Two fundamental shifts will affect our industry in the next few years. The first is consumer trends in purchasing goods and services. Purchases are no longer spontaneous one-and-done choices but rather a systematic search for a great experience. Consumers are looking for a trusted, long-term partner whom they can trust to have their best interest at heart. This does not mean a quick sale but rather a lifelong relationship that will bring true value to members’ lives.
The second shift is from an owner-centric business model to a member-centric business model, which means club owners must ask how their clubs can be a bigger part of members’ lives instead of how they can make members a part of their clubs. By considering the members’ needs and experiences first, we are building our services and spaces for them, designing a club from their perspective. Every relationship has layers to the building blocks that create true and meaningful connections.
At minimum, three distinct but integrated layered components contribute to a complete and satisfying member experience: physical, emotional and spiritual, and social engagement.
The physical component is what you actually offer as a workout experience, meaning the rooms and spaces that will deliver the programming, the equipment, and the physical components that will allow members to meet their goals to get in shape, be healthy, lose weight, etc. It also includes all the programming and components that truly deliver a diverse and exceptional exercise experience. Those spaces need to be well-designed and appropriate for the exercise activities. At the end of the day, if members do not get a great workout, the club has failed at the most basic level. Whether you have a low-cost model, a functional training-only model or a full-service sports club, the reason your members are there is to get results. Spaces that do not legitimately accommodate the workout are no fun. No fun equals quitting.
For a complete emotional and spiritual experience, your club must offer members areas that allow for diverse levels of engagement and energy levels. My aura of energy is quite different when I am in a Zumba class compared to when I am in the locker room. The mood, lighting and materials need to reflect and respect that. Knowing that recuperation and recovery are important elements of fitness, do you offer a quiet area for members to do that? Doing so accommodates the emotional and spiritual mood of the members as they journey through the experience your club has to offer.
As we further analyze the individual member experience in terms of spiritual and emotional layers, five design points are at play: entering the club, socializing and observing, getting into a workout groove, showering and then leaving. We have labeled these points as awaken (entry to the club), inspire (movement through the club), energize (the exercise experience), rejuvenate (recovery points) and relax (leaving the club). These points represent different aspects of the member experience on which designers can focus and artistically elaborate.
On another layer, social connections and retention are closely tied. For a few years, I had the pleasure of lecturing with the great industry consultant Sandy Coffman. She understood that group programming was a means to long-term retention. She also understood that the element of fun was a means to bond people and form connections, but this was a key missing element in many clubs’ success. I still believe this to be one of the most relevant elements we can provide our members. By recognizing and providing both obvious and spontaneous opportunities to foster social engagement, providing areas where members could make friends, connections and acquaintances has been one of our most successful strategies in making our clubs relevant. Ultimately, these social connections form the culture of the club.
By considering your members’ needs, you can accommodate their rhythms, goals and social connections in a way that will truly make your club a trusted partner in their wellness.
If you do one of the above elements right, you can have a good club. If you provide all three in an integrated strategy, you will have a great club.
Rudy Fabiano, a registered architect and interior designer, is president of Fabiano Designs, an architectural firm for fitness, wellness, sports and recreation centers and spas that has produced more than 400 projects in 21 years.