovery areas or located near free weights for self-guided sessions. Bringing digital content out of solely your studio also helps familiarize more members with the offering.
- Use fresh daily content packages to motivate, engage and inspire members too. Some on-demand content providers offer short form technique, form and strength exercises. Circuits360 by FitnessOnDemand for example offers members a fresh circuit of daily, self-guided exercises that they can jump into at any time on an open display and add something different and inspiring to the start or wind down of their other daily workout activities.
- It’s critical to ensure members know about and use the on-demand content your app provides. Whether they’re working out in the club and want to use you app content to do an instructor-led workout on their phone while they’re using a treadmill, or want to pull up a class at home when they can’t get to the club that day, your app and content library is now a central piece of member engagement. Promote it on all social channels, with in-club signage and in email news to your membership.
Todd Wiginton is a seasoned fitness professional with over a decade of experience in the industry, currently serving as the Director of Operations at Fitness On Demand. His career, marked by roles such as Personal Training Manager and Strength and Conditioning Coach, showcases his dedication to fostering personal and professional growth in ever-changing environments.