If we look at the research on why members stay or leave a health club, we can more accurately target our approach to gym design, marketing and business.
We know from research, for example, that across 26 countries and more than 3 million health club members, the same factors determine whether someone stays at a gym or not.
They are: age, visit frequency, interaction, contract length and price point.
Addressing each of these is a surefire way to increase your chances of success, attract new members and retain existing ones.
Make sure your members show up
For age, that might mean having a fitness class aimed at the aging population or including some SCIFIT equipment in your gym, which is designed for accessibility.
Visit frequency is about making sure that members who have signed up actually show up. We know that the more often a member attends the gym, the longer they will stay a member.
In addition, members who have a routine — coming to the gym at the same time and days each week — stay a member for an average of six months longer than those who only come every so often. Are you providing your members with reasons to come to your facility often?
Research has also shown that members who make a friend at the gym are 40 per cent less likely to cancel their membership. So a promotion you could run in your facility might be something to promote friendship between members.
One example might be staging a promotion within the gym around ‘Train with a stranger this week’ or pairing a new member up with an old member and running a competition around this.
In terms of interactions, how staff and PTs in your gym speak to the members can impact whether they keep coming back. Giving encouragement, using people’s names and asking questions about their training all help to keep members feeling engaged and happy to be at your facility.
In fact, research has found that for every 12 staff interactions, one member who would otherwise cancel their membership will stay for at least another month.
Moving forward, your facility will need to be offering your members a digital experience, with, for example, wearable technology connectivity so exercisers can track their workouts and gamified fitness classes.
Research by Dr. Paul Bedford and Dr. Melvyn Hillsdon has looked at the positive and negative aspects that keep people either keen to come back to the gym — or make them want to stop coming.
Positive experiences at a gym that make people keep coming back:
- Completing a challenging workout
- Reception staff speaking to you
- Encouragement from staff
- Achieving fitness goals
Negative experiences that make people want to leave:
- Club staff not speaking to you
- Queuing for gym equipment
- Dirty changing rooms and facilities
It can sometimes seem like we have no effect on whether people will sign up or cancel their memberships. Taken one by one, however, you can significantly target the factors to increase the odds that your members and potential members are getting a fitness experience at your facility like no other.
Bedford and Hillsdon (2017.) Health Club Handbook 2017. Published online by Health Club Management.