Virtual assets: how gyms can retain members who can’t attend physically

Sometimes, situations outside yours or your members’ control arise that mean that members can’t attend your gym.

Whilst this undoubtedly puts gyms on the back foot, the good news is that there are many ways in which fitness providers can engage with their members even when they can’t attend physically.

Some of the most successful recent changes in the fitness industry focus on changes in what the customer wants or needs. It’s clear that, when it comes to fitness, flexibility is key – both inside the gym and out.

Virtual assets tap into this need for flexibility. Providing your members with useful virtual assets can help by reducing attrition rates and boosting member loyalty, making sure that your bottom line is less affected by members being unable to be on your gym floor.

Virtual training

Virtual training is arguably one of the biggest current trends in the fitness industry. Customers can exercise anytime, anywhere, and can even access training on a single class basis.

By recording trainers performing and demonstrating different fitness moves and collating them into different exercise routines, you can make sure that your members are keeping fit even when they’re not at your gym.

Members are engaged with the brand and their activity is still provided by the gym, whether or not they’re physically in the space. This decreases the risk of members cancelling their membership as they can still access useful services remotely. Furthermore, virtual instructors replace the need for physical instructors for the duration of that session, decreasing staffing costs.

Fitness challenges

To entice members to your virtual platforms, you can run fitness challenges.

Gym challenges create a fitness community amongst your members, as members can work towards a similar goal. This can increase your customer retention.

You can motivate your members online by sharing a weekly leader board, prizes, and updates. What’s more, by moving activity to your social media and website, you can benefit from the great online exposure for your gym.

Even when members can’t access gyms, there are many ways in which fitness providers can still engage with their customers. In fact, making sure that you are still providing high-value content to your members will increase your retention in hard times.

By moving your services online, you can remotely reach members and keep them engaged with your brand. DFC can help you move some of your services online, including your membership management services. For more information, read more about our FastDD Platinum solution.

What is Paperless Direct Debit?

Paperless Direct Debit (PDD) lets businesses and organisations skip paperwork-heavy processes and to simply sign a customer up to the Direct Debit scheme online, face to face, or over the telephone.

Once the customer gives a business their payment service provider​ (PSP) account details, they can agree for a Direct Debit Instruction (DDI) to be set up.

Using the customer’s bank account number, sort code, and other relevant bank details, the customer’s sponsor bank sets up a regular Direct Debit from the customer’s bank to your account.

Since customers can sign up instantly online or over the phone, this method of setting up a Direct Debit collection involves far fewer manual processes. In fact, the data is entered directly into your database.

This means that the entire sign up process is sped up and simplified, which can save crucial administration resources.

How are Paperless Direct Debits collected?

As we’ve mentioned, there are a variety of ways in which businesses can collect Direct Debit mandates virtually.


The payer or customer gives their account details verbally over the phone to the Service User representative.

If there are any errors in the account details given, these can be checked whilst on the phone.

By doing this at the point of sale, businesses can avoid having to chase customers for incomplete Direct Debit forms, incorrect details, or failed set up.

What’s more, by speaking to the customer directly, you can build some relationships and address any concerns.


The payer provides their account details through an on-screen Direct Debit Instruction (DDI) which is sent via the internet.

This is the most convenient option for customers, as they can sign up for your services at any time of the day or night. This creates a 24 hour sales cycle and increases your profits.

You can also build in an automatic detail checking system which means that customers can’t progress if they enter the wrong details.

Face to face

Whilst this likely includes paper mandates (as customers must be offered a DDI form to fill out and sign), the business or a member of staff can also enter the details straight into a computer without the customer having to sign a paper copy.

This means that the DDI can be set up far quicker. It also means that you can immediately check whether the details supplied are accurate, as well as ensuring that the paper DDI is definitely completed – thus increasing your chances of a sale.

The advantages of paperless mandates

Whilst paper mandates have been used for years, Paperless Direct Debit is rapidly gaining popularity, both from customers and from businesses.

There are a few factors that make this method of collecting payments a better option for businesses:

  • Speed. Businesses don’t have to wait for a DDI to be posted back to them. Your customer can immediately access your services and you can immediately start collecting money.
  • Popularity. Customers increasingly prefer PDD because it’s a convenient option.
  • Storage. The lack of a physical document means that there’s no need to store PDD. Businesses only need to keep an electronic database and sign-up log.
  • Reduced admin processes. Allowing customers to sign up almost instantly means far fewer manual processes. Since you don’t have to transfer data from paper into an electronic database (since the data is often automatically transferred into one), you save on a lot of admin resource time.
  • Cheaper to set up. Since they use a fully electronic process, PDD are lower cost to set up. Printing and postage costs are avoided.
  • Additional revenue. The speed of PDD sign ups means that businesses are likely to get more customers signing up. This naturally leads to increased revenue and a larger profit.
  • Environmentally friendly. The lack of physical, paper forms means that a lot of paper is saved annually.

For a Paperless Direct Debit solution that integrates straight into your business’ website, DFC has created FastDD Platinum. This solution creates a fully-integrated, 24 hour sales aid which automatically provides automatic bank account verification and reduces erroneous entries.

To find out more about how FastDD makes Direct Debit payment collections easy, read more about our ingenious solution.

Should gyms be encouraging members to take more rest days?

It seems like an idyllic situation to have hundreds of members hitting the gym every day, using your facilities to smash their personal bests over and over again. Since this marks a sure and steady client base, having this happen consistently would indeed seem to make a huge difference to your gym’s bottom line.

The reality, however, is that training hard for multiple days per week can lead to decreased performance, muscle soreness, and – ultimately – a big dip in your pool of regular gym-goers.

Gyms should, therefore, think about advertising the benefits of active rest days to their members.

Whilst this can seem counterintuitive for gyms – since you’d be actively encouraging members not to visit your facilities for a set number of times a week – there are some surprising benefits.

Proper rest can help to prevent injury

Any gym operator knows that every time someone completes a high-intensity workout, they are creating microscopic tears in their muscles. This is what allows the body to adapt and become stronger.

The problem is that not all gym-goers know this, particularly those who are new to their fitness journey.

In fact, when members – who don’t necessarily know what they’re doing in the gym yet – overdo their training or don’t rest enough, those microtears don’t have any time to recover and can easily become real injuries.

Whilst this can be a sprained ankle or a pulled muscle, members who overtrain are at real risk of Overtraining Syndrome (OTS). This affects the central nervous system and is caused by training too hard without enough rest.

If people overtrain for too long, they might find that their strength and conditioning progress fizzles out, their immune system suffers, and their mood drastically worsens. Instead of taking a rest day or two, members who overtrain might have to stop training for weeks or months in order to recover.

With this prospect looming, gym operators should be prepared to educate their members on appropriate training schedules and the importance of occasional rest days.

Better workouts mean happier members

When members have occasional rest days, they can maintain a consistent training routine with the same enthusiasm and energy from start to finish.

One of the biggest causes of people quitting the gym is a lack of motivation. As soon as members feel despondent, tired, and hopeless, they are far more likely to leave the gym. Overtraining to the point where every workout is dreaded without factoring in recovery time is a sure-fire way for members to reach this conclusion.

This is particularly true for those members who consistently work the same muscle group or always do the same workouts – from strength training and lifting weights to hitting the treadmill every day.

Encouraging active recovery days will ensure that muscles have the right amount of time to recover before another tough workout, and that your members stay motivated and engaged with their fitness journeys.

And when muscles are rested, workouts are much better and more energetic. How’s that for motivation?

Rested muscles, bigger muscles, more noticeable results

Rested muscles are able to build themselves up much faster – and much bigger – than overtrained ones. Proper active rest and nutrition allow little muscle tears to repair themselves properly, meaning that members who take rest days are likely to see better muscle growth.

And members who see faster results are likely to keep coming back for more. Rest days can increase motivation and therefore increase gym retention rates.

The benefit to your bottom line

Ultimately, making sure that your members are happy, motivated, and less injury-prone will have amazing effects on your gym’s retention rates. And when you retain your members, you have a steady source of income for the duration of their membership.

Fitness after 50: Why your gym should start catering to older adults

Recent years have seen a boom in the number of older adults who are joining gyms and health clubs. This is likely due to a fitness zeitgeist, better access to gyms, and studies which show that many mental and physical deteriorations can be helped with regular exercise.

This means that over 50s now make up a significant portion of gym attendees. Despite this, many gyms haven’t cottoned on.

Here’s why your gym really needs to start catering to older adults.

Tapping into the most loyal customer

Most gyms tend to target younger customers, such as millennials and, increasingly, Gen Z. As a demographic, they take an active interest in their health and body image, so it makes sense for them to be a strong target market.

However, the downside of having a young demographic as the target market is that they are not usually totally settled yet. They tend to move to a new house regularly, have less money to spend on premium memberships, and be more fickle in terms of brand loyalty. All of this means that they are rarely at your gym for the long run, and don’t form a very secure membership base.

Conversely, reports say that members over the age of 50 are more likely to keep up a gym membership than any other age group. This is because they mostly are settled in one place (and unlikely to move house repeatedly), have more expendable income, and have more time to spend looking after their health.

Also, since the health impacts of exercise are acute for over 50s, their drive to go to the gym and get fitter and healthier extends beyond purely aesthetic reasons.

If gyms open their offerings to a wider age demographic, it’s possible that the over 50s will prove a steadier, more secure membership base which brings business stability.

A bigger prospective pool of clients

Granted, millennials will still most likely be your biggest pool of potential clients. However, on an international level, that’s not always the case. In the USA, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and lots of Europe, for example, their silver generation makes up a higher percentage of the overall population. In Germany alone, 50% of the population are aged 50+.

If the trend continues, we could see our millennial gym enthusiasts almost eclipsed by older ones.

It’s a wise move, then, to begin marketing to older adults now, so that if our population becomes more grey heavy, you are in an excellent position to truly capitalise on the largest demographic.

Encouraging health at any age

It’s becoming more and more clear that exercising frequently in later years can do wonders for your health. There are reams of purported health benefits, including:

  • Improved quality of life
  • Reduced risk of falls
  • Reduced risk of degenerative diseases
  • Weight loss, which can benefit joints
  • Reduced risk of later injury
  • Potentially reduced chronic pain
  • General improvements in health, including blood pressure
  • Alleviates stress, depression or anxiety
  • Social interaction

Since gyms are concerned with health and fitness, it will only improve your brand to encourage these habits amongst your older members too.

Older people can thrive at the gym

Those over 50 can more than keep up with the rigours of a gym session, provided that appropriate safety measures are in place. One of the emerging trends in fitness for the age group is strength training. Although this was once seen as only suitable for the younger generation, recent research has shown the importance of strength training when you hit your fifties and beyond.

A study conducted with German nursing home residents aged 77 to 97 showed almost 180% improvement in muscle strength after eight weeks of weightlifting.

Strength training can have many great benefits for older adults, including:

  • Joint support
  • Better stability
  • Reduced injury rate
  • Improved bone density, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Fat burning and weight loss, which can help with joint problems
  • Reduced muscle loss
  • Improved posture
  • Reduced back pain.
  • Improvement in sleep quality

Therefore, your gym should be able to offer weights classes (alongside cardio) to older members.

It seems like the world is slowly shifting towards an older demographic, since people are living longer and healthier lives. Isn’t it time that gyms followed suit?

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More appointments, less hassle: how spas can amp up their customer retention rates

In the spa business, the smallest numbers can make the biggest difference.

For example, research on customer retention rates almost unanimously suggests that trying to acquire a new customer is up to 25 times more expensive than rebooking an existing client. So, the type of client that you target makes a huge difference to your bottom line.

If that doesn’t convince you to step up your client retention efforts, research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (inventor of the net promoter score) shows that upping client retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.

Pretty valuable, then.

So, how can you improve your customer retention rates? Here are a few suggestions:

Notice risky customers in advance

The simplest way to improve your customer retention rates is to stop customers from drifting away in the first place.

Most customers who are thinking of leaving your spa give signals that hint at their intentions.

Good examples of these include a drop-in visit or treatment frequency, a history of customer service enquiries, and lack of engagement with your email marketing or online materials.

By noticing these signals, you should be able to take action before the customer churns.

For example, if you pulled a list of every customer who hasn’t had any treatment in the last six months, you would have a list of customers who are at risk of leaving your business and taking their money to your competitors.

You can send a personalised follow-up email to these customers with offers, discounts, or incentives to use your product or service again, or simply send a survey to try to understand why they haven’t visited in a while. Using this information can help you understand why your customers might want to leave and hopefully allow you to reel them back in.

Make the whole spa experience easy on your client

You know better than most that your clients are busy and stressed. Make a note of individual clients’ habits and preferences, such as frequent treatments – or even how they like their coffee! It only takes a small, thoughtful detail to make their experience incredible. And how your clients feel has a direct effect on your salon client retention rates.

Furthermore, many customers simply forget to revisit or find it too inconvenient to rebook an appointment. This is particularly true of spas who don’t offer online booking services.

An easy way around this problem is to simply offer to pre-book appointments whilst your client is still on your premises. Not only does this cut down the effort for the client, but it allows you to easily leverage existing customer appointments to give you higher retention.

On top of this, taking the time to pre-book a customer’s appointment can make them feel valued and taken care of, enhancing the customer experience and brand loyalty.

Offer rewards!

Although offers and rewards programs are popular with new clients, offering a specific existing customer loyalty program can boost your retention rates.

Showing your appreciation for your clients by e-mailing or texting an added value offer to thank them for their loyalty ‘just because’ can make your clients feel special. Plus, if you’re offering them something, it’s very difficult to resist coming back!

Perfect for filling gaps in the early part of the week or seasonal quiet times, you can suggest offers for particular treatments. This is particularly effective if you tailor your offers to specific customers, for example, offering a massage discount to someone who’s had six massages in the past year.

Adding a minimum spend limit, a time limit on the offer, or simply having a loyalty card that demands a certain number of stamps before a customer gets a reward will keep your margins healthy whilst offering your customers a great incentive to come back.

Get feedback

The best way for business owners to work out what’s working and what isn’t is to get feedback directly from your customers.

This shouldn’t just come from clients which look as if they’re about to churn, but from your entire database. Engaging with customers on social media, email, and in person to ask for their feedback will give you a lot of data to work with.

Make sure you follow up

Make sure that your clients don’t feel like you’ve forgotten about them as soon as they leave your spa. Send a follow-up email or text to thank them for their visit and to invite them to come back.

Treating your clients like individuals will make them feel more inclined to enjoy your spa’s services again.

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