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What clubs can learn from the biggest brand in boutique membership
The past few years has seen the rise of ClassPass - a subscription service that lets members access thousands of boutique studios and gyms across the US (and further afield) for a monthly fee. Since launching in 2013, 30 million reservations for classes at clubs have been booked via ClassPass, so it’s firmly established as a way for people to pay for their workouts. Rivals including FitReserve in Boston and New York are taking a similar approach.
We can’t say for certain whether this style of multi-studio membership will continue to grow. But it’s clear that the popularity of ClassPass is directly linked to the way that people increasingly want to work out. So, let’s look inside ClassPass, and see what implications it has for clubs across the industry.
The lowdown on ClassPass
In case you are unfamiliar with the ClassPass model, let’s start with a quick summary. For their monthly fee, members can visit a certain number of clubs in their city. For example, ClassPass customers in Chicago can buy three classes per month for $40, five classes for $60 or ten for $115. In New York, the cost is $45, $75 or $135 for the same deals. Similar prices apply elsewhere, with 30 US cities involved, as well as eight across Canada, Australia and the UK.
The big restriction is on the number of times users can visit the same club each month. For the cheapest subscription fee, it’s limited to once per month. At the most expensive plan of ten visits per month, a maximum of three can be made to the same club. It’s ClassPass’s way of preventing users from buying frequent access to clubs at lower prices than the clubs themselves offer.
Lessons from the ClassPass story
So as promised, here are the three things that stand out when you look at why people are choosing ClassPass…
- Many people need variety in their fitness schedule
ClassPass state that they ‘help you explore tons of amazing studios and classes’ and when you visit their website you are soon struck by the sheer variety of workout styles its customers can choose from.
For London alone it lists strength training, cycling, rowing, martial arts, boxing, yoga, Pilates, dance and barre (ballet-based exercise) workouts, as well as a generic ‘gym time’ category that gives people access to an even wider range of styles across gym classes.
In August 2016, ClassPass released data about its members’ fitness choices in the US. The most adventurous city was New York, with members on average taking 35 different classes per year. It reveals that people are hungry for new experiences, either running alongside membership of their ‘regular’ club or as their main approach to working out.
And it’s the variety that attracts people to ClassPass. One happy customer posted this review on Trust Pilot: “I like the flexibility and variety of picking what I feel like doing, when I want to do it. So far I've discovered four workouts I never would have known about and was brave enough to try.” Another wrote: “It makes working out SO much fun. I love that I can do a CrossFit class one day, and then a Pilates class the next.”
- There is a thirst for intensity - but for short periods at a time
The ClassPass message is focused on the intense side of exercise. The company promises customers that they will ‘be a sweaty mess, but in a good way’. They also encourage users to challenge themselves and find styles of fitness they can feel passionate about.
That seems to be a message resonating with subscribers. In 2016, ClassPass reported that, among its US customers, the most popular style of workout was strength training. That would definitely indicate that people want demanding workouts.
ClassPass also reported that shorter classes were proving incredibly popular. It said that in an hour-long class for 20 people, on average a studio would fill ten spots. However, by reducing the length of the class to 45-55 minutes, the studio could see up to two additional reservations through ClassPass.
It makes sense. Morning, lunchtime and quick after-work classes are popular because they are great for people juggling fitness with busy careers. It also reflects that people are becoming more knowledgeable about fitness and the benefits of short bursts at high intensity compared to longer cardio sessions.
- Membership is fine, but flexibility is even better
ClassPass customers can avoid being tied down to annual contracts. They can put their membership on hold or cancel it at any time (albeit for a fee). That’s attractive to people whose lives lack the predictability that it could be argued is needed to sign up for a year’s membership with no way out of the deal.
Boutique studios are among the clubs bringing innovation to business models in the fitness industry. The all-inclusive membership models are under pressure from pay-as-you-go alternatives and the ability to buy a certain number of visits up-front, as ClassPass itself supports.
Learning lessons from ClassPass
Opinion of the ClassPass business model is divided, with some studios welcoming the opportunity to access people they couldn’t otherwise reach, and others concerned about the level of income that involvement generates.
But regardless of your view on all of that, there is a lot to learn from the ClassPass story. For boutiques and traditional clubs alike, the big message is that variety is key. Offering half a dozen or so different styles of class may be proving successful at the moment, but if the ClassPass experience is anything to go by, that might not always be the case.
Many people will love the routine of going to the same club and the same classes, week in and week out. That of course offers clubs the opportunity to build upon that preference to foster loyalty among those people.
But expecting that loyalty to continue indefinitely is a risky strategy. Clubs who want to respond to the growing demand for variety can take the initiative now by creating - or accessing from external providers - a number of programmes and training styles. Giving customers the opportunity to access a truly diverse schedule of workouts (small group, large group and one-to-one PT) is almost certain to attract and retain a community of dedicated users.
Access variety though Escape
Escape’s huge range of functional fitness tools, and our suite of in-club group programming packages, bring any club the opportunity to offer variety to their members. Get in touch to find out more:
Email: [email protected]
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USA: +1 (614)-706-4462
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