REVISIT YOUR MEMBERSHIP
It has obviously been a while since members were allowed into your gym, and since then it has been crucial to find ways to keep them engaged and motivated to continue their exercise habits. This has been an unprecedented challenge that has required quick thinking and sharp agility to overcome, and the industry has truly shown what it’s made of as it has promptly and decisively adapted to offer hybrid membership options. With research pointing towards more people intending to exercise at home more frequently after the pandemic, flexible membership solutions that “play both games” are here to stay. Your in-gym membership traffic should increase over time as people become more comfortable with a lot of research suggesting that the majority of members plan to return within three months of gyms reopening. This is supported further by recent research conducted by Sport England and Savanta ComRes which suggests that as much as 87% of the member population will return once gyms reopen. Even more positive is that 27% of non-members expect to take a membership off the back of the pandemic. This is clearly an exciting an opportunity, but to take advantage you will need to ensure you have the right balance of membership options with sufficient flexibility.
Engagement is key
Keeping your members engaged to grow their adherence (i.e. frequency of exercise/use of your facility) is the age-old key to retention, both pre and post-Covid, and that’s not going anywhere. Clearly this has been even more challenging than usual recently, but those members who remain engaged tend to be the most loyal so it’s vital to find ways to keep them tuned into their exercise habits with you and your community.
As well as flexible options that allow members to combine at-home exercise with their training in your gym, it could be worth considering increased flexibility in payment options too to reflect the increased choice exercisers have. This can be a useful way to build trust which is also a key ingredient to achieving member loyalty.
The increase in choice is also enabling exercisers to personalise their fitness experiences around them, and the pandemic has increased awareness of what’s possible. The key here will be to embrace this and facilitate it, placing your facility at the centre of their fitness world with the ability to build everything else around them.
The fear & habit of home workouts
Many members will have experienced the home fitness concept for the first time. There is a possibility that they liked it and wish to continue with research supporting the view that home fitness is going to be a key ingredient of personal fitness routines moving forward. The other scenario is that some may dislike it and feel the urge to get back to working out at the gym as soon as possible. How a member feels will be personal to them and influenced by a range of factors. Either way, it’s essential to respond and do what you can to retain your members as this is much more cost-effective than attracting new members.
Try to think in solutions. In case your gym is still closed, consider renting out bikes or accessories: medicine balls, kettlebells, mats, resistance bands and even dumbbells. An incentive like this in combination with live streaming group classes in the facility will make sure that the number of members that join an online class increases. You can do this by yourself or together with other gym owners in your area, as well as equipment suppliers of course. For example, Life Fitness offers home solutions such as the Digital Coach platform and the ICG Online Coach and World Tour Series with packages of accessories to ensure a complete home workout.
Year-round offers instead of temporary promotions
Members may also be facing financial difficulties, so try to engage with them on and individual basis to understand their situation. This will help you make key decisions on how you continue to structure membership while your facility remains closed. Inevitably, there will be pressure to keep generating revenue in the short term, but this needs to be balanced with the impact of possibly losing members in the long term. For example, a solution could be to offer members extra free months after their contract period. The advantage of this is that each membership has a different end date which means those free weeks or even months are spread out to alleviate some of the ‘pain’.
Try staying open during national holidays – in other words, make up for the time you were closed and stay open at days you normally close.
Save on rent
Medium and large chains may decide to strategically not reopen their gyms to have leverage with their landlords in not paying rent, until they see the opportunity of break-even or providing a better environment and experience for their members. We understand that this can be an issue for smaller chains or standalone facilities and that circumstances vary.
Another option is to collect a certain percentage of the membership which is sufficient to meet fixed charges while you are closed. For example, charging only a proportion of the typical fee during closure that will be repaid or credited upon reopening. This is also a form of ‘spreading the pain’ to be able to keep your business afloat.
Offer temporary alternative memberships
Are you able to open parts of your facility and repurpose space such as conducting outdoor group classes? Give members the possibility to subscribe and pay only for these facilities. Freeze their current membership and offer them a temporary contract for limited services. This way, you are still able to welcome them, they are happy to perform their workouts and you will still receive your basic cashflow.
Did you know that people stay because of people?
The latest information from Global Web Index indicates that 8% of current gym members in the UK say they expect to cancel their membership. When gym-goers consider leaving or cancelling their subscription, they might do so because they feel disconnected and not part of something. Going to the gym for most people is a social experience with a hunger to be part of something more than just exercise; they want to be part of a community. Achieving this for people means they are less likely to leave. How about offering a ‘bring-a-friend’ promotion to take advantage of the increased intent from non-members to join a gym post-Covid? This might be tricky given social distancing, but if possible, these promotions are proven to be very valuable for you as a gym owner, as well as for your current members and potential new members. Also, try to offer vouchers for your bar or shop for cashflow when you are able to offer these services. There’s one thing that almost everyone loves - free stuff! One of the simplest ways to please members is to compensate the membership fee with a goodie bag, perhaps even a customised face mask for when they return.
Do you want to have more practical hints and tips on how to prepare for the reopening of your gym? Download our free e-book now.