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5 Millennial Consumer Habits That Can Make or Break Your Gym

Here’s how health clubs can capture the most important demographic in the industry.

Millennials, the generation born between 1981-1996 (according to the Pew Research Center), have been discussed frequently on this site and in numerous IHRSA reports. (Check out the IHRSA toolkit, “Give Your Health Club a Millennial Makeover,” which takes a deep dive into the subject.) There’s reason for that. They’re the largest generation in U.S. history (about 83.1 million), and the largest demographic in the health club industry, according to the IHRSA 2019 Consumer Report.

But as many marketing professionals will tell you, they’re not an easy demographic to figure out. The economic status of Millennials is unique and their behavior patterns reflect their outlier status. And as the first generation to grow up with the internet, they’re both a new type of consumer and a prototype for younger generations to come.

Recent statistics size up their spending habits, relationship to brands, and economic power, which sometimes create paradoxes that make predicting their behavior challenging. Consider this: Millennials are expected to account for at least 30% of all consumer spending in 2020. But after living through the Great Recession and amassing a crushing amount of student loan debt, the average Millennial has a net worth of only $8,000 and makes an average $36,000 annually, according to Business Insider.

This lack of savings is sometimes interpreted unfairly, casting Millennials as economically irresponsible, when they’ve simply had to endure obstacles older generations didn’t face. In fact, a report by the Federal Reserve found that Millennials actually aren’t profligate spenders compared to Baby Boomers and Generation X. They’re just cash poor because they never had assets to begin with.

But, as the Fed reports, Millennials may be earning and saving less, but they’re also trying hard to catch up. Financial experts consider this generation to have “a practical approach to money, saving for emergencies, and contributing to a retirement account.” But, more importantly, Millennials are poised to one day inherit the assets of the Baby Boomer generation, which will eventually make them the “richest generation ever,” according to UBS Wealth Management.

“They’re just cash poor because they never had assets to begin with.”

Someday that Millennial credit card will be paid off, but in the meantime, they’ve developed consumer behavior traits that health clubs need to understand when courting them.

The 5 Consumer Habits of Millennials That You Need to Know

It’s important to keep in mind that a lot of Millennial spending behavior is also true of Generation Z, the next youngest demographic. So offering products and marketing that attracts Millennials should be helpful for what comes next.

Here’s what current data tells us about current Millennial behavior.

1. Millennials prioritize wellness and fitness.

A recent report states that Millennials were more willing to spend money on wellness and fitness than college tuition. Because of their limited spending power, Millennials have learned to adjust their priorities. They place a high value on wellness, mental health, and health. This is, of course, great news for health clubs.

2. Millennials like a high-touch experience.

IHRSA research has found that Millennials are more likely to gravitate toward personal training and small group training than other age groups. They also favor the boutique experience over multipurpose clubs, which makes it imperative for clubs to find ways to offer boutique-style experiences in more traditional facilities.

3. You have to be mobile-proficient to serve Millennials.

This is a generation that spends a lot online, both in time and dollars. Research by Invesp found that 67% of Millennials prefer to shop online than in-store, and they make 54% of their purchases online. And they aren’t doing it from desktop browsers; they’re using their smartphones. Your club has to have up-to-date mobile capabilities, or these consumers will desert you.

4. Millennials are research-oriented; they read and trust online reviews.

Trust is the key word here. As many as 8 out of 10 Millennials don’t click “complete purchase” until they’ve read at least one review online. One report found that social media is the primary source of shopping information for Millennials. If you’re not there, you’re not on their radar. You must have a positive and engaging presence on social media sites.

5. They want rewards, discounts, and flexibility.

Never give a Millennial a prix fixe menu. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Millennials are the “á la carte” generation. They like choices, where they can build their own experience. This fact is best reflected in their attitudes toward cable television, since Millennials are the primary cord cutters responsible for the decline of traditional cable models. And they also favor loyalty and rewards programs. As many as two-thirds of Millennials are signed up for at least one loyalty program.

Got all that? Your health club needs to be active on social media, have state-of-the-art mobile capabilities, and deliver specialized services that can be offered in an á la carte menu. This means you need a digital partner that can arm you with a CRM that’s built for this demographic. It’s absolutely critical for your business.

A Software Supplier That Will Help You Capture and Retain Millennials

ASF Payment Solutions has been hard at work developing a new version of their award-winning club management software that’s designed to provide superior digital capabilities that are in demand by Millennials. At the heart of ASF’s new software is their “Member Enrollment” application. This versatile tool allows members to take an á la carte approach to choosing the services they desire. This satisfies a core desire of Millennial consumers who want to build their own membership experience with your brand.

Clubs today need to be more nimble in delivering a menu of services, and all-inclusive memberships shouldn’t be the only offering available. ASF’s Member Enrollment gives clubs the flexibility they need to create different membership levels and add-on service bundles. ASF’s software also features an area for discount codes and rewards capabilities, which Millennials love.

These digital options will help clubs market their higher-revenue services, such as personal training and SGT, which Millennials are willing to pay extra for. And with Member Enrollment in place, clubs also can learn where to direct their resources. It’s an instant marketing feedback tool that tells you what’s working in your club and what’s not. ASF’s CRM is loaded with other features that will help you master the mobile market and connect with today’s Millennial audience.

ASF plans to provide hands-on demonstration of their new club management software at IHRSA 2020 in San Diego on March 18-21, so stop by their booth if you’re there and see how they can help you build a membership base of highly motivated and loyal Millennials.

For more on AFS and their inventory of digital products, visit their website or call 800-227-3859.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org