Member Retention: Don't Do It Without the Data


Data has become a critical component to the growth and expansion of recreation centers. Technology—and the data it generates—serves multiple functions in a center. It can guide smart decision-making, improve staff efficiency and increase member retention. But, in 2018, you can't expect to gather data with just a pen and paper. That outdated method increases staff hours, decreases accuracy and provides little, if any, benefit to retain members. Any rec center that's not using technology to automate data collection and analysis is falling behind those that leverage data.

One unequivocal offshoot of automated data collection at rec centers is member satisfaction. When club operators really get to know their clients, they can create the most effective member satisfaction programs for directly boosting retention.

Let's take a look at three steps for using technology-generated data to do just that.

Step 1: Gather Data on How Members Use the Rec Center

Your tech solution should allow you to collect information on member check-ins, group fitness registrations and program registrations. It should enable you to drill down further to reveal even more specifically what members routinely do inside your facility. That kind of deep and powerful data collection helps you get a full picture of how each individual member is engaging with your center.

You might wonder why that level of member analysis is so important. When you thoroughly understand your members, you can speak directly to each of them, highlight their interests and address their concerns. This builds loyalty and long-term membership.

Step 2: Strategic Messaging

Once you have your data, you can design a strategy for how and when to communicate with your members. Whether you choose to use push notifications, text messages or e-mails, using data to design your messages and determine frequency of contact makes the process more efficient and effective. You can also filter messages based on members' profiles and interests.


Messaging can also be designed around group fitness classes to help re-engage members. Again, the most effective way to incorporate this strategy is to use the data you collect, including member profiles, to ensure messages are properly targeted and relevant.

As an example, one of your members, Rose, typically attends two spin classes per week, but it's been three weeks since she last attended. In this case, you could send her a targeted message:

"Hi, Rose. We miss you at spin. Just wanted to let you know we have a spin class tomorrow at 4 p.m. Hope we see you there!"

If Rose hasn't been coming because she hasn't been motivated, that kind of message could get her back in the door. If she's been too busy or something is happening in her life, the message lets her know you care, that you've been thinking about her and hope to see her again soon.

Step 3: Predictions

Because technology and data collection help you better understand your members, you can also begin predicting how they will interact with your club and learn when and how to best:

  • Recommend programs based on member interests.
  • Re-engage members based on activity.
  • Expand fitness programs.
  • Ask for a donation (if applicable).

Predictions based on gut reactions are typically not effective. But, when they are based on data supported by actual member behavior, it becomes much easier for your staff to understand how interactions with members will be received. When messages are properly targeted and delivered in the manner members want (push notifications, text or e-mail), they are more likely to engage. The process works better for them and for you.

Let's look at how those three steps are working on one college campus. In the recent rollout of upace's custom-branded recreation app at Florida State University—called FSU Rec—the Campus Recreation Department wanted to understand who attends group fitness classes, how quickly those individuals reserve space in those classes, and where the opportunities lie to expand those fitness programs.


FSU Campus Rec facility operators are using the mobile platform to gather demographics on who is attending their group fitness classes and further identify patterns, like how often a specific member attends a specific class. Analysis of month-to-month class attendance will reveal program success over time. With this data, they will be able to gauge the efficacy of their marketing programs and make necessary adjustments. Additionally, they can determine whether particular classes are viable at their current time offering, or whether they need to be time-shifted or cancelled altogether.

Through the app, FSU allows members to sign up for classes a day ahead of time, and most of their classes are filling up within 15 minutes of that reservation period opening. As members make reservations, facility staff are tracking who is signing up and how quickly. All of those data are informing staffing decisions, as well as providing a better understanding of which classes are the most popular and how the facilities can expand those programs at times when members want to attend.

"Having detailed data about our facility and program usage is extremely valuable to our departmental planning," said David Peters, associate director for campus recreation at FSU. "Predictive analytics further assists our team with understanding likely future patterns of usage so that we can appropriately prepare to best serve our patrons and participants."

Whether on campus or at a community rec center, the better an operator understands the usage trends, the better he or she can make quantifiable decisions regarding the staff hours, facility layout, new equipment purchases or facility expansion.

Jim Paro, chief information officer at the YMCA of Greater Brandywine (Philadelphia region), credits data analysis with helping his organization save time, money and resources. "Data is critical to making informed decisions, which help us drive revenue and save on expenses. Through capturing data, our YMCA is able to engage our members to increase satisfaction and retention," he said.

Mobile and web technology gives you fast, reliable tools for automating processes while creating a better understanding of your members' preferences. As you evaluate potential technology partners, be sure their tech solution automates data collection that helps you make informed decisions. Once you decide on a partner, the platform should do most of the heavy lifting to better engage your members and improve their experience at your center—and it should all start with the touch of a button.



Rachel Koretsky is the founder and CEO of upace, a customizable mobile platform that allows fitness and recreation facility operators to effectively engage, communicate with and retain members, as well as efficiently and accurately collect data, distribute forms and produce analytics. For more information, visit

Rachel Koretsky