Give Your Health Club a ‘Millennial Makeover’

Attracting younger consumers requires that you pay attention to values as much as price.

If you’re struggling to attract the prime younger demographics, Generation Z and Millennials, then you’re in good company. Marketing and sales experts have invested huge sums in divining the habits of these consumers, while at the same time trying to decode the dynamic mobile digital landscape that dominates the attention of the young. Combined with the diminished buying power of Millennials and Generation Zers, marketing to them is, as they say, a hard sell.

Health club owners know all about the challenges of attracting these younger demos. According to the IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, Generation Z and Millennials make up only 35% of core health club members. But as these groups age, their habits with regard to the fitness industry are starting to take shape.

Statistics from the report tell us that:

  • Millennials are driving multi-club utilization. Roughly two out of five members between the ages of 18 to 34 were members of more than one facility.
  • Millennials and Generation Z have distinct workout preferences that differ from older demographics. They prefer high impact/intensity training more than traditional training protocols.
  • Younger demographics like the boutique experience—Generation Z in particular.
  • Generation Z is starting to move away from the public facility model (e.g., YMCAs) to more commercial clubs.

These consumers are reachable, and if they like what you offer, they’re extremely loyal to brands. You need to have a strategy to get them on board.

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Source: 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report

One Club’s Success with Millennials

First you have to understand the age range that make up generational groupings. Here are the big four:

  • Baby Boomersborn between 1944-1964. They're currently between 54-74 years old (76 million in U.S.)
  • Gen X: born between 1965-1979.
  • Millennials: born between 1980-1994.
  • Gen Z: born between 1995-2015.

European powerhouse brand Holmes Place Health Clubs operates more than 90 clubs across 10 countries. One of their strongest demographic categories are Millennials. Here’s what they learned about attracting this age group.

  1. Create an Experience. A 2016 study by Harris Group found that 72% of Millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. Fitness facilities must therefore create a program focused on Millennials and build unique and memorable experiences to ensure ongoing engagement.
  2. Make it Personal and Customized. Millennials value authenticity and trust among the marketplace and seek brands that pay attention to their specific needs. The Holmes Place Group created the Innovation Center to provide clubs with signature group exercise classes that members can only find in Holmes Place clubs. This brings exclusivity and scarcity to the product, making it more valuable, and desired.
  3. Think Outside the Club. Millennials are the first digital natives. To them, digital customer service is more important than to ensure convenience, accessibility, and speed. The quality of the interactions plays a significant role and when it comes to content.
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With Millennials in particular, it’s important to ignore caricatures. Often derided as the “everyone gets a trophy” generation, they have a disciplined approach to their purchasing habits, favoring their values over their pocketbook. According to a Nielson survey, three in four Millennials and 72% of Generation Z say they are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Other research backs this up. In fact, only 12% of Millennials said they don’t think about the causes that a brand supports.

These groups are leading the wave of conscientious consumer behavior across the board. A 2017 global study by massive conglomerate Unilever found that one-third of consumers buy brands based on their social and environmental impact. Data compiled by the Economic Group found that 79% of consumers prefer to purchase products from companies with a social purpose.

The current social and political climate will only increase this trend. According to an analysis by Forbes, among Millennials “the demand for social responsibility and identification of who stands for what will deepen, particularly when it comes to powerful corporations.”

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Creating a Sustainable Gym that Millennials Will Love

This consumer behavior goes beyond “pocketbook activism,” the practice of boycotting or purchasing goods and services based on a single event or cause. Millennials and Gen Zers are deeply committed to the issues important to them. And when they find a brand that fits their preferences, they tell the world, literally.

In response, global multinationals are quickly moving in the direction of sustainability and social responsibility. DanoneWave, owners of such brands as Silk, Dannon, and Horizon Organic, are pursuing a “B-Corp” certification, proof that a company complies with strict social and environmental standards.

How can health clubs embrace the trend toward sustainability? There are numerous steps clubs can take to be more environmentally conscious, but what would really get the attention of the Millennial and Generation Z demos is a cardio floor filled with equipment that’s designed to protect the environment.

The leader in the category of sustainable fitness equipment is SportsArt Fitness. Founded in 1979, SportsArt has taken the lead in pioneering green fitness systems. SportsArt’s ECO-POWR line of treadmills, cycles, cross trainers, and ellipticals operate on a “watts-to-grid” concept, utilizing the power generated by human activity to feed into a health club’s energy system.

“Creating an alliance with SportsArt, the undisputed industry leader in energy-efficient equipment, is the first step to giving your club a Millennial makeover that can remake your bottom line.”

Populating a cardio room with ECO-POWR equipment can save club owners energy costs (SportsArt has an “Eco-calculator” on its website that can help estimate savings). But more importantly, they give club owners a story to tell that will greatly appeal to the social consciousness of Millennials and Generation Z.

The durability and performance of ECO-POWR machines, such as the Verde treadmill and Verso three-in-one cross trainer, can be incorporated into small group training or other workout programs that younger consumers prefer. And SportsArt’s technology has all the bells and whistles (or, rather, the LCD screens and digital connectivity) that Millennials love.

If you can associate your club’s brand with reputation for sustainability and social consciousnesses, you’ll be able to attract a younger audience known for their fierce brand loyalty and ability to generate viral marketing. Creating an alliance with SportsArt, the undisputed industry leader in energy-efficient equipment, is the first step to giving your club a Millennial makeover that can remake your bottom line.

To learn how SportsArt can bring the sustainability to your club, visit their website or call 1-800-709-1400.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org