Many of the clubs approaching us recently are looking for analytics to help them understand how their member demographics and behavior have changed in the post-Covid world. That’s smart, because they have in most cases. We’re seeing shifts in age/gender distributions, changes in patterns for check-ins, ancillary spend, class attendance, join method, duration…on and on.

But these changes can vary quite a bit from brand to brand, location to location. So much so that you should be wary of anyone making generalized pronouncements about who today’s fitness consumers are and how they behave. You need to understand your business, in your locations, not blanket statistics derived from a mishmash of potentially non-similar geographies and business models.

You also need to be careful not to fall into a self-created, self-perpetuating trap. For example, take the simple demographic of age, a common theme in “who your members are now” conversations. Let’s say you find that post-Covid you have a 30% increase in age 18-24 members and a 30% decrease in age 45+ members. Before you conclude or do anything, you should ask yourself 3 very important questions.

  1. Is it INTENTIONAL? Is this the demographic you’ve been trying to attract? When you developed your marketing strategy, were you saying to yourself “our sweet spot is the age 18-24 set and that’s who our message is aimed at”. If yes, all is well. If no, proceed to question #2.
  2. Is it INSTRUMENTAL to achieving your long-term goals? If you accept this as your “new normal”, will the revenue potential of this member mix get you to where you want to be? You have to take a hard look at metrics for each demographic segment like monthly revenue-per-member, attrition, membership upgrade/downgrade patterns etc. to answer that question.
  3. Is it INEVITABLE? Is it “just the way it is” now for this location and time, or can you influence it? This one requires a bit of critical self-examination. It’s not just the who and the how of people returning to fitness that has changed, but also the why. Is your marketing message adequately addressing the why for each target demographic? If you have lost high-value segments, are they truly gone, or will your competitors get them back if you don’t?

Also, don’t make the mistake of assuming things are not still evolving, because they are. One club had all but given up on the return of age 55+ members…until their analytics showed it was the age group with the most consistent positive net gain in members in the last 6 months, and had the highest monthly spend of any segment. They weren’t coming back quickly, but they were coming back. And staying longer. And spending more.

Don’t let a static demographic snapshot of your current membership composition drive decisions that may trap you into limited future growth potential. It’s not a changed world, it’s a changing world. Keep a close eye on emerging membership trends so you won’t miss the new opportunities that certainly will come.