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Difference between loyalty and fidelity. A strategy for a fitness centre

In recent years, even in the world of fitness and wellness, we have started talking about Loyalty and Fidelity. Almost always, however, these two terms are used indistinctly to indicate traditional programs and initiatives, linked to the loyalty of their users. However, knowing how to distinguish their different meanings makes it possible to create different initiatives that, on different fronts too, can increase not only the percentage of renewals, but also the whole process that from the first registration leads to the decisive moment of renewal itself.
In an advanced and forward-looking organization, Loyalty and Fidelity are two concepts that go hand in hand. Choosing to follow only the road of Loyalty or just that of Fidelity, can create asymmetry: on the one hand it's like missing your head, on the other it's like missing your tail.
It is well known that most of the members who don't renew depend on the fact that they have stopped attending the fitness centre. Sometimes this abandonment already occurs in the very first few months, other times towards the end of the subscription. First of all, it is important to constantly monitor customers at risk of abandonment by planning their own management, thus avoiding realizing that people do not attend when it is too late. It is also necessary to have structured a specific internal process on how to contact these less active users and how to encourage them to resume their training.
It is in fact good to clarify immediately that neither the Loyalty programme nor the Fidelity programme will ever be able to raise the frequency and renewal levels on their own, if they are not integrated within a human and relational philosophy carried out by the staff of the centre, especially by those who should know, gratify, motivate and encourage every member: fitness room assistants, course instructors, personal trainers and (for centres with swimming pools) bathers' assistants and swimmers and aquafitness instructors.
If these foundations exist and are solid, then Loyalty and Fidelity can be integrated and have their best development to encourage members to attend and spend time in the centre - Loyalty - and to thank them for their renewed trust - Fidelity.

How to create a loyalty program

A good Loyalty program plans to reward the subscriber by giving him/her some levels to reach and aspire to. When each level is reached, a prize is awarded, even virtual, such as points to accumulate. The levels, understood as the type and content of the actions to be implemented, define them as a function of the centre's organisational and management capabilities and may vary from recording a certain number of accesses, to recording that same number of accesses in a predefined period of time, up to recording an average number of accesses within a continuous period.
This means moving from a concept like "when you reach your 12th entry you will receive..." to one of a kind "if you make 12 entries within the first 45 days you will receive..." up to a cyclical concept similar to "if every month (or every quarter) you have entered at least x number of times, then you will receive..."

Game's rules

The first step, therefore, is to structure the minimum frequency parameters that you want to encourage for the entire user population and to structure one or more levels that can be reached. At the same time, however, it is also necessary to create the countervalue of achieving each single goal. What do you receive? Points to accumulate? Previously declared gifts? And, in the event of gifts, will they be related to club services, bonuses to be spent in the club or even services, products or discounts to be used in different businesses?
Surely creating a Loyalty program, which is not only self-referential, is more attractive for those who are committed to following it. The strategic inclusion of benefits related to bars, restaurants, bakeries, wellness centres (if not present in the structure), beauty services, sportswear shops, bookshops, etc. increases interest but also the collaboration and mutual word of mouth. This stage of agreement between the parties is as important as it is delicate.
Sometimes it is based on simple verbal agreements that, however, in time, risk being forgotten, misrepresented, reinterpreted and therefore not respected, with the only consequence - negative - that the user of the club that has achieved the gift or bonus, is unable to use it.
It is essential that each agreement be made in writing, indicating whether there is a limit on the number of gifts, vouchers or discounts made available by the business partner, specifying the validity in time of both the agreement and the period within which the gift can be used, and, last but not least, if a part of the gift must be economically supported by the club, indicating precisely the value of the gift and the economic amount to be paid to the partner, including billing terms and conditions.
Another aspect that should not be overlooked, therefore, are the possible costs that the club will have to bear for each gift, whether of its own or others, that will be paid in the Loyalty course. These costs will have to be included in the annual business plan and, to give both an estimate and a limit of them, one will have to reason by analyzing the gap currently existing between the values of the subscriptions and the amounts actually invoiced, deriving from promotions, extensions of free periods, family discounts, discounts applied on renewals, etc.
Instead of spending (and therefore receiving less money, Loyalty and Fidelity are oriented towards keeping sales values as close as possible to those of the list, transforming the value of savings into the value of services and goods that can be received during the year. It is no longer, therefore, all right away, but rather the much and different little by little, in a path in which the achievement or not of prizes depends solely and exclusively on the customer.
This is a radical change in the point of view, which allows the club not to lose earnings on every customer who may then leave, but to have minimum and more regular outputs linked only to those customers who are deserving and who are therefore showing attachment to the club.

Features of the loyalty program

The Loyalty program can cover many aspects of your club's life. Frequency is certainly the most important aspect but, strategically, we can also encourage and reward other virtuous and very useful attitudes for the commercial department, even if apparently not everyone leads to an immediate result in the short term. Subscription integrations (intended as either a transition from a short to an annual period, or as the inclusion of a club area initially not included in your subscription), presentation of friends, participation in masterclasses and special events and, not to forget the importance of the web, sharing of particular posts on your bulletin boards, are just some of the many initiatives that can be included in a Loyalty plan, linking to each of them a different fee in terms of points or prizes.
The integration between Loyalty and Fidelity takes place during the renewal phase, during which the same line of conduct will be followed and where you can really indulge yourself. Depending on the type, renewal times and years of loyalty, you can obtain different scores or use some of the points accumulated to convert them into a discount, which is equal to the value of any prizes not collected.
In fact, the strategy that binds scores and gifts can also be personalized, following two different strategies: always and indiscriminately obtain the gifts and services provided by the achievement of the different premium thresholds (but they may be lost if not withdrawn within a certain period of time), or give up the contents of the different steps to achieve an overall final discount or a free period to be applied to the renewal.
As you can see, behind each Loyalty and Fidelity plan, even the simplest, there is an important and attentive work of strategic organization, which, if neglected or bypassed, risks transforming every good intention into a fatal weapon, creating disappointment and dissatisfaction in the client, disputes with business partners and uncontrolled cash outfits.
Not only that. Because the utmost care must also be taken to ensure consistency between the programmes built and its legal form, because not all companies could organise initiatives linked to prizes, especially when these awards are perhaps closely linked and dependent on the purchase of a subscription, i. e. on an expense. This should not, however, make you abandon the idea of starting to structure a program, but simply make sure, following the advice of your consultant, you find the formula of Loyalty and Fidelity best suited to your company.

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