Insight Update

A modern digital strategy for January retention for gyms

New Year, new gym membership – it’s a well-known phenomenon! In fact, research revealed that 12 per cent of all new gym sign ups happen in January, which is a welcome boost for gyms and leisure centres. However, four per cent of these new members quit before the end of January, 14 per cent by the end of February and 50 per cent within six months, says Claire Rollins, CEO at UK leading cloud-based leisure management company Gladstone.

Improving these statistics is crucial both for the industry, but also for the wider population’s health. Physical inactivity is associated with 1 in 6 deaths in the UK. This is trending downwards too. Our population is around 20 per cent less active than in the 1960s and if current trends continue, it will be 35 per cent less active by 2030.

What, then, can be done to transform the January boom and bust into longer term retained growth for both the leisure sector, but also for the nation’s health? I believe a key pillar of this has to be an effective digital strategy.
This can facilitate a smoother and more supportive customer experience, increasing retention. There are many different aspects to this, which I will outline below:

Help members craft realistic, achievable goals

One of the main reasons that new gym members quit after January is that they have unrealistic expectations about the speed of their progress. Often coming in, expecting to drop a few belt loops within weeks, they become disheartened and stop attending when this doesn’t happen.

In order to mitigate this, it is essential to work with new members to set realistic goals centred around wellness and the wider benefits of an active lifestyle, and to then continue to check in with them. Think visit frequency, the formation of a habit and variety of workout vs. weight loss and inches. It can be a challenge for staff to keep tabs on every member’s goals, which is where an effective digital strategy comes into play.

Capturing customer goals and storing them on their member profile means they can be automatically displayed to employees on entry, enabling them to welcome members and check in on progress, even where they don’t recognise the person. Automated digital communications also play a powerful part here, particularly in creating habits. A ‘Hey, we missed you last week!’ or ‘Yay you tried a spin class! How was it?’ email or SMS goes a long way with members looking to establish a routine of activity and requires no staff intervention once configured.

Similarly, ‘gamification’, nudging techniques, celebrating successes and encouraging habit forming behaviour are powerful tools that can make all the difference to those members taking their first steps into building a long term, active lifestyle.

This continued checking in, and knowledge of each person, builds a sense of habit and accountability and encourages the recognition of progress, helping to retain members in the long term.

Giving that personal touch

There are many different ways to exercise, and everyone is unique in what they want to achieve from their membership. This is where staff having a personal relationship with members is so crucial.

Freeing up your team from working behind a desk enhances their ability to provide a great service to your members, and with a tablet enabled management system this shouldn’t limit the transactions they can complete.
This allows front of house teams to offer a concierge service, where they can better facilitate access (and subsequently reduce queuing), respond to queries and proactively advise on new classes/activities which keep the member experience relevant and engaged.

This is something that consumers are calling out for too – our research shows 87 per cent of members want to hear from club staff when in the gym. Leading members on their journey towards finding the right exercise for them is essential to long term retention.

Utilise the data

Data is integral to any business and represents a huge opportunity to sport and leisure providers.

Cloud based technology provides an enhanced opportunity for our data science team to use multiple data points to analyse a vast range of information that can help operators to identify the causes of member churn, so they can create informed, relevant strategies to aid retention.

A cloud-based system also makes it much easier to view, interpret and understand data. Simple, user-friendly analytics enables all team members to make use of visual data identifying trends in attendance. It removes barriers for less tech-savvy employees to provide an accurate picture of customer engagement and journeys through a centre.

As can be seen, January doesn’t have to be simply a spike in membership to drop off over the remainder of the year. The key to improving retention is ensuring you have a customer-centric approach, and I believe an effective digital strategy is crucial to delivering on this.

Author note: Claire Rollins, CEO at UK leading cloud-based leisure management company Gladstone

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