Gen Z: What they Want, and How to Give it to Them

Gen Z: What they Want, and How to Give it to Them
By Erin Phelan

By Erin Phelan

Fitness Industry Council of Canada

Have you heard the rumor?


Generation Z and Millennials now make up more than 80 percent of health club members! You have to learn not just to think like a GenZ, but you also need to start thinking about how Generation Z is going to evolve and how you can help your club become their fitness home away from home. 


“This is not only potentially your biggest customer, but it is definitely your future biggest customer,” says Carl Ulmer, Director of Operations and Managing Partner for Club 16 LP and Treasurer of Fitness Industry Council of Canada. “You have an opportunity to make them loyal to your brand, and to keep them with you. Investing in Gen Z is investing in the future of your business.”


Ulmer will be part of the canfitpro Aspires Growth virtual conference this Friday, November 3rd, where he will offer his insight from the ‘trenches’ of running a successful chain of fitness clubs on the West Coast (Club 16, She’s Fit). “We have moved away from a ‘get the members back’ mentality to one where we are really seeing clubs offering exceptional experiences for their members,” says Ulmer. “And Generation Z wants more – they want extraordinary fitness – from their classes to their automation, they expect more from their gym.”


How do you deliver?


Ulmer offered FitBizWeekly a few insights into how industry leaders are changing their tactics, evolving marketing, and creating Generation Z-specific gym experiences.


1. Generation Z is a Social Beast


Have you created engaging spaces where Generation Z can take selfies and post pictures of your club? You should, and not simply because they are going to do it anyways – if you aren’t, you are missing a unique branding opportunity, says Ulmer. “Generation Z will tag you, and if you have a beautiful backdrop with your logos, or a cool lounge with great lighting, this will inspire even more Instagrammable moments, and might inspire their friends to join the club, too.” They also want curated experiences – mindfulness workshops, wellness initiatives, tips on nutrition and recovery. If you don’t have it in-house, develop partnerships and think about creating events that will be special to them, and invite more loyalty.


Ulmer advises club owners and managers to be aware of the latest trends, too. “They are going to be using their phones more than your consoles. What are they watching on Tik Tok? On YouTube? What is their lingo? That might be simple, but to understand this generation you have to speak their language and bring it into your marketing and sales conversations.”


2. Generation Z moves with purpose


Generation Z wants their physical, mental and emotional needs met – it isn’t just a workout for them. They are replicating what they see on social media in the gym, and from a practical standpoint that comes down to lots of functional movement training. “At Club 16, we see Generation Z doing lots of World’s Greatest Stretch, compound functional movement patterns to develop flexible and functional bodies, express workouts and HIIT workouts are still top of mind.”


And speaking of the mind, Generation Z is also there for the mental and emotional health gains – this means thinking about their dopamine hit in different ways. “They want to be encouraged and empowered,” says Ulmer. “Do you have automations in place for rewarding them for hitting 20 workouts? Do you have challenges in place that are going to engage them socially? Are they attached to your brand? If they aren’t now, why not? You must make your gym an emotional experience.”


3. Build a work-life playground


Generation Z values work-life balance more than any other generation. This boils down to a couple of concepts, says Ulmer. “They want flexibility which means you need to think about different membership options. Many Gen Z are holding multiple memberships – they will have a gym membership, and passes for yoga and dance studios,” says Ulmer. “Appeal to them by providing more programs and services that align with these values, and make them want to STICK with your club. Encourage and inspire their loyalty!” 


But he also says if you build a great playground, they won’t just come – they will stay. “Generation Z could be your most loyal customer in one year, two years or five years. Make your fitness club an experience they want to have again and again,” says Ulmer. ‘Offer different classes, stay on top of the trends, and make it fun. Create a community they want to be part of – build a playground, and they will keep coming back.” 

Carl Ulmer will offer these tips and more at Aspires Growth, the last canfitpro workshop of 2023, on Friday November 3rd


To JOIN the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, please click here

Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.

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