Opening Up New Markets: How to Attract New Customer Segments

Sep 17, 2015 - 5 min read
Bootcamp outside with personal trainer - Virtuagym

The fitness world is growing. Millions of people are already working out at fitness clubs and studios, but there are plenty of people who don’t have memberships yet. Attracting those people, however, is a major challenge these days. In this blog, you can find useful tips on how to attract new customer segments, what the challenges are and how to overcome them.

The Target Customer Segment: Millennials

Young people represent a huge opportunity for the fitness industry. Millennials (people aged 18-35) already make up 48% of all regular exercisers over 18. Digital-savvy, engaged and very social, millennials have been dubbed “the Wellness Generation” by some. Countless web pages dedicated to fitspirational quotes, a wealth of health food bloggers and Instagram fitness celebrities with thousands of followers only serve to show the relatively high priority this age bracket gives to their health.

The Competition

However, millennials aren’t quite as quick to join a gym, despite their focus on health and wellness. Millennials still suffer from relatively high unemployment due to the recession, and young people in general have less disposable income. This is not to say they aren’t willing to spend money, it just means that they are really out to get the most bang for their buck.

And this is why they tend to flock to the bottom-segment budget chains. Boasting round-the-clock opening hours, no fixed contracts and online memberships, budget gym chains are getting more members and are growing fast, sometimes with tens of locations per year.

So, assuming you are not part of a big, low-budget chain, how can you fight the trend and start attracting these people?

How to Get Millennials to Join (and Stay) at Your Gym

First, it needs to be clear that millennials aren’t a magically different kind of people. At the core, they have the same reasons to join a gym and to keep coming back:

  • A stimulation environment and engaging activities
  • A motivating and educational experience
  • A social experience

In other words, people want to be motivated and want to learn how to stay healthy. If you can offer that, and offer a social “glue”, they will likely stick around. Thus, millennials have the same core motivators: they want to get healthy and they need motivation, your services and your knowledge. How you deliver on these demands, is where you can differentiate yourself and attract this segment.

1. Adapt Your Offer

To attract millennials, you should review your existing offering of activities. Make sure you include the latest innovations in terms of activities and equipment. Millennials, more so than any other segment, are a digital generation. The right application of technology, whether by using cutting-edge machines, or by supporting them with mobile apps, online coaching, and so on, can make a tremendous difference in terms of appeal.

Besides keeping up with technological developments, be sure to keep a pulse on trends in the market. For instance, activities such as High Intensity Interval Training and CrossFit are increasingly gaining momentum among the youngest generation. Another very popular type of exercise is Small Group Training (SGT), which is a less expensive alternative to personal training. The hottest SGT trends include HIIT classes, boot camps, core training, functional training, martial arts and strength training.

So, to attract this segment, make sure you incorporate these types of activities in your curriculum. And realize that this isn’t a one-time change. Trends change, and your offering should change accordingly. Of course, you don’t have to offer every new (and sometimes useless) fitness trend. Stick to workouts that, well, work. And stick to workouts that suit the personality of your club.

If you have the option, try to diversify the type of activities you offer. Are you currently only offering courses? Consider also offering a weightlifting area for people to work out individually. Clubs with a wide array of activities on offer tend to do better than those with a narrower focus.

2. Enhance Your Social Experience

As I mentioned before, millennials place a heavy emphasis on the social aspect of health and wellness. This especially is an area where you can set yourself apart from large chains. Due to their formulaic set-up, they typically lack a sense of engagement. Therefore, a great way to try and attract millennials, is to create more social opportunities.

It already starts with the types of activities you offer. Small group training is an inherently social experience. Small groups of 10 to 15 people promote the forming of social bonds, which ultimately leads to higher satisfaction and retention levels.

Secondly, think about your staff. What about hiring staff in the same age group? Trainers and coaches of the same age as your clients can more easily connect to them, more easily build understanding and more easily form social bonds in the classes they teach. A better relationship between the staff and your clients leads to a better relationship with your clients and your club.

Beyond your class offering, adding a pre/post workout area to your club could be beneficial. What about a juice bar for people to hang out after they are done working out? If you lack the space or resources to pull this off, you could host weekly social events, workshops, drinks, etc. The key is to make your members feel good about hanging around in your club before and after their workout as well. Who knows, maybe they’ll soon be so comfortable it’ll be hard for them to leave at all.

Finally, be sure to adapt your promotional strategies to the target audience. Social media is a big thing for them, and it should be for you as well. Promote events and offers via Facebook and Twitter, and engage your audience in conversation. Again, building relationships is key.

Wrapping it up

The fitness industry is, and always will be, challenging and prone to change. The best way to attract and retain new customer segments is to offer the best service, tailor your offer to their needs, and keep them motivated. The “Wellness Generation” is looking for new, innovative environments where they can not only stay in shape, but also meet up with their peers. Keeping up with these types of changes will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge one has to face to survive in a competitive market.

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Christian Frank

German Localization Marketeer at Virtuagym. Creativity plays an important role in my life. Besides a strong affinity for fitness & lifestyle, my other passion is music.