For most clubs, the definition of a member is simple: an individual who visits your facilities on a (hopefully) regular basis to use your equipment and services to better their health and fitness.
But in the current culture of technology, where more than 50% of club members have downloaded at least one fitness app, where more than 20% are using a fitness tracker at least once a month, and where clubs themselves are integrating technology into the member experience, the traditional definition is no longer as accurate as it once was.
Today, a new kind of member is emerging: the virtual member. And it’s changing the entire business model fitness clubs have relied on for so many years — ramping up revenue and sending member lifetime value to record-setting levels, if you can attract them.
Meet the Virtual Member
Just like regular members, virtual members are individuals who belong to a fitness club, but what makes them different is they access many — if not most — of the club’s services online or through technology.
Some might still visit a brick-and-mortar location to access equipment, classes or other in-person services, while others might never set foot inside a physical gym, but all of them use technology as both a key component in their fitness journeys and connection to their fitness club of choice.
How to Market and Sell to Virtual Members
Of course, in order to have virtual members, clubs first need to make technology an integral part of their business model.
While there are many ways to do this, the most common approach takes the form of a centralized digital fitness platform or app that can be used to simultaneously digitize most if not all of a club’s services. In particular, there are four service areas that work especially well with technology and can be leveraged to create virtual members in any club:
1. Personal training
In the world of fitness, personal training and technology are like peanut butter and jelly — they just work.
With a digital platform supporting member-trainer interactions, clubs can expand their service offerings to include enhanced in-person training (face-to-face sessions but with digital programs and tracking), 100% online training (programming, coaching and communication all via a digital platform), and hybrid training (a 50/50 blend of in-person and online training).
In doing so, clubs not only elevate the training experience for their in-person members, they also open their doors to virtual members, and serve up new and more accessible services to members who might not otherwise have taken advantage of them. A wider appeal can translate into more personal training services sold and additional revenue for the club.
2. Group training
Just like its one-on-one counterpart, group training is also an ideal match for fitness technology.
Group training is quick and easy to digitize, so it’s already a club favorite thanks to its ability to deliver services to a larger volume of members in a shorter period of time while also fostering a sense of community.
Through the same platform used to power individual online personal training, clubs can redefine their group offerings to include not just in-person sessions, but online groups too, who receive, follow and track their workouts through a custom branded fitness app.
Built-in engagement tools and messaging allow group members to connect and communicate with each other, sparking the creation of digital communities — a powerful and priceless benefit to members who are looking for accountability partners but can’t take part in in-person services.
And at the same time, fitness clubs can start exploring new pricing models for these high-volume digital services to attract virtual members or upsell existing in-person members.
3. Fitness classes
One of the hottest trends to hit the modern fitness industry is the boutique fitness class experience — groups of members all sweating it out in soul-awakening, heart-pumping, endorphin-fuelled sessions. It’s become so popular that many clubs have had to implement waitlists, and the variety of offerings just continues to grow.
But why put a limit on this upward-trending fitness craze? In addition to offering them in-person to members visiting a physical location, fitness clubs can make the most of their classes and bring them to a wider audience by digitizing and streaming them online.
By allowing members to join classes from the locations of their choice, fitness clubs can not only lift limits on class sizes (and also potentially on class revenues) but also offer them as a service outside their standard membership or as a virtual member perk.
4. General memberships
As the bread and butter of the business model, general memberships are often overlooked when thinking about technology and fitness clubs.
In reality, it’s exactly because of their ubiquity that general memberships are such a powerful way to develop and attract virtual members.
By making technology a standard component of a club’s membership — whether through a mobile app, online portal or synced wearables — clubs can bring their member experience to the forefront of the industry and integrate fitness into their members’ already digitally connected lives.
In doing so, clubs can bring their members’ experience beyond the facility doors, turning their memberships into a lifestyle, and opening up their core business and its offerings to virtual members.
The Benefits of Going Digital
Perhaps just as numerous as the ways clubs can make technology a core piece of their business model, are the benefits of going digital.
For clubs that have already made the leap, digitizing their services is already starting to pay dividends, with many reporting increased sales of their “add-on” or “value-add” services, along with record-setting levels of member engagement. Thanks to the convenience, affordability and popularity of fitness technology, more and more members are tapping into club services they might not otherwise have engaged with.
At the same time, these tech-forward clubs are starting to shift their marketing efforts and leverage their new digital services as a unique value proposition — something to distinguish them from their competitors and reel in those intrigued by the prospect of a connected fitness experience.
They’re not only creating virtual members out of regular members, they’re also reeling in new virtual members, broadening their target markets and drawing deeper profits from this new and wider well.
The Tip of the Technology Iceberg
This, however, is only the beginning for technology in clubs, and visible in the not so distant future is a time where clubs have members who are 100% virtual — individuals who never set foot in a club (and perhaps don’t even live close to a physical location), but still engage with and access the club’s service through technology.
Though still largely uncharted, there’s little doubt that this will be the next frontier in fitness club experiences — it’s not a matter of if we get there, but when.
Trainerize is a personal training software that empowers fitness professionals and fitness studios worldwide to reach, engage and motivate people, to change their lives for the better. Trainerize is making fitness more accessible by connecting more people to fitness professionals who can help them workout, eat better and improve their habits. By combining online workout and nutrition tracking, meal planning, client communication and access to the world’s best fitness add-ons, Trainerize allows fitness professionals to focus on what they love to do most: train and motivate their clients. For more information, visit Trainerize’s website at trainerize.com.
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