Everything f&*king matters in the battle for member acquisition and retention. This means that when it comes to the gym floor layout, choice of products, placement of products, lighting, flooring, music, visuals and temperature, it is all important.
The above factors are all influential in the behaviour of the exercise, as it is feelings that affect thoughts, and thoughts drive behaviour. These can be manipulated by the environment. Now, as long as we understand the audience and the message/theme that supports the unique ‘different’, we can design spaces that drive positive feelings.
Wall visuals in the form of pictures or motivational quotes play a part in how an exercise feels within the gym space. If the target audience is experienced exercisers, then images of semi-naked good-looking muscled individuals may well reinforce who they are and why they are attending the facility. If the audiences are an older client group, then different images may well be more suitable.
Quotes such as ‘get fit or die trying’ may not be appropriate for a facility space that is targeting the new to exercise. Likewise, quotes such as ‘the first step is the hardest’ may not be inspirational in a performance facility. Please note: just because pictures and quotes are aspirational, this does not necessarily make them motivational. Who is seeing them and how they are interpreted (the context) is what matters.
Another factor to consider is that product choice is pivotal in the battle for member acquisition and retention. Investing in the latest cardio equipment with the most recent features may be a wise decision, if it supports what the audience wants and the facility story. However, belonging is about the feelings and if there are too many features, it may well make the exerciser feel uncomfortable.
There is a fine balance between exercise complexity and feelings of achievement, and these too have to be managed appropriately. If the end users’ confidence and competence is high then their experience within a space will be very different to an individual who has the confidence to join the facility, but is not yet competence with exercises.
An abundance of equipment features does not make something better. Very high-end watches still tell the time and give the owner the date and day, just like a cheaper watch. It’s the story behind the watch that gives it its value (worth), because it supports the end users’ personal values and self-image.
Fundamentally, people do not purchase goods or consume services because they are good, and the people providing that service are nice. People buy for themselves because the story told supports their own views on who they are, and how they would like others to see them.
We buy to reinforce our beliefs.
“People do not build their beliefs on a foundation of reason. They begin with certain beliefs, then find reasons to justify them…” [E. P. Wigner]
Following the latest trends may be what the audience craves. Reducing cardio and selectorised equipment in favour of racks, free weights and small equipment may be the right direction for a facility, as it again reinforces the self-image of the audience, and supports the facility’s story.
However, selectorised equipment has many advantages and the benefits should never be overlooked, especially when designing a space that is aiming to deliver a unique different.
Product placement is a consideration. Advanced exercisers like to workout in spaces where they can demonstrate their learned skills to others. People new to exercise like to work in environments where they can learn new skills and not feel as if they are being evaluated by others.
Cardio positioned facing a wall is common place in facilities. The argument being that it's a good use of space and as most cardio equipment needs power to function, with power being in the wall, it adds to the argument for this type of positioning. However, interaction from staff is limited when cardio equipment is placed in this position – and we are all aware of the power of staff interaction in adherence and the battle for retention of each member.
Interaction does not always mean talking to a member; it can also be about acknowledgement, a nod, a smile, a wave or a thumbs up.Even the use of mirrors on the wall to support interaction while the exerciser is using the cardio equipment has both positive and negative effects. If the user feels uncomfortable about how they look, they may not want to exercise in front of a mirror, even if it aids interaction with a member of staff. It’s a sacrifice some people are not willing to make.
Lighting too has a part to play in creating environments that inspire. Lighting can provide different moods depending on colour, brightness and variations in lighting types. Ambient light is a soft glow that blankets a space just enough for an exerciser to function without causing a harsh glare. This is considered the “natural light” within a space. Ambient light is meant to move people safely from point A-to-B. However, it is not ideal for working closely with individual things or to highlight product or features within a space.
Task lighting is a smaller, more concentrated light. Some people call it office lighting. Task lighting is meant to help you see when you’re doing work in which you need a finer light and it works well when it is used as a contrasting light. For example, if you have a low-lit space/studio with a spot light, the light in that area will be more effective with less glare than if the entire space/studio was lit with a brighter light.
Accent lighting is a very concentrated light, with the intention of drawing the eye to its focal point. Accent lighting is a way of adding style and drama to a space/studio and it is useful when a facility wishes to highlight parts of the architecture. If the facility experience is a story around education and exercise, more ‘edu-cise’, then well-lit areas would support improved trainer observation of the exerciser. This facilitates individual praise and enhancement cues which are of better quality, as observation has been made better by adequate lighting. If the facility story was about a specific mood or design, then other forms of lighting could support the overall affect. Just copying what is already available in fitness is not about offering a different.
In this case, all the facility is doing is moving towards a fitness offering which already exists, without an understanding of why the original concept was designed. Finally, the facility has to implement how the space will function. How members will be greeted, how members will be inducted, how the functional area will be timetabled for classes (if required). It then moves on to how the facility staff on the gym floor will behave, to ensure that the story and environmental messaging continues to be delivered.