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Customer Segments Are More Distinct Than Ever

We examine the four types of fitness consumers in McKinsey & Company’s recent report, Sweating for the Fitness Consumer, to provide club operators the opportunity to reassess and strengthen their programming to fit the needs of their members as they evolve.

We distinguished four types of fitness customers clustered around elements like motivation, personalization, price consciousness, time sensitivity, and desire for innovation from McKinsey & Company’s recent report, Sweating for the Fitness Consumer. In order to win in the future, fitness players should know their clients’ archetype and fulfill the customers’ needs.

  • Wellness Enthusiast (23%) - This customer sees mental and physical wellbeing as a priority in life. They are motivated by performance, identity, or balance.

  • Researcher-experimenter (10%) - This customer is looking for innovation and unique experiences. They are early adopters of new products or services.

  • Traditionalist (11%) - This type of customer is loyal to their sport routines and habits. They do not adjust easily to changes.

  • Passive Participant (55%) - For this customer, fitness is not a priority, but can try some fitness offerings. After building intrinsic motivations, they may change into one of the other archetypes.
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Community is Essential

Some of the conclusions will be familiar to operators of fitness centers. For instance, the report found that hybrid services will be in demand, though not as the exclusive preference for exercisers. Also enlightening were the findings on demographics.

According to Thiel: “Younger Millennials, people below 30, and, of course, Generation Z, are on average more focused on performance, fitness, community, and physical appearance, and see those as the main goals of physical activity. When people get older, particularly when they cross the threshold of 35, they get increasingly health-concerned and focused on the longer-term health benefits of physical activity.”

However, adds Thiel, due to the pandemic, all demographics are more health conscious. This is true for the entire world and particularly for the countries most affected by the virus.

“You can see in the data that, in the countries hit harder by the pandemic, the shift is more pronounced, and that’s probably not surprising,” explains Thiel. “But overarchingly, as a megatrend, it’s something we see globally and without exception.”

Another important trend for club operators to be aware of is the importance of community support.

“There are two things about community in connection with physical activity that people really value,” asserts Thiel. “ One is they like to connect with like-minded people for the purpose of belonging and creating a bit of a warm, fuzzy feeling of not doing this alone. But there’s also an element that many people appreciate about frantic competition, pushing each other to new heights, keeping each other in the game. And both of these things are found specifically in clubs and club-offered classes.”

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Meeting Club Members’ Evolving Needs

Digital trends accelerated during the pandemic, according to the report. More than 71,000 new fitness and health apps were launched in 2020, and consumers spent 45% more time accessing fitness apps last year.

Overall, Thiel offered a bottom-line assessment for fitness centers that is focused on three main areas.

  • “There are three concrete ideas coming out of this report that I would keep in mind if I were a club operator. One, I would consider more health-focused programs, possibly even in combination or collaboration with medical professionals. I would also consider creating programs for longevity and life-span optimization. I think this is a strongly accelerated megatrend, and fitness clubs can have a role here to play.

  • “Second is I would see what hybrid offers I can make to consumers, how seamlessly I can give people the opportunity to also be part of the club and the classes offered when they are not physically there.

  • “And thirdly, I would genuinely think about how I can strengthen the community element of my club. And that can be, of course, simple things [like] creating spaces where people meet each other and form communities. Classes can also include social elements so people get to know each other a bit.”

Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org