Les Mills article response

Great read here from Les Mills and it really echoes my and the opinions of the team here at Volution.  The digital-hybrid gym model isn’t new, it’s not the outcome of COVID. It’s been around for years and as the article states, some 85% of people have been exercising at home as well as in the gym for some time.  

I am lucky enough to work and talk with some of the leading fitness operators across the world and it’s always interesting to hear the different opinions about digital. Some are cautiously monitoring it, hoping it’ll go away, some don’t believe it will stick / stay long, while others are frantically trying to embrace it, and some are doing well at implementing and offering it to their members.    

For the foreseeable future, fitness clubs will likely have fewer members attending their physical premises. That’s why it’s never been so important to use data to make better, smarter, real-time decisions to increase the lifetime value of each remaining member by as many months/years as possible – while also driving secondary spend – to maintain and increase revenue. The key to this is a strong digital offer which is engaging and results driven for your members.  .  

Virtual engagement, like offline engagement, is the sum of many parts. It’s not simply creating killer email campaigns, liking your members’ posts on Facebook or having your superstar coaches deliver incredible group training sessions online. It’s all of those things, and so much more. And just as every fitness brand or club is different, so too should its digital platform. In the pre-Covid world, operators mainly used ‘off the shelf’ products to manage their member engagement, but in the post-Covid world, there’s a need for something more sophisticated. Something bespoke. Something that fits the unique identity of the brand/club, its members and your commercial goals.

To achieve this, there’s no need to throw away all of your existing systems. Far from it. We want you to keep them. What we’re actually suggesting is that clubs need a solution that brings all of these systems together to maximise them all, driving acquisition, engagement, retention and revenue. Something that plugs gaps, bolts on, generates opportunities and is quick, effortless and cost-effective to integrate.

A digital platform gives your members access to the superstar coaches and trainers they’ve built relationships with at your facility over the months and years they’ve been members. With additional opportunities for member-trainer interaction through online training, coaching, classes, and support, this can significantly boost customer engagement, satisfaction and retention rates, driving people back towards your gym (the online to offline model). 

Although many people will have experimented with all kinds of virtual classes and trainers during lockdown, most would still prefer to be coached by someone they know, like, and trust. Not providing this opportunity to your members could mean they look elsewhere. Using a digital platform stops this happening and brings your community closer.

Coupled with the above, data insights can be used to set KPIs that encourage your staff to be better and help to make them accountable for their decisions and actions. Giving staff real-time visibility on progress towards KPIs keeps them on track, with a positive knock-on effect for member engagement. 

The digital-hybrid model is here to stay.  If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be seeing the likes of Apple planning to launch the Apple+, Facebook looking to commercialise fitness live-streaming or a 360 per cent increase in Peloton shares since March this year.

We urge operators to act now to look at how you can evolve and adapt. As this article states – “Silicon Valley’s biggest players are sizing up the fitness market – and they’re coming for your members”.  We can help.  We have bespoke solutions that can enable you to get up and running with a strong and bespoke digital offer in less than six weeks.  We can demonstrate the impact and drive commercial growth.  Please, reach out today for an informal chat and I can show you how our systems work and the best thing is; digital solutions don’t break your budgets! 

Andy Hall, Sales Director

How can member engagement drive more secondary spend revenue?

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We know we need to engage more with our members, but what exactly does effective member engagement deliver? Lifetime value – yes.  Member retention – yes.  More referrals – yes.  Done right, it can also be a key driver of your secondary spend. Auxiliary spend will be an area we know is going to be critical to commercial success in 2020 and beyond, especially as operators get to grips with new operational procedures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as capped capacities.   

Since facilities were forced to close in March 2020, we’ve seen brands such as PureGym pivot their business models to offer home fitness equipment to their members, recognising the importance of driving revenue into the business during a time of uncertainty.    

And historically, we’ve seen the likes of Virgin Active and David Lloyd Leisure lead the way in terms of generating secondary spend, driven by high dwell time and high-end food and beverage outlets. You’ll often find members enjoying their morning work out followed by a day spent in the cafe working. Add to this additional services from kids soft play, tennis lessons, PT, parties, and clothing, they’ve seen a very healthy income from getting this part (as well as other areas of the business) right. And, of course, none of this can be achieved without the help of data to make smart business decisions.   

More recently, the boutique market has been shaking the dust off this approach and driving quick wins around secondary spend. Instead of installing high-end food and beverage areas, they have been able to maximise their reception desk to install protein shake stations, smoothie stations, and sell over-the-counter food on the go.  

1Rebel, as reported by Health Club Management, is a great example of how to develop secondary spend, driving multiple benefits for its business. The boutique fitness brand acknowledges that if the member experience isn’t good, they won’t be coming back for more. An important part of this involves ‘selling’ to its members every time they step through the doors. Recognising that ‘I’m healthy and I’m wealthy’ is a statement that today’s consumers want to make, and capitalising on the ‘fitness-and-fashion’ trend, 1Rebel sells t-shirts and hoodies to crop tops and street-to-gym-wear. This enables its members to achieve a ‘look’ that represents them and their connection with the brand. Beyond secondary spend, this creates awareness, builds loyalty, increases brand advocacy, and drives sell-out sessions. 

Two different approaches, two different audiences, but both doing well because they know their members and customers; trust that starts with the brand and is reciprocated by its customers in the form of increased spend.

The way forward – a solid defence and protection strategy 

There’s no doubt about it, operators are facing incredible challenges. Key to a successful defence and protection strategy is to look at alternative areas to drive revenue. For this to be successful, and to see secondary spend increase, operators will need their member engagement strategy to be firing on all cylinders, requiring accurate data to drive it. 

We know that assisted members deliver a higher lifetime value; they attend more frequently, they are more loyal and they refer more people.  

As we’ve seen in our previous blog, the better we are at delivering a good member engagement strategy, the happier and more loyal our members are.


Think about the impact a great member engagement strategy could have on your secondary spend. What would the impact be if you enhanced or started to offer a range of other brands, products or services, such as at-home fitness equipment, home-delivered nutrition packages and subscriptions, clothing, virtual PT sessions; all delivering you a ort kick-back? A great exercise for your finance team to scope out!    

Done right, your brand could be seen as a health hub, delivering and recommending a network of partnerships that support and enable your members to lead a healthier, happier lifestyle – something we all want. A report showed that millions of Brits class themselves as ‘too busy’ to be healthy. More than half of the people polled said they want to eat healthily and get plenty of exercise – but are hindered by their hectic lifestyles, and two thirds admitted they often eat ‘badly’ because they don’t have the time to prepare nutritious food.  Imagine if, at the touch of a button, you could offer your members access to everything they needed to lead a healthier lifestyle… we think they’d be pretty happy! 

Most of us will admit we are time-poor and will do what we can to claw back time – where we can; whether this is buying ready-grated cheese, having a cleaner, using dry shampoo, or simply sending emails late at night whilst you have dinner or attempt to watch TV. 

However, on the flip side, research shows that Millennials and Gen Z – often dubbed ‘the wellness generation’ – now make up 80% of health club members and have a more intense focus on holistic health. This means it can really pay to expand your offering to provide other services that make you ‘more than just a gym’ – looking after the minds, bodies and souls of your members.


It’s not rocket science to recognise the power of personal recommendations. How many times have you looked at a product or service off the back of a friend or family member recommending it to you? And how many times have you bought something online after the website you were shopping on recommended it? 

Let’s apply this to your network of facilities. If you have the right engagement strategy and you have a membership base of avid members, think of the impact recommendations for additional services and products could have on them? If you’ve fine-tuned your strategy and you’re engaging with your members both virtually and in-club, the trust level will be high. You’re already serving them content and classes they like and are benefiting from. Add to this third party brands and services, all giving you a healthy kick-back on sales, and it’s a win, win.  


You have the potential to offer your members everything they need in a bid to become healthier, happier versions of themselves, and what’s more, you can drive significant revenue to your business. By recognising the part you play and seeing the bigger picture by utilising the data, you have, at your fingertips, the power to navigate your way through this time and continue to drive your revenue now and years ahead. 

Getting members engaged

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What do Amazon, Netflix and Cadburys all have in common? They are nailing personalised marketing and the key to doing this is data. Data rules in all modern businesses but if you want yours to deliver genuine commercial results, it’s about collecting data, personalising it, tracking it and learning from it.  

Netflix is in over a third of U.S. households and, in the UK, has over 13 million subscribers. The success of Netflix comes from its intuitive data platform and expansive range of content, but what it has done better than any other brand on the market, is turn “customer engagement” into an exact science. The platform has prioritised learning who its customers are and how to reach them. It takes our viewing data and serves up personalised recommendations based on our habits and likes. To learn from this global zeitgeist, we must adopt more sophisticated data strategies and view member engagement as part of our daily operational systems.  

Personalisation isn’t new, but to succeed, your service, your marketing and your communications need to be tailored to your audience/membership – understanding their likes, dislikes, motivations, and goals.  

We are at the epicentre of some of the biggest shifts in society and this in itself presents its own challenges and considerations. Today, we are more aware than ever before of our health and wellbeing, and we expect brands, businesses we buy from, and even companies we work for, to recognise the part they play and take ownership of these issues in partnership with us. 

51% of consumers expect that companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact. 88% of U.S. marketers reported seeing measurable improvements due to personalisation, with more than half reporting a lift greater than 10%. In fact, 81% of consumers want brands to get to know them and understand when to approach them and when not to.

Engaging with members is more than an email on their birthday or offering them a couple of guest passes each year. Effective member engagement goes deeper and is often about understanding their needs, wants, issues and even worries and concerns, and creating solutions to help and support them.   

For clubs and operators with thousands of members, this can sound quite a task but with data-tracking, member engagement is far simpler than ever before. At the touch of a button – using a virtual hub – you can view trends, opportunities, issues and instantly capture the mood of your membership.  

Member engagement starts from the moment someone becomes a member; from the first needs analysis, you should begin to build up a profile of what makes this person tick. Creating a simple questionnaire about their lifestyle, habits, family life, work, current health, and more can provide the data and insight required to start your data-driven member engagement strategy. By plugging in the right data-application, you can start to create bespoke and personalised tactics that drive usage, engagement and outcomes that can all be tracked and monitored.  

The right data partner will enable and encourage you to use your current and future data in a more intuitive way in a bid to serve up recommendations and different products to support members achieve more; as Netflix and Amazon do so well. The simplest way we know how to do this in the first instance is to encourage and promote your assisted products such as group exercise classes or PT. We know that this leads to increased retention. Research by IHRSA showed that “the risk of cancelling is 56% higher in gym-only members compared to group exercisers.” whilst another study found that members who take part in just one group exercise class per week are “20% more likely to be loyal members than those who visit three times per week and only workout on the gym floor”. 

Your superstar team 

We’ve all been to a fitness class with a standout instructor; one who blows your mind and makes you want to return time after time. You’re probably thinking about members of your team right now. Perhaps you have a PT who has a waiting list of six months? How can you bottle up this magic and spread it amongst more members in a bid to inspire, motivate and ultimately drive more revenue? It’s pretty simple really, you can use data and digital strategies to stream and host these classes and sessions 24/7. We aren’t suggesting you change your model of operation to become the next Les Mills On Demand, but you should be capturing these magic moments and using them to engage and galvanize your current and future membership base.

A data-driven virtual hub gives your members access to the superstar coaches and trainers with opportunities to increase member-trainer touchpoints and interaction through online training, coaching, classes, and support. This can significantly boost engagement and retention rates not to mention giving you rich-data information to learn from.  

Virtual hubs show which classes, PTs, and even equipment have the highest and lowest attendance and usage levels. From there, you can swap low performing classes with more high performing classes (online and offline) and see the direct effect this has on club attendance and lifetime value of members.  

You’ll also be able to learn who is attending your clubs, classes, PTs, and more importantly, who isn’t attending. Finding out what is, and isn’t, working for your members is valuable insight that can help you to adapt your strategies and act early to retain and acquire members. 

Leverage your facility through ‘fitfluencers’

Alongside being able to maximise the potential of your ‘superstar team,’ a virtual hub gives you the ability to stream live or recorded classes from any instructor, anywhere in the world to complement your in-house staff. No longer are you restricted to just your community of coaches. You could potentially team up with fitness influencers or other commercial brands to create even more inspiring content to reach and engage new audiences.

Why not have an amazing, Insta-famous Yoga teacher stream one class a week to all of your members across all of your facilities nationwide? Not only could this ‘sprinkling of stardust’ elevate your business locally, but you may even attract people from other countries around the world that want to take out a ‘digital membership’ with your club just because of the ‘fitfluencers’ on your books. The opportunities are endless…

Driving secondary spend 

Linked closely to effective member engagement is the increase of secondary spend and when executed in the right way, engaged members can drive your auxiliary revenue. The reason for this is pretty simple; trust. People buy from brands they trust. Therefore, if you recommend brands and services to your members, the data tells you that they are more likely to buy as they trust you know them.  

And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that all this activity drives the lifetime value of a member.   

Case study of effective member engagement through the effective use of data – Anytime Fitness 

Working with Anytime Fitness, we’ve been able to deliver data-driven member engagement strategies to secure the operational stability of 100+ clubs across the Philippines.  

The challenge:

One of the largest fitness centre chains in the Philippines, Anytime Fitness tasked Volution with an urgent challenge to deliver a technical solution bespoke to their needs that would keep them operational during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Following the news that all Anytime Fitness locations in the Philippines would be temporarily shut down due to Covid-19, Anytime Fitness quickly realised that their membership base wouldn’t be able to engage with their services as normal – and that apprehension to do so may remain for some time. 

Any remote-focused solution would need to be driven by digital expertise and bespoke to their needs as a business. They couldn’t have an “off the shelf” product that didn’t quite fit the bill.  

The process 

It was clear Anytime Fitness needed a virtual platform and mobile application that allowed its team to continue to deliver personal training sessions from any location.

Developed within a matter of days, members were able to log in to a personalised portal, which had all the Anytime Fitness branding. They were able to book Virtual PT sessions, join live or pre-recorded classes and create their own at-home workouts, all within just a few clicks.

The outcomes

  • 14.2% increase in PT revenue 
  • All staff remain employed during the lockdown period
  • Increase of $1M in revenue through data analytics and digitisation 
  • 50% of members who have signed up to the virtual hub so far are using assisted services for the first time, enhancing their engagement with the brand

The launch of this virtual hub was critical to operational stability. It kept revenue flowing and helped to minimise financial disruption and allowed senior management to maintain their budget with ease. Member engagement was high, even when members couldn’t physically visit their local gym.  

The beauty of launching a virtual hub was that it integrated perfectly into the current operating systems and, from the moment it was launched, the team had the ability to generate proprietary data insights.  

Anytime Fitness was able to monitor data visualisations of each of their selected KPIs in real-time from a central dashboard. Senior managers were able to track key trends in user engagement, how many PT sessions had been sold, where penetration rates were high, which classes were proving more popular, and how much revenue had been generated.

Shift managers also benefited directly by giving them a clear view of staff availability, which has since led to fewer complications in scheduling and far less risk of double-bookings.

Anytime Fitness’ decision to integrate a remote module has ultimately allowed them to stay operational and sustain revenue throughout the most challenging crisis of our time – though the impact of this project goes much further than that.

By taking this opportunity now, the brand has opened a new revenue stream that will continue to support the growth of their business for years to come.


What’s clear is that without a decent data strategy, you can kiss personalisation goodbye. The key to personalisation is data. And as personalisation is the key to winning the retention battle, data should be your focus. So, what will you do to become more data-driven? Perhaps it’s time to create a bespoke virtual hub for your business…

3 steps to set up your virtual hub

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We’ve explored what it means to engage with members virtually, how to achieve this, and why it’s so vital as we enter the ‘post-Covid’ age. Now, let’s have a look at how you can set up a virtual hub to take full advantage of the opportunities available to enhance member engagement, retention and lifetime value. 

You’ll be pleased to know that building and integrating a virtual hub involves just three straightforward steps, meaning you can be up and running in no time, unlocking even more of your business’ potential. 

Step 1: Brand Identity

We understand just how important it is to maintain brand consistency. It’s a pattern of expression that affects the way people think about your business. The more consistent your visual branding and messaging, the more you’re able to grow awareness around your club and develop trust and loyalty with your members, which subsequently drives results. In fact, research states that “a coherent brand presentation across all platforms will increase revenue by up to 23%.” Our virtual hubs are white labelled, so using your company’s colours, fonts, logos, and media assets, we can design the app and dashboard of your virtual hub to perfectly match your brand and fit seamlessly within your website or alongside your existing systems. 

Step 2: Company and Member Data

To populate your virtual hub with club and member data, it couldn’t be simpler. By downloading the data from your existing CRM systems, this can be quickly and efficiently transferred to your virtual hub through a series of hassle-free migrations. With your club details, trainer information, and that all-important member data added to your virtual hub, you’re now in a position to start utilising all of the data and insights available to enhance your engagement levels and maximise the success of your business. 

Step 3: Payment System

You choose whether you’d like to create a pay-as-you-go or subscription model for your virtual hub and, better still, we can integrate with any existing payment gateway, such as Stripe, Paypal and PayFort. If you opt for a subscription model, we’d need to define access to products based on the subscription levels and the monthly instalment plans you wish to offer. If you opt for pay-as-you-go, we’d need to know how much each product/service costs, whether members can make single or bulk purchases, and if any complimentary products form part of your membership packages or reward schemes. We’d also need to factor in any ‘free trials’ that you’d like to include as part of your marketing strategy. 

It can be an exciting process coming up with all the great new products, services and initiatives you’re able to offer now that you have a way of engaging physically and virtually with your members – increasing opportunities for additional revenue and secondary spend.

What does the virtual hub look like? 

The virtual hub would be hosted on your website via a portal, with the option to have an app. Members can use the online portal or app to manage their subscriptions, access live and on-demand content, book PT sessions, update their profiles, track goals, and so much more. 

From the operator’s perspective, KPIs, reporting, analytics and uploading in-house content, would all be managed via the control panel of the web portal. Through the app, staff can perform functions, such as scheduling and monitoring classes, communicating with members, and delivering virtual content

During the ‘discovery sessions’ at the beginning of every project/partnership, we make sure that we fully understand the uniqueness of the client’s business so that we can create a bespoke virtual hub that contains all of the reports, analytics, trends, and admin features they require to increase efficiency and profitability. As data people, we’re all about the details, and believe that every virtual hub should be tailored to the client’s needs and goals. It’s what drives us. 

And, as an added bonus, there is nothing to pay during the design phase, meaning you’re able to keep valuable money inside your business until the virtual hub is ready to be implemented.     


IHRSA summed it up brilliantly when they said, “Across the industry, the perception of technology is shifting from a standalone silo to a package of member experience tools that should be integrated throughout the business.” And, especially in testing times, we need to make this technology work harder than ever for our businesses to survive, and thrive. 
As you can see, setting up a virtual hub is a quick and pain-free process. With a virtual hub in place, you’ll be able to provide digital content (classes and PT sessions) to your members via a purely ‘digital hybrid’ membership. Going far beyond simply offering Facebook or Instagram Live classes, each virtual hub is completely bespoke, measurable, and created to deliver commercial returns from day one. It enables you to offer both a virtual and ‘bricks and mortar’ service, connecting the dots between home fitness and the gym environment to deliver an engaging, ‘joined-up’ member experience. With a slick online presence, this enables you to channel members back towards your physical sites, driving commercial results.

The future is virtual, so let’s get started!