Strategies To Improve Membership Retention During COVID-19

Membership retention at gyms is something that has always been a challenge, long before the COVID-19 pandemic. With many people choosing to embark on their fitness journey, it is no surprise that around half of people who start an exercise program will drop out within the first six months.

And with the onset of this pandemic, gyms are facing an entirely different set of challenges in order to to retain their members. Due to the overwhelming uncertainty that came with COVID-19, many people opted to cancel their gym memberships for a range of reasons.

Many people faced uncertainty over their employment. With many people placed on the government furlough scheme and although some businesses have been fortunate enough to reopen and employees return to work, this hasn’t been the case for everyone and therefore there was and still is a fear of economic downturn. This has resulted in people trying to save where they could.

Even if you opted to freeze your memberships throughout lockdown periods, you will have noticed that some of your members will have proceeded with cancelling their memberships anyway as a precautionary measure.

But you rely on your members for the long-term survival of your gym, so try and get ahead of members cancellations by making sure you provide enough value to make them stick around.



If you don’t have time to read the blog, then you can always download our membership retention guide right now, and discover the steps you need to consider in order to improve your membership retention percentage.


Understandably, many of your members may be reluctant to return to your facility once it is able to open again. People may be unable to due to an underlying health condition, or they might be hesitant due to the many concerns that surround returning to a public place.

People have become used to spending increased time at home and at the same time are fearful of the virus. Your members need your help and support in order to navigate through this time and they will gradually feel safe enough to return. Although, you must anticipate that not all members will return to feeling the same way they did prior to COVID-19 and some members may cancel their membership for good.

To begin rebuilding the confidence in your members you must have consistent, open and honest communication with your members. Let them know about your new safety protocols and sanitation guidelines. Do this via email, SMS and through your social media channels to ensure that as many of your members as being exposed to your new measures. Your members need to know that you are doing everything possible to keep them safe and although this won’t be enough for everyone, don’t let that discourage you as your members would need to know this information anyone to ensure they follow your new guidelines.

It may also be beneficial to share research and information from other sources to try and help fight negatives feelings caused by the overwhelming amount of COVID-19 updates. Early research conducted by the Norwegian Research Council found that there is no evidence to suggest that gyms pose any additional risk to spreading COVID-19 when following appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols. This type of research sharing will reassure your members and will encourage them to trust that you are doing your best to stay informed and act accordingly.



Man in the gym, exercising his legs doing cardio training on bicycle wearing a mask - coronavirus conceptWhen your gym or studio is ready and allowed to reopen, one of the biggest obstacles you may face is encouraging your members that your facility is safe to return to and they should feel comfortable in doing so.

So during your closure, pay particular attention to communicating your plans to keep your gym COVID-safe across as many communication channels as possible. You want to reach your current members and well as potential new customers, so utilise your social media channels, your website, emails and SMS.

Clearly define the measures you are putting in place and go the extra mile above social distancing & 1 way systems. It’s time to focus on your customer experience more than ever and focus on instilling confidence in your members and provide them with the means to cope with the situation. Be empathetic to those people who are slightly more concerned and reserved than others and prioritise safety first and foremost. This might disrupt how your gym and any classes were previously run, but by taking the approach of putting your members above all else and providing them with the guidance and reassurance they need, your gym will stand out and you’ll be able to build a loyal customer base.



How many times have you looked online with the intent of buying something and then for one reason or another decided not to bother? But then perhaps you’ve been tempted to go and purchase whatever item you were interested in when the company email you with a discount code to try and tempt you to reconsider.

This is a very common sales tactic and has a pretty high success rate. I mean, who wouldn’t feel encouraged to buy a product they were already interested in when someone offers them money off!

This same tactic could be used on your memberships with a small tweak here and there. Perhaps you have members who are getting in touch to cancel or you’ve members on a 6 or 12 month membership who don’t opt to renew and their membership lapses. These are your ideal candidates to test out an offer to encourage them to think twice about cancelling or to encourage them to reinstate their membership.

You don’t always have to go straight down the route of offer them a discounted membership either if you don’t feel comfortable with that, but here are some offers you could consider:

  • 1 month free membership (when purchasing 6 months or more)
  • Discount on month of membership (for those with rolling contracts)
  • Free personal training session
  • Free access to additional resources (if available)
  • Free nutrition guide



When a new member signs up to your gym, it’s down to you to give them a great experience from the outset to ensure they don’t immediately feel dissatisfied with their choice to join.

Hopefully your sign up process was nice and straight forward for them, so you are able to get off on the right foot. Being able to sign up online via direct debit is preferable for many people as it means they can make their decision on whether to join in the comfort of their home and can complete their subscription in their own time. So making sure this is easy to do is crucial to giving your members a premium experience from the start.

Once their membership is confirmed, you should have an automated welcome email sent straight to them. This is your opportunity to give a warm and friendly welcome to your new member, whilst providing them with information about the services and resources they can access as well as pointing them in the right direction for when they may have questions. This will help your member feel confident that they have made the right choice to join your gym.

This message should be personalised as much as possible, to make your gym personable and make your member feel as though you are approachable. You should also invite your member to get in touch with you to arrange their induction at your facility. You want every person who enters your gym to feel confident and comfortable with the equipment they are using. Some people may already be confident with the gym equipment you have on site as they are moving from another facility, but you should make this offer to everyone, to show that you are focused on providing a quality and fair experience to all of your members.



COVID-19 has brought uncertainty to many people so taking additional time to go above and beyond to ensure your members are happy is an important step to take to ensure they don’t consider cancelling their membership.

With many gyms temporarily closed, connecting with your members is becoming more difficult than ever. Some people may have opted to freeze their memberships whereas others may have chosen to continue if you are able to provide online classes for them to take advantage of. No
matter which route your members have decided to take, you should make the effort to engage with them all the same.

You should encourage a thriving and engaging community to bring your members together, they are likeminded individuals with one certain thing in common, they attend your gym or fitness studio! Create dedicated online networking areas for your members (frozen & current), for
example a Facebook group. Here you can share updates about your gym and the COVID-19 protocols you will be adopting to keep everyone up to date, as well as also encouraging your trainers to share fitness tips or daily exercise challenges. This will encourage your members to not only interact with you, but also with one another. Whilst also providing them with a forum to share things themselves. This will keep them engaged with your gym and is also likely to decrease any sense of loneliness they may be feeling.

For your members who choose to continue paying you can create closed Facebook groups for them to have exclusive access to the online classes you will be offering. This will make them feel like part of an elite club and give them direct access to your trainers. What you share here also isn’t limited just to the classes you run, you could also think about sharing other fitness resources, such as recipes or nutrition guidance.

Ask yourself: why did your members join in the first place? What value were they looking for? Once you know the answer to this it makes it much easier to begin curating content you can share with them and activities you can do to ensure they receive the value you perceive they signed up for.



It’s inevitable that no matter how hard you try, some members will still choose to leave. This can be for any number of reasons, but there is no point in presuming or trying to guess these for yourself. You must ask your members what prompted their decision to leave.

Being able to collate this kind of information will provide you with insight into your club and how your members perceive it and will highlight any issues that you may need to address moving forward in order to prevent more members leaving.

So when your member contacts you to request cancellation of their membership, ask them if they’d like to share why they have chosen to leave. Of course they do not have to answer this if they would rather not, but by providing them with the forum to give feedback you are much more likely to find out why.

Keep a report of the reasons members are choosing to leave and if you begin to notice any trends in this information, it’s your chance to address this and see if you can turn things round. By making these changes you may also be able to attract old members back by addressing the specific thing which caused them to leave in the first place.

But remember, during these current uncertain times the information you may gather at the moment will be limited. Many of your members will be choosing to leave for financial reasons and although this doesn’t provide you with information on how to improve your club, it does provide you with the opportunity to consider offering discounted membership rates if your retention percentage falls too low.



Whilst your facility remains temporarily closed and members are restricted to only accessing content online if they wish to, or even once your gym reopens there will be some members uncomfortable with returning. This is your opportunity to consider introducing tiered membership levels.

Some of your members may opt to cancel their membership because they don’t feel like they are getting the value for the money they are paying. And the easiest way to address this and keep your members active is by creating a new membership level which lessens the cost they are liable for paying which makes it easier for your member to justify paying, whilst still giving them access to some of the core resources of your gym.

For example, for members who don’t feel comfortable returning to your gym when it reopens or for those who are unhappy to pay their full membership cost for online class replacements during your temporary closure, introduce a reduced membership cost which gives them access to your online classes only.

This would enable your members to stay engaged with your gym without having to attend if they are unhappy to. And similarly during your closure addresses those members who feel they are loosing significant value by continuing to pay their full membership cost when they are unable to access your facility.

You could take your online classes membership one step further by introducing further elements at increased cost, such as access to exclusive recipes or personal online sessions with one of your trainers.

You want to make sure your gym is able to offer something for everyone and during a time where many people will be evaluating aspects of their life prior to COVID-19 and deciding whether or not there are changes they might wish to make following the pandemic, you are at least giving your very best effort to ensure you offer enough value to entice people in varying personal situations.

But be careful not to make your reduced membership tiers too attractive, otherwise you risk loosing some of your other paying members who are attracted by this downgrade option.



You will have noticed how we mention frozen memberships throughout this post, however it’s important enough that it really needs its own explanation!

COVID-19 has brought overwhelming uncertainty across the globe, in a way which the majority of people have never seen before. And it’s more likely than ever that for those of your members who are asking to cancel their membership it is for one simple reason, they just simply aren’t in the current financial position to continue paying for your membership.

But instead of just proceeding with their cancellation, why not give them the option to pause their membership?

By utilising this option, they can continue to receive updates and remain a part of your community and then when they are in a financial position to start their membership again, they will be more motivated to do so.

All of their membership details will still exist, so they won’t have to go through the process of starting their membership from scratch. Not only will you have less admin work to do, but your member will also find it really straight forward to start their membership again as all they will need to do is get in touch.



With your members spending an increased amount of time at home, many of their usual habits will be impacted also. With more spare time, this is your opportunity to ask your members who are delighted with the experience they receive at your gym to leave a positive review for you. Whether that be through google reviews or through your social media, use whichever resource you think is likely to resonate with your members more.

Unfortunately this is also an opportunity for you to hear from any disgruntled members as well. But at least by encouraging this opinion sharing you will be able to address any negative reviews you are faced with.

Ultimately, new members or current members questioning whether to continue their membership are likely to look to other peoples opinions within the community to help reinforce their decision, so by curating reviews you are building a strong brand image.

This won’t only be helpful during COVID-19 either and will stand the test of time as it serves as your book of testimonials for your gym or fitness studio for its entire lifespan. Be sure to thank your members for leaving their reviews as well, or offer them something in return for leaving one. This will build your rapport with them and make them feel like a valued member of your community. Their opinion is important to you and it’s nice to hear if you are doing something well, so take the time to read all of your reviews and feel assured that you are doing right by your community.



Unlike most club management services which just give you some basic software and collect your direct debits, the team at Ashbourne knows that there’s a lot more to managing a successful club than simply collecting payments.

From debt collection, to web design, marketing ideas and more – the entire team at Ashbourne Membership Management is at your disposal to help you succeed and master every single element of being a successful gym.

If you want to chat about what we offer, or simply run through how we can help your particular health club, then get in touch with us and our sales manager Grant will be back in touch to talk through everything.

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