7 Strategies To Improve Gym Membership Retention — STX Software

6 Strategies to Improve Gym Membership Retention

One of the biggest challenges facing any client-forward business is member retention. Attracting and maintaining the business of dedicated, regular customers is the backbone of any membership-driven space.

Over the past few years, the fitness industry has witnessed a swift migration to digital platforms that provide an in-home workout experience that mirrors that of a real studio. While Peloton may have made a name for itself with its stationary bikes and on-demand classes, the brand now has nearly a million digital-only subscribers. In addition, the company also boasts an astonishing 92% retention rate.

As the owner of a gym, health club, or boutique fitness studio, there’s a high likelihood that you have felt the impact of member attrition and wondered how you can compete in the ongoing digital vs. traditional sparring match of the modern fitness community.

That said, let’s talk about the importance of membership retention, the most common causes of gym membership cancellations, and the gym membership retention strategies that can reinvigorate your numbers and keep clients consistently walking through the door.

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What is gym membership retention?

Gym membership retention is simply explained as the number of customers a fitness business can maintain over a designated period of time, such as a month, a quarter, or a year. 

Member retention in the fitness industry varies by field, e.g. a yoga studio vs. a CrossFit gym, but according to reported gym membership retention statistics, the average membership retention rate for fitness studios is around 76%.

Why is gym member retention important?

A common mistake among membership-driven businesses is focusing solely on new acquisitions and rapid growth while neglecting to foster your existing customer database.

Member retention is a crucial metric when it comes to running your fitness business because it is three times more expensive to acquire new clients than it is the maintain the ones you already have, according to the Fitness Business Association.

Additionally, gyms and studios often attract a natural influx of clients, like those taking advantage of new member deals, people brought along by friends, or those looking to meet newly established fitness goals (hello, New Year’s resolutions). So while you may regularly experience a boost in your membership numbers, what are you doing to retain those individuals in the long run?

If you turn your focus to developing the relationships with the clients you already have, members are more likely to continue using your services and share their positive experiences with others, ultimately driving organic growth and saving you the cost of marketing your fitness business to those individuals.

Why do gyms struggle with member retention?

The reason why individuals choose to cancel a gym membership or not to return to a studio varies from person to person, but there are often common complaints or areas where retention becomes a hurdle.

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Let’s look at the most commonly cited reasons why clients choose to cancel their membership.

Top reasons for gym membership cancellations

1. Setting unrealistic goals

As previously mentioned above, gyms and studios are prone to attracting individuals on a health kick or chasing newly established resolutions. In the beginning, their enthusiasm is inspiring and full of can-do spirit.

However, these individuals often get caught up in setting goals that aren’t realistic for their timeline and are bound to fall off when they don’t see instant results. These attendees can’t flourish without your proper guidance and a practical training regimen. 

2. No sense of community

People often join gyms or studios to meet new people and feel connected to their community. A feeling of acceptance and comfortability is paramount to a gym’s overall atmosphere.

However, if you don’t make an effort to engage with your clients and build relationships with them, they’re likely to feel like just another number in your system and will move on and try somewhere else (including your competition).

3. Bad communication

How often do you communicate with your clients? When was the last time you emailed them or posted on social media? Do they know about the latest events or promotions you have going on?

If you find yourself answering negatively to these inquiries, your problem may be a lack of communication with your clients. Regularly engaging your active members (and not just soliciting new ones) online is key to keeping them.

4. Improper hygiene

Poor hygiene has always been a chief source of gym-goer complaints, but even more so in the wake of the pandemic.

Concerns about improper cleaning or sanitizing of equipment or machinery are a major driver behind many members leaning into digital options and choosing to work out from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

5. Too expensive

There’s a reason why online searches like “cheap gym memberships” and “affordable gyms near me” are so popular.

Memberships to boutique fitness studios and gyms are already a luxury expense for many individuals, and with the rippling effects of the pandemic and skyrocketing inflation, a pricey membership just isn’t in the budget. Add to that the accessibility of free resources like Youtube or Instagram, and plenty will opt to just stay home.

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How to improve gym membership retention

Now we have covered the importance of member retention and why clients choose to leave, it’s time to discuss six strategies to improve gym membership retention and turn every guest that walks through your door into a loyal customer.

1. Build your community

Developing a sense of community and support is your strongest tool in improving member retention. Attendees want to feel like they’re a part of a tribe, which is why you should be constantly developing your personal brand and engaging with members as they progress through their training.

Regularly hold events, competitions, special classes, or group challenges that clients can participate in together to encourage member interaction and build relationships. Be attentive to the needs of members and offer feedback and encouragement where you see necessary, especially to those new members who may not be accustomed to a certain practice or regimen.

Most importantly, don’t neglect your social media presence. With the popularity of digital workout platforms, leaning into the digital space keeps you top of mind for many tech-savvy members. Post brief workout videos and tips, engage in your comments and DMs with followers, and share user-generated content celebrating your clients’ progress and achievements! 

2. Improve your communication

It may seem obvious, but your members won’t know about any of the great events or promotions you have going on unless you tell them. Make a point to regularly send a company newsletter that informs members of any community opportunities, special classes, or deals you have available that month, in addition to posting the information on social media for those who follow you. 

If you use an automated email marketing tool, like the Inspire by STX® marketing suite, you can easily schedule emails to automatically go out to clients for a number of personalized reasons, such as:

• Send a member a link to reschedule if they cancel to prevent disengagement.

• Send a follow-up email to a new client after their first visit with tips and a link to schedule their next class or session.

• Send a thank you email to a member who refers a friend and update them on any potential rewards earned as a result.

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3. Ask for feedback

While it’s easy to assume that everything is fine (or even speculate about your shortcomings), you will never truly know how your business is perceived unless you directly ask your members how you’re doing. 

Receiving feedback allows you to be proactive and adjust areas of your practice that may be falling short, possibly preventing member attrition before it happens.

You can collect feedback in a number of ways, including:

  • Provide comment cards at your gym or studio for clients to fill out in person.
  • Email surveys to your members requesting feedback about your services or facilities.
  • Have employees participate in a class or session as a client and give feedback.
  • Ask members to leave you a review online (this has the added bonus of improving your SEO) and be sure to respond accordingly and thank them for sharing.

4. Examine your hygiene

Keeping your employees and your members healthy and safe should be your top priority, and providing them with a pristine space to work out in will fuel retention.

Take a look at your cleaning practices and consider a new sanitization routine. Start by itemizing all of the surfaces and equipment in your facility that need to be regularly cleaned so that you have a list to reference in the future. Prioritize high contact areas in your gym hygiene routine.

Make employees aware of any new disinfection habits and delegate responsibilities. You can even post a public cleaning audit for your members to see when the equipment was last sanitized to encourage accountability and build trust.

If your plan sets hygiene expectations for your members, be sure to include any rules or best practices on your website and in an email informing them.

5. Consider your pricing

Cost is a major factor when a member is considering canceling their membership. 

Of course, dropping your prices across the board isn’t the solution, because you will instantly devalue your services and shrink your profit margins. However, shifting to a strategic pricing model that rewards your loyal customers could be the key.

Offering membership plans that fit a variety of budgets and demographics, like a student gym membership or a family gym membership, will appeal to a broader swath of your current and prospective clients. Or incentivize members who purchase class packages or subscribe to an annual membership by providing a discounted rate per session to encourage their long-term attendance.

If you offer individualized services, consider building in a more affordable small group rate that attendees can split amongst themselves while simultaneously increasing your attendance rates.

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6. Use the right software

Using comprehensive gym management software can boost your membership retention by improving your client experience, hygiene practices, and communication output. 

With Inspire by STX®, fitness owners can manage memberships, packages, and class schedules, automate targeted email campaigns, set goals and track retention rates, provide contactless payment methods with integrated credit card processing, and much more.

Meanwhile, your members can easily book classes or sessions online at any time, check in via the portable check-in kiosk or from their phone, and redeem rewards earned for referring friends or purchasing services.

The right fitness software makes it accessible and enjoyable for employees and members to engage with your facility, and easy for you as an owner to have complete oversight over the health and growth of your business.

When it comes down to it, your gym membership retention is a vital aspect of running your gym, studio, or health club. The numbers not only reflect your financial success, but the value your members feel they gain by being a part of your organization. 

Use these gym membership retention strategies to strengthen the relationships with your existing clients and ultimately attract and grow your clientele with every positive experience they share.

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