There's no doubt that fitness customers are split between preferring in-home versus in-studio classes during lockdown. We know this because of the anecdotal stories we hear from our customers and fitness businesses every day. Their customers want security. They want to feel comfortable in making their return, and most of all they want to know what their preferred gyms and studios are doing to make them want to come back.
How to plan for helping customers
Northants Pilates studio based in the UK wanted some hard data to see whether their customers preferred sticking to classes online or if they really were eager to return to an in-person class. So, they sent a survey to find out exactly how they were reacting to their changing Pilates session formats.
It's worth noting here that Pilates customers are exceptionally dedicated. Of all the types of fitness businesses that use TeamUp, Pilates people are the ones who use Zoom the most (over 60% of Pilates studios on TeamUp have integrated with Zoom for online classes). Pilates, it seems, is particularly addictive. We think it might have something to do with its many benefits including relieving back pain.
These results are particularly interesting to us because there is such a clear split between the customers and how they want to take their classes. As a result of the data, this studio is going to have to have a flexible plan for both in-studio and in-home sessions. Here are the details from the survey:
Customer survey results
The Pilates studio sent out a survey in August 2020 and received 343 respondents.
The survey started with an emotional question:
"How do you feel about going back to your old class?"
A strong 53% of customers said that "Yes, I can't wait" until they can return to in-studio sessions. But, 40% said that they just weren't sure at the moment, and 12% said that they wouldn't come back to the studio because they are worried about themselves or someone they care for getting sick. That left the results split right down the middle.
What would make the difference to customers unsure about returning?
The survey asked the respondents who weren't sure about coming back into the studio what would make the difference for them. What would tip them in favor of returning? Many wanted to know details about how the studio would handle a return back, that it would depend on class size, space, and cleaning and sanitisation routines:
"It would need to be smaller and widely spaced. I do take meals to my 90-year-old mother so would have to be sure it was safe."
"Class times, and knowing there is space, and maybe using my own props for awhile"
"Adequate distancing and space. Good ventilation. Handwashing facilities."
"Being in a larger room with lots of ventilation and no sharing of any equipment."
Others said that they will continue in-home Zoom sessions for the time being, not just due to safety, but also for convenience. As customers are less likely to return to work in an office, or even required to stay working from home, convenience and distance from their gym or studio played a role in their decision to or to not return. Some customers' classroom venues were closer to their offices than their homes, making it less convenient for them to venture the distance to the gym if it only meant for one class, rather than planning their day around that specific area. It poses the question, would customers change their venue, gym, or studio to an option closer to home?
"Classroom venues are convenient for my office but not my home address. I am still working from home for at least another 2 months, maybe longer before being allowed back to the office. I'd like to continue with online classes until I know my return office date."
"Waiting for the work from home advice for Northants to change to return to the office."
"If it was somewhere a lot closer to me."
"I'm enjoying not having to drive to the venue, although I sometimes find the space at home a bit limited."
"I like the online classes too. I like not having to rush across town to get there. But I also like the face to face classes due to expert help and seeing people."
Understanding these changing location requirements could prompt you to consider new locations or venues.
Others said they would like to return, but are happy to continue online for the time being until the coronavirus situation is more under control.
"I'd love to be able to get back to normal but with the current COVID-19 status I'm happier to do Core Mat classes via Zoom for now."
"I would prefer infection rates to be a bit less erratic before I mix too much but am looking forward to coming back whenever you are ready."
"I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to be part of the online classes, really convenient and easy to engage with. I think it's just a confidence thing. I am sure as soon as classes are back, it would be the norm again! I am happy if classes stay online for the time being."
"Would prefer to wait a while longer before reverting to face to face group sessions. Have been very pleased with the Zoom sessions with Emma, so would prefer to continue with that for the time being."
"I am happy to start back at the venue but equally have found the zoom sessions really good as well. So, in short, will be continuing whatever / wherever the format"
Will customers be willing to bring their own equipment?
The survey then asked if the studio re-opened, would the respondents feel happy to bring their own mat and equipment? Overwhelmingly 79% of the Pilates customers said "Yes".
Could you consider sourcing certain items for customers so they have their own personal mat, gloves, towels, or whatever fits with your business the best? Would that also help them feel more comfortable about returning to class?
Do customers want online or face-to-face, or both?
When the survey asked what respondents would prefer for classes moving forward in the short term,
- 20.4% said they would like to stay with online classes only.
- 20.4% said they just would like to go back to face-to-face classes (notice the exact split down the middle between these first two).
- 31.5% said they would like to do both online and face-to-face classes.
- 22.2% said that they didn't do online classes and have been waiting for their venue to re-open. These are people who don't feel that online classes are the right fit for them.
Of the responses received, there were some encouragingly positive descriptions of how online classes have been helpful for Pilates customers. This one, in particular, stood out to us:
"Although it's tough for correction/teaching, I've been enjoying the online classes immensely. It's nice to be able to know that I can definitely make them/not be late because of work, and if there's an opportunity to do a few classes online a week when 'normal returns, I would definitely be interested."
While the question of whether to return to just in-studio classes or stick with just in-home online classes is unclear from these responses, there is a major take away. The customers of this Pilates studio indicated that they like having the option to do either. It seems that a hybrid approach would be best for everyone, so long as the studio can operate safely. As a gym owner or instructor looking forward to re-opening your doors to welcome customers back to your venue, there are some helpful things you can do to ease their worries and concerns.
How to ease your customers' concerns
It's normal and reasonable for fitness customers to be nervous about returning to their fitness routines after months of being at home and building up their new comfort zones. As a business owner, you can ease their concern by putting a plan in place that will reduce their health risk and help you communicate your healthcare and safety measures. Start by using a booking system.
Keep your class capacity exactly where it should be
The fitness businesses that are back to successfully running their gyms and studios are the ones prioritizing organization, cleanliness, and communication. One of the best ways business owners can stay on top of industry changes and bounce back to normal is by organizing their classes with a booking system. Booking systems allow you to control your class size to keep your capacity at a safe limit as well as let you know who exactly is coming to class.
Booking systems also manage waitlists for you. If someone cancels before your designated cut off time, the waitlist will automatically notify the next person in the line.
Leave no shows off your list of concerns. If someone doesn't show up, it's ok - thanks to our booking system, they paid when they booked their spot.
Offer physically distanced hands-free payment options
Manual payments are also more of a hazard than they were before. Having everyone pay online beforehand is both safer and more attractive. TeamUp's payment software will help you get rid of manually checking payments. Thus saving you more time to focus on ensuring your health and safety protocols between classes. It's a win-win for both you and your customer.
Manage your calendar for smaller, more spaced out classes
The TeamUp calendar is helping people schedule smaller classes and make room in the timetable for cleaning between sessions. With rules and restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, you'll want to design your timetable to allow ample time for cleaning and extra sanitisation. To do this, consider shortening sessions to allow for the extra time needed. You can also get your customers to help with some aspects of cleaning, for example wiping down their own mat.
As restrictions evolve, you'll want to be able to make quick changes to capacity and time. If your class size can suddenly increase by 2 people or you have to increase cleaning time between sessions, a booking system will help you manage this with ease.
Communicate about online classes
Businesses that are running in-person and online classes can now mix in online classes in their calendar, and even run online classes at the same time as regular classes. Integrate Zoom with TeamUp to manage your classes and make it easy for instructors and customers alike to attend classes. To read more on the Zoom integration, see here.
How to get started with a booking system
TeamUp helps you set up a booking system even if you already have customers, customer data, and payment systems in place. We have a team that can help get you up and running with little to no disruption to you and your client base. And, TeamUp's pricing grows with the number of active customers you have, so you never pay for customers who aren't actually coming to classes.
We're Here for You!
Using the TeamUp booking system, businesses can tailor the experience to help manage the different needs of customers, collect all the right safety information at the time it's needed, and keep customers up to date with custom notifications and instructions.
Whether your customers continue to work out from home due to safety, convenience, or distance, or begin to make their return to the studio, we're here to help you successfully run your fitness business.
Have you heard your customers let you know whether they plan to stick with online sessions or are ready to come back to the studio? Let us know and we would love to share your findings.
Thanks for reading!