It’s mid-August and a sense of normality has returned to the fitness industry in the UK. What better time to look at what the ‘new normal’ looks like, after what has been a truly traumatic and industry changing period of 18 months.
Digital fitness has seen a meteoric rise during the pandemic. Although there is much press around the bubble bursting for digital fitness, no one can disagree that it is now here to stay as a staple part of the fitness industry.
What was previously perceived as a ‘nice to have’ has now become a core fitness offering all over the world. But what else has fundamentally changed since March last year?
Redefining the way we work is one of the most notable changes during the pandemic. This shift in working patterns – working from home or from different locations, and having increased flexibility around working hours – has certainly had an impact on our leisure time.
So what can you do as a gym owner to increase member engagement and attract new members to your facility? Here are our tips on how best to adapt your fitness business after the pandemic is over.
Changes gym owners should consider moving forward, what’s here to stay after the pandemic is over
1. Review your class timetable
Since less people are working in the traditional 9 to 5 schedule in the office, the typical rush hours (just before work between 6-8AM and right after work between 6-8PM) have also shifted after the pandemic.
Fitness 24/7 reports that the new peak hours are precisely between 9AM and 5PM, with significantly increased visits during lunchtime.
We have also noticed access events throughout the entire day remain steady from 6AM until 10PM (with a slight increase in the late afternoon) compared to the typical peak periods pre-pandemic in the early morning and late afternoon.
Think about a class schedule that offers more options during the new peak hours as the starting point for increasing member engagements, encouraging group exercise and community building at your facility.
2. Update your staffing structure
While working patterns have shifted, the need for PT support, both on the gym floor and remotely, remains a priority.
Two interactions a month between staff at a health club and their members can reduce membership cancellations by up to 33%, according to IHRSA.
Knowing when members are in the gym or exercising remotely, you can update the staffing structure to match the increased need for support during those hours. This will help you increase member engagement, create more meaningful interactions between members and PTs, and ultimately work towards building more positive experiences and reviews of your fitness club’s brand.
Listen to our chat with Paul Swainson on how to empower your Personal Trainers and help them adapt to the post-pandemic climate.
3. Create a library of digital content
If your gym members are not exercising with your branded fitness content, then they are doing so with videos from a competitor. Having digital content has now become an expectation.
According to Hootsuite, 72% of people used YouTube to exercise or keep fit in 2020. There was a shocking 515% increase in videos with “home workout” in the title in March alone.
Your library of digital fitness content can include any number of things:
- Home workouts (HIIT, Cardio, Strength, Circuit)
- Recordings of live classes (you can first launch these on social media, then upload them to your mobile app)
- Nutrition lessons (from meal preparation to following a specific food regime)
- Wellness sessions (Meditation, Stretches, Yoga)
- Education (technique drills, exercise variations)
4. Offer great digitally enhanced customer experience
From joining your gym through getting to know the facility to getting paired with a trainer or starting a training plan, more members than ever expect a frictionless customer experience.
Did you know that after just one bad experience, 32% of people will stop doing business with a brand or company? According to a recent study by PwC, bad experiences are driving customers away faster than before.
But how can you prevent bad experiences? While you can’t prepare for every possible bad scenario, you can put together playbooks that cover different member personalities, which will help your team to act with more empathy.
For example, Tom wants to join your gym. He’s just suffered the latest COVID variant and wants to bounce back to his fitness levels before the virus. Since this might be a common scenario at the moment, it’s worth taking the time to put together a couple of resources that will help you engage members like Tom more meaningfully right from the start:
- prepare a short recovery survey that Tom can do at home or in-club
- create a 6-week recovery training plan ready to send after the survey
- schedule a check in session with Tom at the end of his training plan, which will help you understand his progress and whether he needs another training plan
- schedule emails that give Tom more information about the additional fitness services you offer: On Demand fitness library, gym classes, and member rewards in the mobile app, and so on.
But just as much as you carefully plan every step of the customer journey, think about the steps that you can eliminate too to make it as effortlessly as possible for the member.
5. Introduce multi club access to your facilities
With the increased flexibility of one’s working habits, people expect to have the same flexibility when it comes to their customer experiences. Whether it’s shopping or visiting a leisure centre, consumers want to have different options to do their favourite activities.
If the local supermarket can offer an in-store or online shopping experience that fits the buyer’s schedule, so should the gym where members are willing to spend hundreds of pounds to invest in their health.
A survey from MSISE shows that 50% of members stay at a gym because of their location. But with people working from home, relocating or working out remotely, gyms should be prepared to introduce more flexibility with their membership offerings if they want to expand their reach.
For the multi-site gym owners, it’s important to recognise the unique opportunity to open your doors to members from different clubs as a way to unite your fitness community and offer increased flexibility.
What gym owners need to focus on now, in the recovery period while customer behaviour is still changing, is use digital fitness to design better membership experiences and introduce more flexibility among their fitness offerings.
To help strengthen your fitness community and attract new leads post-COVID, you need to:
1. Pay attention to the data to make informed decisions based on changing trends and customer behaviour.
2. Utilize what’s currently available to use in terms of digital fitness tools.
3. Create amazing membership experiences, both in-club and online.
4. Stay closer to your members – keep the communication going even remotely.
5. Provide continuous value during the new normal working conditions, directly (PTs reaching out) or indirectly (building a library of On Demand video content).
Digital fitness has played a key role in helping the fitness industry survive the pandemic and it will continue to do so even after the pandemic is over.
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