The fitness industry has experienced steady growth during the past 8 years, with more than 54 million US gym members making more than 5 billion visits during 2014, according to data from Franchise Help’s 2016 Fitness Industry Analysis. This is good news for owners, but growth brings challenges. Member billing management can be a time sink for gyms, especially for small ones going through rapid growth. Switching back and forth among information systems that don’t “talk” to one another is a hassle at the best of times and a liability during rapid growth. In addition, attracting and retaining younger members is important for centers that want to sustain growth over the long haul. The right payment solution can help fitness center owners manage all three of these growing pains.
Attract and keep younger members
Credit and debit card payments at the point of sale appeal to older consumers, but people age 35 and younger want more options. Smart gym operators will provide them, because Millennials are the leading age group for fitness classes and gym workouts.
Make billing and payments mobile
More than 85% of these younger adults use smartphones, and almost 20% of Millennials use only mobile devices for banking and bill payment, which means billing reminders and payment tools must be optimized for mobile use to attract and retain these younger members. An effective payment service provider should offer a mobile checkout interface that’s streamlined and easy to use, as well as easy online bill presentment to avoid the expense and delay of paper billing.
Go beyond credit card payments
Whether they’re paying online or via mobile, Millennial fitness center members strongly prefer debit and e-check payments to credit cards. In fact, only one-third of under-30 adults have a credit card at all. That means that if a payment solution only supports credit cards, it leaves out 67% of the 18-29 age group. That’s also the age group most likely to participate in gym and fitness sports, according to a 2013 Nielsen Les Mills survey.
The right payment solution can also help gyms set up recurring transactions for other members who want to put their payments on autopilot. ACH recurring payments are a valuable offering for busy members who don’t want to take the time to make an online or in-person payment each month. They are also appealing to members who prefer not to use credit cards. ACH transactions offer benefits to the merchant, too. They cost less in processing fees than credit card payments, make account reconciliation simpler, and can settle faster than credit card payments.
Easy integration with member-management and accounting software
The ideal payments service easily integrates with accounting and banking software as well as with other tools like gym management programs that track member check-ins, class attendance, and membership status. Integrating payments, payment histories, and billing tools makes it easy to provide reminders and notifications at check-in, review members’ payment status, and follow up with lapsed members. A scalable, easily integrated solution also makes it easier to for center staff to serve a growing member base by reducing time spent going from system to system looking for information.
As you look for the right payment service provider to help you start or grow your fitness business, keep these questions in mind? Does the PSP offer mobile and online payment options that you can co-brand? Does the PSP support the payment methods your members and potential members prefer? Will the PSP offer support and documentation to help you integrate their solution with your existing systems? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” you’ve found a solution that goes beyond payment processing to member retention and management support, especially during periods of growth.
Photo credit: Lukasz Popardowski