When gym is life (and a lot of money)
2 July 2019
Stacey Lyons

Some of the hottest new gyms have achieved phenomenal successes through understanding the critical role social identity and community play in maintaining customer loyalty.

F45 is the latest craze sweeping Australia, whilst Soul Cycle is doing the same in the US. They’re both 45-minute classes, 7 days per week. Both expensive. Both exclusive. And both have built their brands on the emotional and social identity needs of their target customer. Membership to F45 is $79 per week and Soul Cycle is $36 (US) per class with almost every member also buying into the branded merchandise, meal packs and more.

So why are people paying these prices?

  • The brands have a captivating story
  • They have elite positioning driven by exclusivity and unapologetically premium pricing
  • Higher prices drive outcomes for frequent exercisers (I mean who wouldn’t feel the guilt for not making the most of their outrageously expensive membership)
  • They deliver on their promise of an intense and effective workout (also amplified by the tiny sweaty spaces in which they operate)
  • Relationships are formed with instructors who know you by name and deliver a personalised experience which end’s in hi-fives at all intervals as a community ritual
  • Friendships are born between devoted supporters and are reinforced through community activities
  • They embody a fitness lifestyle from exercise to eating which subscribers identify as part of and buy into
  • They use social media as a tool to emphasise togetherness, community and results achieved

What could they do better?

These gyms have been extremely successful in creating exclusivity; however this has meant that popular classes fill up rapidly leaving many die-hard gym goers without their preferred class and becomes a point of resistance. Soul Cycle have recently tried to react to this issue by offering a basic loyalty program in which customers who ride 15 times in a month receive early booking access for the next month.

Sure, the Soul Cycle loyalty model may increase frequency, but I believe both businesses could leverage the exclusivity they’ve created in a more meaningful and profitable way.

For example, much like the airline model, the most sought-after classes/times/spaces/instructors can become even more valuable if predictive analytics, effective use of customer data and dynamic pricing are adopted to optimise profits per class. I.e like airlines do when they know you prefer a particular seat or need to fly on a particular day, or how likely you are to abandon your cart at a certain price or upgrade to business class.

I believe this type of machine learning approach which adjusts prices based on premium classes, popular instructors or optimal times, would work perfectly among this audience where the products are not exactly equal and where price is not a sensitive issue.

F45 and Soul Cycle have definitely got the community down pat. Now if they can get a little bit smarter with the monetisation of their space using data and the latest technology, the business profits could look healthier than their customers.


Stacey has a wealth of experience within loyalty, marketing and eCommerce across multiple channels and business models including Boost JuiceModelCo and MyHouse. Most recently, Stacey has been managing the investor, member and retailer communications for blockchain loyalty company EZToken Rewards, as well as taking the lead on designing, developing, implementing and operating Lendlease Resident Rewards, a new member benefits program for Lendlease.

Stacey is a proud pioneer of women in blockchain and attends meet-ups regularly. She built the website www.blockchainloyalty.io and regularly contributes content.

Let’s connect! LinkedIn, Twitter

<a href="https://loyaltyrewardco.com/author/stacey/" target="_self">Stacey Lyons</a>

Stacey Lyons

Stacey is the Loyalty Director at Loyalty & Reward Co, the leading loyalty consulting firm. Loyalty & Reward Co design, implement, and operate the world’s best loyalty programs for the world’s best brands. Stacey has extensive experience in loyalty, digital marketing and eCommerce with roles at ModelCo, MyHouse and Boost Juice. For the past five years, Stacey has worked with Loyalty & Reward Co clients to design loyalty programs, apply loyalty psychology, develop member lifecycle communications strategies and data capture, reporting and analytics strategies. Stacey co-created the book Loyalty Programs: The Complete Guide, the most comprehensive book on loyalty program theory and practice available. She also presents a number of modules as part of the Loyalty Programs Masterclass run by Loyalty & Reward Co in conjunction with ADMA.

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