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Top 3 gym member problems and how to engage them for maximum retention in 2023

Member Engagement
The most common reasons why gym members stop attending and the digital solutions to keep them engaged long-term.

The market for health and wellness products and services is growing by 5 to 10% per year with 87% of consumers intending to maintain or increase their spending on these solutions, according to Fitt Insider.

This should be good news for the fitness industry. Yet research tells us that, even if people choose to spend their money on a gym membership, about 18% to 67% don’t use it and 50% of new members quit within the first 6 months (FinancesOnline, 87 Gym Membership Statistics, 2023)

“The gym may have once had this temporary monopoly, but this is over… consumers can capably locate and enjoy many different gym substitutes,”

Ray Algar, a global fitness industry business adviser and analyst with Oxygen Consulting in Brighton, England.

How gyms can retain their members by targeting their problems

“Companies should understand that wellness consumers aren’t a monolithic bloc with lockstep preferences,” (McKinsey & Company,  Sweating for the fitness consumer, 2021)

They also have complex lives and circumstances that facilitate or hinder their ability (or willingness) to buy, renew or cancel their gym memberships. 

Evolving consumer trends and fluctuating economic conditions are making it even harder for gym operators to manage member engagement in the long run.

But research suggests that most gym members tend to fall into a few distinct groups with similar problems that can be better engaged using digital solutions. We outline these common member problems below and share how gym operators can nurture these members to increase retention in 2023 and beyond.

Your gym members could be cancelling their memberships due to these common barriers to attendance.
These common issues could be stopping your members from returning to the gym.

1. The Busy Gym Member

Lack of time is the number one reason why people don’t work out. 

A global Ipsos study conducted with the World Economic Forum found that, globally, most (58%) would like to workout more but say they lack time to do so (37%).

This was echoed by a study of 2,000 employed Americans that found 79% said they always feel happier when they have a regular exercise routine, but nearly half of those polled (48%) said they are too busy with work that they don’t have time to exercise at all.

And even if they did have the time, they don’t have the stamina — 51% of respondents said sitting down at their desk for eight straight hours a day drained their energy.

2. The Intimidated Gym Member

Gym fear is real.

Over 50% of Americans feel too intimidated to attend the gym. A study by PureGym showed that 50% of non-gym members found the idea of going to the gym scary, with one in five saying they would find it very scary.

Even those who said they do visit a gym still feel a sense of intimidation. Nearly 40% were afraid of showing people they didn’t know what they were doing, while almost half of the women and one-third of men felt nervous in the gym around others they thought were fitter. 

Most businesses want their gym to be busy. But the more crowded it is the more fear the intimidated gym member feels, likely deterring them from attending and potentially putting up to half of your membership base at risk of disengaging – or worse – cancelling their subscription entirely.

“Going to the gym is a social experience, meaning it carries all the potential gains that come with socialising, but also all the fears and anxieties too,” says Dr. Margee Kerr, a sociology and wellness expert.

And while many gym operators focus on building a community, few often focus on nurturing member confidence. 

3. The Price-Conscious Member

Lack of money (40.3%) was one of the most frequently reported barriers to physical activity.

Recently, businesses have increased prices due to inflation and many have found their gym membership fees have increased in the past year, with a third expecting more rises this year. 

New research shows 35% of British people (and half of 25-34-year-olds surveyed) have ditched their gym membership due to cost of living concerns. MindBody’s survey also found that 25-50% of exercises reported they attend fewer classes at fitness studios because it’s too expensive now.

Many of these price-conscious members meticulously review and compare their options and will often go with either the cheaper deal, one that offers more for their money, or none at all.

Digital fitness solutions that can solve your gym members’ problems

Brick-and-mortar fitness facilities are still an essential product and service for member acquisition, engagement and retention.

But the expanding member experience, growing competitor landscape, and changing economic conditions warrant a more agile and technologically advanced approach if gym operators are to win more long-term, loyal customers.

1. Integrate digital fitness content with your gym member app

The adoption of fitness-related apps has increased by 330% over the past few years, demonstrating a rise in adoption. Yet most gym member apps don’t include high-quality digital fitness content to compete with their popular B2C competitors.

Providing virtual classes and workouts via your member app gives your newly-joined and intimidated gym members the opportunity to develop their fitness confidence in the ‘safety’ of their own home, free of any perceived external judgment. 

Delivering this value to these anxious gym members right at the start of their gym journey will increase the chance that they will stick with their membership past the first 90 days and return to your gym in person once they’ve built up their fitness confidence via your service at home.

At the same time, offering digital fitness content via your member app also supports your time-pressed customers.

Sharing short virtual classes at the click of a button gives these members the tools to workout when they can or want to. Workers can opt to do a quick 20-minute yoga session during their lunch break in the office so they don’t have to factor in the commute to your facility or rely on having enough energy to workout at the end of a long day.

Busy at-home parents can clock in a 10-minute HIIT session while their kids take their afternoon nap while your university students can listen to an audio-guided meditation session on the train before they go to class or take an exam.

Lastly, offering a digital-fitness-only membership via your app at a discounted price can be an excellent alternative solution to your members who may be finding it difficult to afford a full, in-person subscription, but still want to get a high-quality and reliable workout from sources they trust.

2. Share virtual classes and digital workouts on the gym floor

Delivering virtual classes and digital circuit workouts inside your venue can also support your intimidated members too afraid of showing people ‘they don’t know what they are doing’.

Providing digital options during off-peak times allows these members to participate in the group workout experience with the guidance of a virtual instructor and without fear of a busy crowd. 

Meanwhile, offering in-venue digital workouts has been shown to increase gym attendance.

Delivering virtual classes in your group fitness studio or digital workouts on your functional gym floor means your time-pressed members who enjoy group workouts can still receive value without compromising on quality or experience.

Digital fitness delivery opens the door for operators to rethink their membership models, too. Many gyms offer memberships for group fitness workouts only or as a premium add-on. It might be worth considering a combination of these membership types to truly cater to the variety and flexibility the ‘new member’ is demanding. 

Don’t let your gym members use digital fitness content without you

Today’s gym members value a personalised fitness experience and expect radical flexibility. They’re searching for more choices for where their workouts can be done, when their workouts can be done, and how their workouts can be done. 

Digital fitness solutions can enable your gym business to offer this personalised choice to your most common gym member personas at scale. Optimising your digital fitness strategy for your multi-facility gym can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Contact us for a personalised consultation.

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Funxtion x Benefit system partnership

Funxtion partners with Zdrofit – a brand of Benefit Systems S.A.

Funxtion teams up with Benefit Systems to revolutionize its digital fitness experience. This collaboration signals an industry step-change in how gym operators embrace fitness technology, positioning Zdrofit fitness clubs at the forefront of digital innovation.