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(Editors' Note: This article is part of Club Industry's report, "Technology's Role in the Future of the Fitness Industry," which can be downloaded for free by going here.)
Change is the only constant. We’ve all heard it, and being in an industry as fast-paced and innovative as the world of fitness, we all also experience it every day. We are constantly working to keep up with the latest and greatest innovations, stay ahead of the curve and be on the cutting-edge of the fitness industry.
Today, fitness experts and industry leaders are looking to virtual fitness. The concept of virtual fitness has been around for a while, but new technology has paved the way to the next generation. New and improved execution of virtual programming is transforming the industry and bringing cinematic-quality programs to our studio screens.
The benefits of virtual group fitness go beyond being at the forefront of changes in the industry, though. It also provides solutions to many of the ever-present challenges that facilities are continually facing.
It’s no secret that retaining members is a problem for many facilities. In fact, retention is the club industry’s largest challenge with typical fitness facilities losing 50 percent of their memberships every year. We also know that group fitness plays a huge factor in member retention. Group exercisers are 26 percent less likely to cancel memberships than gym-only members. But what does all this have to do with virtual? A few things, actually.
Most traditional fitness facilities have studio space that sits empty for 50 to 80 percent of their operating hours. This should come as no surprise. Delivering consistently high-quality, engaging group exercise experiences to your members can be difficult, especially when much of it relies on your rock star instructors. Although instructors might appear super human, they are still humans with lives outside of the gym. They can’t be expected to be in your studio all hours of the day motivating members and inspiring them to fall in love with fitness. Fortunately, a virtual instructor is available at the push of a button when our rock star instructors aren’t.
Virtual programming is a compliment to live classes. It’s a way to create a full timetable that provides more options to your members. Now, those members who always seem to be stuck late at the office and can’t make it to the gym in time for class can still take class at a time that works with their schedule. Or the member that has never tried a group exercise class out of fear and intimidation (or ‘gymtimidation’ as we like to call it) can take a virtual class on their own. Virtual classes foster a low-risk environment that helps fight gymtimidation, acting as a gateway to live classes. Research shows that attendance in live classes increased by 12 percent on average when clubs also run virtual workouts.
Suddenly, with the addition of virtual programming, a variety of new members have the option to attend group exercise classes. It’s a win-win. Members are provided with more options, live attendance grows and the threat of cancellation is diminished.
Let’s look at another common challenge clubs face: attracting new members. The fitness industry is extremely competitive. From full-service facilities to boutiques to at-home fitness and more, the choices available to consumers are almost never-ending. Consumers want the most out of what they pay for, and they won’t settle for less. That’s why a full timetable is so attractive to potential new members. Sixty percent of members state that the number of group exercise classes offered by a gym influences their decision to join. And how do you get a full timetable? You guessed it – by complimenting your stellar live group fitness lineup with top-of-the-line virtual programming.
Consumers are looking for more than a full timetable with plenty of class time options. They are also looking for program variety. Offering a wide range of programs can sometimes be a struggle though. May you have trouble finding instructors for dance classes. Virtual programming has you covered. Maybe you don’t know if your member base would even be interested in dance classes. Virtual programming allows you to test dance classes and determine the popularity of the category before committing to the investment of a live class.
Demographics and member preferences are constantly evolving, and it can often be difficult and costly to find what categories work best for your facility and when. A virtual platform provides an excellent opportunity to experiment with new program categories and timeslots to unlock member demand. Learn what works best for your facility while maintaining the flexibility and ease to pivot and change what doesn’t.
Maximize studio space, reduce membership cancellations, increase group exercise attendance and grow member acquisition – all with just the addition of virtual programming.
Les Mills delivers a variety of group fitness classes that provide cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training for your members. Fresh class content is provided every three months to motivate and support engagement of both instructors and members which in turn reduces the attrition rate of your members. Our tried-and-tested group exercise classes deliver real physical results. Learn more about the tools and resources you need to improve your members’ experiences in their workouts, in the group studio and across the entire facility—all of which contribute to increased member engagement and retention. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 844-LES-MILLS.