This community-focused fitness centre in Queensland, is living proof of the impact Keepme can have on the member experience – and a gym’s bottom line.

From adding a year to average length of membership, to an 8 per cent improvement in sales conversion rates in just three weeks, this community-focused fitness centre in Queensland is living proof of the impact Keepme can have on the member experience – and a gym’s bottom line. We speak to managing director Troy Morgan and tech innovations officer Brent Vaughan.

Why did you bring Keepme onboard at Willows?

From the very beginning, we had a strong vision at Willows: to create a connected, paperless ecosystem that would allow us to personalise the member experience at scale. We tried a number of different ways to do that over the years, but the technology simply wasn’t there.

The result was a huge amount of member data spread across numerous different systems, none of which talked to each other. Everything had to be done manually, which inevitably led to inconsistencies. Members would be asked multiple times for the same piece of data, which impacted their trust of us. And even then, we didn’t have a full picture of every member; we didn’t even have the same parts of the story for each member.

Worse still, we were doing nothing with this information – at least, nothing that helped give the member a better experience. Looking back on it now, it’s quite embarrassing.

Meanwhile, our members were enjoying seamless, personalised experiences in other areas of their lives: Netflix, AirBnB and so on. It didn’t matter to them that we were a small business: this was their expectation of us now, too.

We kept thinking to ourselves: ‘It must be the system. Let’s recreate the system.’ But that would just result in adding yet another piece of standalone tech.

Keepme was the missing piece. It now sits in the middle of everything, allowing all our systems to talk to each other – CRM, direct debits, accounting, our advertising company, website, apps, and many more – and providing one central hub where the entirety of each member’s story is held.

How have you used Keepme so far?

The moment we implemented Keepme Membership – the retention-focused side of the system – it was able to use our existing data to risk stratify every one of our members. That was our starting point, and it allowed us to intervene in a way that actually helped our members shape new habits. We’ve been blown away by how accurate the data is in terms of someone’s likelihood of leaving, and we can now get ahead of that.

With at-risk members, for example, we were able to put in calls that didn’t feel like ‘save a member’ calls. Armed with information about each individual, they were personal calls – conversations about them – and the members were genuinely appreciative.

We began by focusing on our medium-risk members, but as time has gone on we’ve also addressed high-risk members, even if that has meant waking sleepers. We decided, if we wanted to be true to our ethos of helping people, it wasn’t right for us to take their money if they weren’t using our services.

We’ve also been using Keepme to refine our product. By incorporating data from our scanners around the club, which track the activities members are doing, we know exactly which activities are popular among our high value members. It’s allowing us to better direct our investment to maximise engagement and ROI, reallocating space in the club to deliver more of what they want.

As an example, for many years we fought being a group exercise club. However, we now know this is our biggest retention tool – members stay with us on average eight months longer if they do group exercise – so we design our onboarding around this now.

We’re also building our studio and small group training offerings, including virtual studios, so members can do a class at any time of the day. We know the impact of every class on our members, too, which allows us to refine our timetable. An example: we thought our HIIT classes were great for retention, because they were always full, but in fact they were driving attrition because they were just too hard for people.

Off the back of this product evolution, we’ve also been using Keepme to restructure our memberships to drive higher yield per member. We now have a fitness membership – cardio, strength, group ex and pool – and a high-experience membership, maximum 20 people per class, that’s based around the four areas of mind, strength, intensity and fitness. Data is already showing the length of membership to be twice as long for this high-yield group – and they get better results, which is what we’re all about.

Keepme has transformed our sales and marketing, too. With Keepme Membership already having established avatars of our ideal members, our advertising agency in New York can come to us for each new campaign and request we take specific photos that will resonate with our target audiences. That imagery is then used in Facebook and Google ads, and the leads that come in are exactly the right demographics – exactly the right profile to give us high lifetime value members.

Not only that, but through Keepme Sales, those leads are immediately categorised – strong, medium, high risk – so our team know how best to approach them. And once someone becomes a member, their profile simply moves across into Keepme Membership.

What results can you report?

We operate with no contracts, so we saw results very quickly: it took just 30 days to see an improvement in retention.

Of course, when COVID forced us into lockdown, our lack of contracts meant we dropped from 2,300 to 0 members in the space of 24 hours. We had to re-sell every single membership, and Keepme was a huge help here too. We sold 426 digital memberships in 14 days and are now back at 1,500 full members – the maximum we can really cater for with social distancing.

Meanwhile, as a result of us refining our product around the exact needs of our members, visit rates have gone through the roof. Prior to implementing Keepme, on average 50–55 per cent of our membership base would visit the centre in any given week or month. Now, even in these post-COVID times, that figure is 70–80 per cent.

And it isn’t just that more members are actively engaging face-to-face. Almost three-quarters have now taken part in the very activity we most want them to do – a group class – and we’re proud to say we have no sleeping members now. Not a single one.

The impact of all of this: we added a year to our average length of membership even before we introduced our higher-yield memberships.

These higher yield memberships are now set to extend average lifetime still further. They actually started out as a test: a three-week sale where Keepme identified general fitness members who had done some yoga classes, and who also met other key criteria around risk profile, exercise preferences and length of membership. We emailed a couple of hundred people with very personalised offers and saw an 85 per cent email open rate. In total, around 60 per cent of those contacted went on to make a purchase, driving A$35,000 of additional revenue.

Whether an existing member or a new lead, we’re now confident in our ability to connect the right person with the right product. It becomes less a sale and more a personalised offer.

The quality of our leads is also incredible since we based our campaigns on Keepme’s avatars. When we logged on this morning, for example, we had zero weak leads. The knock-on effect? In the three weeks we’ve had Keepme Sales fully operational, and with our AI-based Facebook and Google campaigns only live for a week and a half, we’ve already seen an 8 per cent improvement in conversion rates.

It will be interesting to see over time, but our gut feel is that this will also drive higher retention rates, because we aren’t just signing members for the sake of it. We’re signing the right members – the ones our product is increasingly designed around.

It’s incredible to think how far we’ve already come, and we’ve only scratched the surface. We’re still training the team, with just one person using Keepme Sales at the moment, and there’s so much more we can do with Keepme Membership too.

How else are you looking to use Keepme?

Quite simply, this is the future: we have high expectations for everything we do now.

We’re already having conversations with Keepme about extending our data points to encompass members’ activity outside of the club, for example, connecting with their wearables, the online content they’re viewing and so on. Our system already gathers this data, and our system talks to Keepme, so it certainly isn’t an impossible vision.

And that’s just one example: even we can’t imagine the full extent of where we might go with this. As the AI learns more and more about our members, and as the Keepme product itself continues to evolve and grow, the data is only going to get more mind-blowing.

How easy is Keepme to use?

It’s very easy: you can log on from wherever you are and see, at a glance, the risk profile of each member and prospect at that precise moment in time, as well as exactly what the team have done.

Keepme has also been designed specifically for fitness. It’s really focused, so it doesn’t have features that aren’t even needed and that can be intimidating to staff.

Of course, no tech is an instant fix, and with Keepme you first need to tidy up your data; the Keepme team can help with this. You also need to invest time in understanding what you want your business to look like – what your ‘why’ is.

Once you’ve established this, Keepme allows you to deliver on it better than any system we’ve ever seen.

It also quickly shows you where you’re wrong. We used to think we knew who our ideal members were, for example. Keepme disproved our assumptions on just about all counts!

What has been your experience of working with Keepme?

It’s a real partnership and brilliant to work with such a responsive company whose vision is so aligned with ours.

It actually feels like we’re part of the Keepme product team. We have so many ideas of things we’d like to be able to do with the system, and the more we ask for, the more we get. The Keepme team listens to our ideas, makes them happen and covers the development costs.

The Keepme system has become our system: it feels like just about everything has been customised around us.

What would be your advice to other operators?

Fitness operations take so much data from members, but tend to give very little back: the data is typically used to improve business systems, not to improve the member experience. This has to change. Technology is now enabling the individual to be in control of their own journey: customers expect a seamless service, however big or small your business, so your processes have to be simple, automated, repeatable. Fitness has been slow to understand this, but failure to deliver will result in a loss of trust from the member.

Then there’s the revenue potential of using your data more effectively. When we did our upsell campaign and generated A$35,000 in three weeks, it made us think: we’d had all that data sitting there for decades, unused. It represented so much money left on the table.

Also from a financial perspective, Keepme is invaluable in conversations with investors. You’re able to show them not only accurate growth projections, but also exactly what that translates to in $ terms. Our banks love it, and have told us no other business is providing them with that sort of data.

But for us, above all, Keepme allows us to live our ‘why’. It provides us with an in-depth understanding of our members, so we can support them with the experiences they want. It’s great for them and great for our business. We’ve never seen anything like it.