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FIGURE 1: Increasing pace of growth clearly demonstrates the online sales potential


FIGURE 2: The three main phases involved in making an online buying decision


Changing market: Tablet ownership is up 550 per cent in just 12 months


“A CUSTOMER WHO IS PREPARED TO VISIT YOUR CLUB HAS PROBABLY ALREADY DONE THEIR HOMEWORK ONLINE.”


set a new record high for the industry, up a further 33 per cent compared to January 2012. While traditional seasonal data spikes can be seen in customer demand (Figure 1), the increasing pace of growth clearly demonstrates the potential of the online sales channel. These impressive growth fi gures are


partly down to the increased availability and affordability of devices which enable online search, such as smartphones (UK ownership is up 192 per cent in two years, according to Ofcom data) and tablets (UK ownership up 550 per cent in the last 12 months, reports PCPro). However, these statistics simply refl ect the provision of hardware which facilitates the wider cultural and behavioural shift towards online buying. The internet is attractive to customers


as it provides the anonymity, information and independent consumer advice that empowers them to make a buying decision without the hard sell that many (rightly or wrongly) expect from the health and fi tness industry. It’s therefore vital that operators take the time to understand these behavioural changes and ensure that their sales and marketing strategy really has the capability to infl uence the customer during their decision-making process.


February 2013 © Cybertrek 2013


VANITY DATA While many clubs are effective at converting a customer into a member once on-site, too few pay enough attention to the other factors that may prevent a customer from visiting their club at all. As Figure 1 clearly demonstrates, an increasing number of customers prefer to do their homework online in advance. A 70 per cent conversion rate on-site is therefore just a vanity number if you are actually losing 90 per cent of your potential customers before they even visit the club. In this context, a customer who is


prepared to visit your club has probably already done their homework online, and they are likely to buy regardless of the sales process you have on-site – which does raise a question regarding the value of a sales resource in the future.


THE NEW DECISION PROCESS So what is the decision-making process that an online customer goes through, and what can we do as an industry to more effectively infl uence it? In order to bring this to life, it’s often useful to visualise the steps you go through personally when preparing to purchase a similarly priced product (£400+) such as a holiday or a new TV.


Figure 2 demonstrates the three main phases that people go through when making a buying decision online. It is this process that operators need to understand and address if they want to infl uence the growing online market.


1. SEARCH ONLINE When a customer goes online, their fi rst impression of a club will not be the great local signage, the beautifully clean reception area or the high spec gym equipment. It will be whatever they can fi nd online. While most operators put a lot of pride into the physical appearance of their club, this effort is wasted if customers are put off by something they see online. The challenge for operators is


therefore to make sure customers can actually fi nd them online, and that what they fi nd is appealing enough for them to want to see more. Tips for helping to bring this about include: • Make sure customers fi nd your club online: A small investment in ‘cost per click’ advertising is a quick way to do this (see adwords.google.co.uk) • Make sure your club appears in the same places as your competitors, so they don’t have an advantage. You can check search results such as ‘gyms near [your town]’ to see where they are promoting.


Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital 51


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