Member retention: multiple perspectives

Management | By Jan Middelkamp

14 June 2013 0 reply

In our industry we often discuss retention. In fact, mostly we refer to member retention. But, we could also discuss employee retention in general or retention of specific groups of employees. For example, from practice in the industry we hear that some clubs have a turnover of sales reps of 200 to 300% per year. Wow!

When further discussing member retention in healthclubs, retention can be subdivided into three components. 

First, adherence to the exercise program. Does the member adhere to the self designed program or to a prescribed program of a fitness professional? In fact, this is the most important part of retention because we know that members join healthclub for health and fitness motives.

Second, adherence to visit the club, often denoted attendance. Healthclubs offer a wide range of facilities such as sauna, bar, sun beds, pools, and the like. In Asia rates and patterns of use of the various facilities, equipment and programs in a fitnessclub were studied. It showed that showers, sauna, bath and jacuzzi were among the most often used facilities. 

This is one indication that members of healthclubs do not always, or exclusively exercise or follow an exercise program when visiting the club. However, if members do exercise, it is crucial to know whether they meet the criteria of intensity and duration. If the 128 million members of healthclubs do not exercise regularly and with a minimum intensity and duration, the health benefits will only be marginal.  

Third, if a member of a healthclub does not visit or exercise in the club anymore, this does not automatically lead to membership drop-out. Healthclubs have an unknown amount of members that pay the membership fee but actually never visit the healthclub nor exercise in the healthclub. In this respect, DellaVigna & Malmendier conducted a study with the meaningful title Paying not to go to the gym. 

To sum up, there are three types of  member retention in healthclubs:

  1. Exercise retention: do members adhere to the exercise program in the healthclub?
  2. Visit retention (attendance): do members keep on visiting the healthclub?
  3. Membership retention: do members keep on paying the membership fee?

So let’s never discuss member retention anymore, but always be specific in a certain kind of member retention!