The health club industry has a high degree of churn due to low-cost competitors and lack of commitment to a regular routine.
Over the past 5 years, the health club industry has changed dramatically. Where it used to be dominated by a small clique of players, the entry of startups such as PureGym ands easyGym, with their business models aimed at a service with no bells and whistles, has forced a change in the landscape similar to that of the supermarket sector.
Virgin Active is no exception to this. Despite becoming one of the most recognised brands in the industry and their investment in their health clubs to deliver a great experience, the same factors affect them as other brands.
To combat this, Virgin Active have recognised that one of their key USPs is the leverage with other brands that they can offer to their customers. This means that a membership with Virgin Active is not limited to just access to a health club. They can provide far more, and with this, they are able to reduce their churn because customers are getting more value for their money.
We’d already been working with Virgin Active for 2 years when they asked us to build our a new member portal for their customers.
We developed this on Sitecore, their platform of choice, as a new site. Key to the portal was the ability for customers to login with their existing member details, which meant that we needed to develop and integrate a new API which connected to their three different backed member management systems (consolidation in the industry means many clubs still run different member systems despite being under the same brand).
Once this was done, we were able to provide personalised content to each customer – ensuring that they had the latest timetable information for their clubs and could place bookings for classes, as well as allowing them to request changes to their membership such as upgrades, downgrades, and freezing their subscription for a short period of time.
In addition to this, we developed the portal further with content around offers, competitions, discounts and guest passes, and this is where the real value in a Virgin Active membership lay. Each customer that visited the portal was immediately offered free guest passes to allow them to take their friends with them to a health club for the day, or to allow them to sample health clubs in different locations or were part of their exclusive collection.
The offer content remains one of Virgin Active’s strongest points however. With their ability to partner with other companies in the Virgin portfolio, as well as brands that wants to take advantage of the Virgin ‘effect’, it means that they can continue to create compelling discounts and one-off promotions – such as free entry into the Prudential Ride100 or the London Triathlon.
Virgin Active also used the portal to provide additional gym-fit content to their members. Their Grid Active campaign and articles designed around how to use new techniques and equipment in-club to boost your workout provided helpful guidance to those needing to change their routines.
After launch, it was clear that the portal had the desired effect, as churn rates reduced year-on-year, and engagement with the offers and guest pass content increased monthly. In addition to this, it had a secondary effect in moving existing customer traffic away from the main website, meaning that instead of needing to provide content for both members and non-members, the main site could be worked solely as an acquisition channel, rather than needing to accommodate both this and retention in the same space.
For brands that are seeking to offer customers more than their standard service, member or content portals are often a great investment. The ability to engage customers with additional content that non-members cannot access can increase your stickiness, reduce churn and increase revenue. See our work on Crystal Palace Eagles and D&AD for further examples of what we can do.