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Engage To Retain More Leisure Members 

Effective member engagement at all stages of the member journey requires the right data. Yet, recent research suggests that operators are missing opportunities to track member behaviours and react to signals that indicate members are at risk of attrition.

If you want to cut member attrition for your leisure organisation, you need to effectively engage members throughout their journey with you.

That starts with onboarding. Motivate and inspire new members to build the habit of visiting your leisure facilities regularly. For those new to activity (or who’ve taken an extended break), focus on getting them to visit at least once a week. For others, twice a week will be achievable.

To achieve this, and to keep members motivated to maintain their active habits after onboarding, you need the right tools and tactics in place.

Visits matter

IHRSA reports that at any point in time one of the groups most at risk of cancelling are those who’ve not visited for more than a week, but have visited in the last two weeks.

Members who visit regularly will stay with you for longer. Identifying when members stop visiting, especially when habits change, will help you intervene and re-engage members to turn this around.

Xplor’s leisure member attrition research* found that many operators are failing to track visits:

  • 18% of current and cancelled members have no last visit date recorded

The percentage of former members without a last visit date recorded is higher than the percentage of current members without one (20% of cancelled members vs. 15% of current members.

Without this visit data, it’s harder to see when a member has stopped visiting your leisure facilities. Therefore, there’s less opportunity to take action and re-engage that member before they cancel their membership with your leisure organisation.

How to increase the accuracy and completeness of your visit data

To make sure your leisure organisation has the right data available to see when members stop visiting and take action:

  • Make it simple for members to check-in and use access control equipment
  • Educate your staff members on the importance of every member visit being tracked through your leisure management software. Explain how it helps you take action to increase retention (and therefore revenue)
  • Consider rewarding members in return for their loyalty using visit tracking data. For example, create visit goals that are rewarded when members meet them – get a free coffee when you reach 25 visits, get a free water bottle when you reach 150 visits, etc.

“Members were forced to record or book every visit as we came out of lockdown. This provided very rich visit data, which had previously not always been that accurate. As restrictions have been relaxed, so has visit tracking at many leisure centres and health clubs.

Although visit tracking has improved in general, there is still room to tighten up visit data further.

This comes down to education of staff and members to the benefits of checking in every visit (retention, rewards, tailoring the journey, service, products, etc.).

Most people are quite happy to let their supermarket know what they’re buying each week, or how often they’re ordering a coffee and what with. The leisure experience should be just the same, with appropriate rewards.”

Guy Griffiths, GGFit

31% of current members sleeping

As well as showing that 15% of current members have no recorded last visit, Xplor’s research found that 31% of current members are sleeping. That means almost a third of current members haven’t visited in more than 30 days.

A graph showing the percentage of current leisure members who are sleeping

The Active Insight/HCM Health Club Sleeper Insight Report 2023 suggests that nearly one in four sleeping members retain their membership because they love the idea that they could go if they wanted to.

While some sleepers may be less likely to cancel their membership as they’re not visiting, many are at risk of cancelling. Especially with living costs still high and household budgets pushed.

“Active Insight has found that 39% of sleeping/lapsed members would be willing to return again if their leisure centre provided encouragement and advice. This shows the importance of engagement when members stop attending.”

Julie Allen, Active Insight

In all, potentially 46% of members are not visiting or may not be visiting and are therefore at heightened risk of cancelling their membership. So, you need as much visit data as possible. Plus, an effective approach to intervene and re-engage these at risk members before you lose them.

Seasonal engagement

While your leisure management system should integrate with access control technologies to make tracking visits simple, you can also look to engage and re-engage members on a seasonal basis.

The attrition research conducted by Xplor observed that more cancellations happen in the second half of the year than the first.

A graph showing cancellation and joiners by month over the course of a year.

This curve is understandable as leisure member engagement and motivation is most likely to dip as habits slip over the summer months as life gets busier with travel, school holidays, and better weather.

For some making it back to activity never happens. Support and engage members during months where visiting is not always possible or practical. So, they are much more likely to return when they can.

Creating a strategy to engage and re-engage members

If you can keep members consistently engaged you’ll retain more members for longer – and that’s important to the financial success of your leisure organisation.

To create a strategy that systematically engages members to reduce attrition:

  1. Identify why and when members become disengaged
  2. Analyse the data from your CRM and surveys
  3. Segment at-risk members into groups
  4. Choose the right mix of communication channels
  5. Develop targeted, personalised re-engagement campaigns
  6. Review & measure success regularly

For more on these steps, read Checklist: Re-Engagement Strategy For High-Risk Members.

Engage to retain and cut attrition

The Winning The War On Attrition report contains extensive insights and leisure industry expert tips to help you engage and retain more members for longer.

* About the research:

The attrition insights featured in this article and the Winning The War On Attrition report are based on Xplor data from 714,674 leisure, health club and gym members paying by Direct Debit in the UK & Ireland.

As well as current members, it includes data on members who held a membership that’s been cancelled between January 2017 and April 2023.

The data was collected in May 2023.