COVID-19 has significantly impacted the fitness industry globally. Forced shutdowns – for months in many regions – have left gyms and studios coping with membership cancellations and freezes, limited engagement, and a widespread transition to at-home exercise routines.
Upon reopening, most gyms report that only a fraction of their former users are checking in – typically due to perceptions about safety, discomfort with exercising indoors among other people, or financial concerns. Others who purchased home exercise equipment during lockdown have adopted a new regimen and don’t plan on returning to the gym.
Faced with reduced traffic and limited revenue, health clubs must proactively strive to build member loyalty and increase member growth in order to succeed in the future. These key considerations are imperative to business survival during this challenging period.
Given changing restrictions and pervasive uncertainty resulting from COVID-19, it’s critical to communicate before, during, and after reopening so your members are aware and stay updated. Address new policies and procedures, such as making reservations for classes, wearing masks, and social distancing, and announce what is currently not available.
Share the specific details of cleaning protocols, outlining member expectations, staff responsibilities, and overall club procedures to help people feel safe to come back. Consider posting frequently asked questions and answers on your facility’s website. And entice members to return with special, limited-time offerings, including a free 30-minute session with a personal trainer, a free massage, or a free smoothie.
Using a variety of channels for consistent communication with your members fosters greater engagement and connection.
Connection with a community is a huge benefit that gyms and studios can offer its users, and it can be a powerful incentive to return. Clubs and studios should promote socialization opportunities through group exercise classes, small group training, motivational programs, and more to members that have returned, as well as to those who still have memberships frozen. While in-person social opportunities currently are quite limited, gyms can highlight the valuable camaraderie and connection that naturally occur within their walls, or even online during live streamed workouts.
Staff should be encouraged to show empathy to and spend time talking with members during this difficult season. Inviting gym-goers for input regarding upcoming club programming or services is another way to foster connection. And trainers should individually contact all former clients who haven’t returned to invite them for a session.
To stimulate member growth, gyms should take on multiple efforts, like giving current members guest passes so they can bring in a friend. Member referral programs must be broadly advertised and be attractive to both existing members and new prospects. Providing several membership options – such as in-studio only, virtual only, short-term, and limited access – can draw additional prospects.
Furthermore, clubs should contact former members who may be ready to reactivate, as well as conduct targeted community outreach to attract exercisers whose clubs have closed or who will not return to their former facility. Offering special, limited-time promotions to these populations can be particularly effective after prolonged studio shutdowns.