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How Gyms Can Cash in on Boomers' and Millennials' Purchasing Ideologies  

This post is a preview of the July 11 webinar, "Boomers and Millennials: Cashing in on their Distinct Purchasing Ideologies."

No doubt you've read an article, likely written by a baby boomer, detailing millennials' narcissism, tech-dependence, and other alleged shortcomings. But, despite these perceived differences, millennials and baby boomers actually have a lot in common when it comes to their purchasing ideologies.

Both groups, for instance, share a love for coupons, sales, and bargains. And both are comfortable with browsing, researching, and shopping online. Most importantly, baby boomers and millennials are now equally attractive demographics for health clubs, making it critical for club operators to rethink how they're engaging with both.

The Appeal of Millennials and Boomers

As millennials mature and move into the 35-54 age range—previously occupied by generation X—they’re becoming a more appealing demographic for clubs.

“Millennials are typical bread and butter for our industry—they used to be the younger demographic, but now they’re a little bit older,” says Stephen Tharrett, co-founder of Club Intel. “They’re the largest demographic in the U.S. and globally, and they are in that prime health club purchasing demographic.”

Similarly, as boomers mature and entire retirement age, they’re beginning to prioritize staying fit for years to come.

“They are really concerned now with healthy living—not living longer but living longer healthy,” Tharrett says. “Boomers are want to live to 82 and they want that all of those years to be healthy. They’re an appealing demographic because of the fact that they want to age gracefully and functionally.”

Differing Purchasing Ideologies: Messaging

While boomers and millennials are similar in some ways, their purchasing ideologies are distinct—especially when it comes to messaging.

Boomers are twice as likely as millennials to be drawn to print advertising, such as an ad in a newspaper or direct mail postcard, Tharrett says.

“That’s what they respond to—if you put a call-to-action in a direct mail piece, they’re going to see it,” he says.

Millennials, not so much. The younger demographic is more likely to respond to social media buzz, word-of-mouth from friends, and online reviews.

“When you’re trying to promote to millennial, if your club doesn’t have a great reputation and people aren’t talking about it on social media, you’re not going to be effective,” Tharrett says.

Differing Purchasing Ideologies: Experience

Once you get your target demographic in the club, you have to make sure the experience is a match. In this regard, Tharrett can sum up the differences between boomers and millennials in six words:

“Boomers buy bling, millennials buy experiences.”

Baby boomers often make purchases to signify that they’ve achieved success, Tharrett says. That motifation means they’re more likely to choose a sparkling clean club with high architectural design and state-of-the-art equipment.

Meanwhile, millennials care more about the experience they have while at the club than the brick-and-mortar frills.

“They are looking for authenticity more than a boomer—they are looking for a sense of tribe,” Tharrett says.

As a result, millennials are apt to choose a club that offers a boutique-style experience, as well as small group training and group exercise offerings.

While it’s tempting to try to create messaging and services that equally appeal to boomers and millennials, Tharrett warns against it—especially if you’re looking to attract more millennials.

“In our industry we like to do one thing for everybody and be everything for everybody,” he says. “For boomers that’s okay, but millennials don’t want that. They want a specialized high-tech, high-touch experience.”

Find Tharrett's full webinar on the IHRSA Store